Work in Process
by Graciela Kartofel
The artist moves before his canvas, walks amid his plastic state expanding his gesture full of history, and still young. Othón Tellez’s paintings flow from lyrical abstraction and embody as veiled organic asymmetries. The manifest subjectivity in these abstract paintings is wide and spanning. That his work has changed along the years is true; I also confirm there is a XXIst century reflective discourse to be observed, in which we find not a style, but a cosmovision which inhabits landscapes and compositional staves. If we would speak of evolution –the evolution in the visual arts is not linear–, it would manifest itself each time more specially and subtly organic, while still non representative. It is not a thematic painting, instead, his works are referents of enormous abstract landscapes of contemporary society, now as the global still subsists but already searches for divergent ways – or as Tom Friedman says, when a global has been substituted by a flat land. The works included in the present exposition draw the borderline of the artist’s thoughts, amalgamates his challenges and refers the transcendental elements of his recent production.
The current thought line is maintained as an intuitive process, always searching more the fluid than the rigid expression. It is a thought inhabited by a mixture of dynamic accidents, of tensions and distensions. Whereas to his challenges, they continue to be scored by color and composition. Noting some of the transcendental elements of his current production, we find the artist carrying out works of large format, incorporating gold and silver leaves, as well as very fine sands reaching delicately balanced mixed techniques. Simultaneous and fundamentally, this exhibition highlights the expansion of experience –artist–institution–work–public–, making an active presentation of the painters workshop in the museum’s space. Beside the formal works intended for this exhibition, Othón Téllez will present a seven panel polyptic –from which seven panels will be finished, and two painted during the exhibition for the public to see him at work–. “I need to work on large formats: I need to expand the gesture.” At the exhibition, all works are of large dimensions – one meter sixty by two meters; one meter eighty by one eighty; or one by fourteen meters, the size of the polyptic he will finish painting at the museum. Within these proportions, one of the drawings that form part of the exhibition is a pictorial drawing, a well worth museum collection work. Dense, yet not saturated, it is a dynamic mixed technique that goes from white to black, with silver reverberations. The composition could be characterized as staved fractals, this is, a group of similar forms (though not strictly geometrical) that relate to music, artistic manifestation with which Othón Téllez is fondly linked, as he comes from a family dedicated to music. If we keep within the realm of sound, we may recall the so called “conversation pieces” [“piezas de conversación”], this is one of them and the exhibition as a whole is a motivation and a provocation to converse about the discoveries related to the sign [“señal”] and the trace [“traza”] that coexist in his works. Where the sign is the mark and the trace, something which relates to “trahere”, of the Latin “traer”, the trace remounts to every line or sign that was drawn on a dusty surface or elsewhere, to serve as a definition of an area (and government of this area). Likewise, trace is equivalent to line or stripe, and as an extension, Tellez’s traces on the canvas establish those abstract staves that he does not execute as a musician, but as a visual artist.
“Almost all my painting is on canvas, stretched over a wooden frame. Occasionally I mount the canvas over a wooden panel – at the present exhibition I used two canvases prepared in this manner–. The drawings are made on canvas, and also on paper.” About his painting technique, he says: “My process is intuitive; I mix dynamic accidents, tensions and distensions. If the canvas is tightly mounted on its frame it permits a different gestural diction. In as much as color and tone, I play with the tonal range, I pack it up, I make my own colors. I buy the colors nobody buys: pinks, parrot green ...” The pieces are perceived as full of textures, but there is no saturation of matter. The color’s corporeal nature varies, they are semi saturated, aqueous and airy zones. At this stage the perception of floating elements prevails; here the artist recognizes autobiographical elements which he revealed as an influence of ultrasound images. Othón works layer after layer, they are thin veils, transparent and interacting. He does not work on a superficial order, but refers images in a germinal order. His is not a sketched or premeditated work. The accident is present at every stage of the painting, the splashes are at diverse zones and in almost all layers, they hide and they revel themselves. There are multiple simultaneous abstract-scenes interwoven in a micro and macrocosmos dynamic.
Visual arts as a communication means are now a day less strict and fontal, they tend to include the spectator in a more active way in their perception of the works. What is usually denominated ‘interactive’ does not necessarily include technology, as in the case that concerns us. It will be of great interest for the public to be able to experience the work process of the artist. This will help to demystify the painter’s labor as a gifted being that resolves his work with scarce touches, and bring an understanding of the successive facets of the authorial labor. This said, it may be understood that Othón Téllez is a professional who expands his work through the realms of communication and diverse teaching levels.
Work in Process is an exhibition that serves a museological subconsciousness. By extension of Karl Jasper’s concepts –for whom the occupants of a philosophical museum are divided in many fraternal groups and subgroups–, we may understand that for Othón Téllez, the occupants of a modern art museum will be divided in many groups and subgroups that in order to attend an unusual dual experience. If the traditional thing to do in a museum is to see an exhibition, the pictorial action of Téllez inside the museum establishes a counterpoint of various vectors, one of which is the unusual presence of someone working where works of art are exhibited. Someone that announces an exhibition, while still working on some pieces in the museum. These factors create in the spectators a symbolic link between those who visit the museum at the same moment. A similar relation occurs to those who coincide at different times –days or hours. Such an interweaving of circumstances is generated by the artist, his works and the museum’s space which offers a different –mobilizing and binding – circumstance. It would be equivocally called performance, because it is not the author’s intention; he is a painter. The concepts he is interested in developing are specifically related to painting as a stable and permanent thing in the world as it is today. Even when he uses large formats, he is also not interested in the canon of the muralist painters. It is in these territories that Téllez contributes with a new stitch to the knitting of experiences within exhibition spaces. During a recent visit to the artist’s workshop, the polyptic that gives its name to the exhibition had begun to extend itself like a great plastic animal whose skeleton was visible in white, blue, cream and silver colors. Other works where in the shop, among which Horizon –the only painting of the exhibition with a title, at the moment–, a work with a passionate format and a resolution in three sections apparently emancipated form each other. The two extreme sections contain oblong arches –both strong; one fractioned, the other acting like a giant magnet. Another triptych of different dimensions will, without doubt, agitate the spectator’s gaze with its great horizontal panel and parallel frieze, disrupted, placed underneath and conformed of two lateral pieces and an empty centre. With the importance of the Bachian silences, the empty and roofed centre will motivate discussions and expand the spectators view. After reading the above mentioned declarations of Othón Téllez about color, one may ask about this piece ¿is there any color missing in it? Those who ask themselves this question should look for the answer carefully –not only concerning this painting, but all the paintings included in the exhibition Work in process.
D.F. – New York, July 2006
| || Graciela Kartofel. Reside en Ciudad de México y Nueva York. Historiadora de Arte, graduada en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. Realiza proyectos editoriales en el área de arte y educación. Ejerce como docente, crítica y curadora independiente, con especialidad en Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo de América Latina. En el área académica, ha sido docente y profesora invitada en diversas universidades. En la faz editorial, lleva a cabo la integración de publicaciones en los mayores fondos editoriales del mundo, entre ellos: Biblioteca Nacional de Francia, Biblioteca del Museo de Arte Moderno de Nueva York y Biblioteca del Congreso de Washington D.C|