CAVE PAINTINGS. Gustavo Martín Garzo

Tête-Bêche 20, 2005. · Oil / canvas, 90 x 180 cm

We are cave-dwellers and art is nothing more than the imprint of our hand on rock. We would like the rock to open and push with all our strength in an attempt to make the world appear with all its bounties : its bison, its deer, its couplings and its dances. Or, in other words, the caveman has always dreamt of a reality removed from the obscurity of his dwelling. And that is what he expects from art, that it should teach him to look beyond his own fear, to see where he was not able to see before. But what would happen if we should dwell on the images that populate that darkness, if we should get to like them not for what they are as simple reflections of a different reality, but for themselves? This is what Amadeo Olmos does. He turns towards the walls of the cave and stops to contemplate this world of images. He is not driven by a yearning for reality, but rather for unreality. For him, a painter is a hunter of shadows.

Painting is thus transformed into a secret practice which seeks to transport us to a new space. A space which makes room for images of reality, but also for those which inhabit our fantasies and dreams. Or to put it another way, Amadeo Olmos sees the painter’s task not in giving evidence of what is real, but rather in giving rise to a new reality, a reality made of the same stuff as our nightmares and thoughts. This exhibition equally takes part in this space of thought and nightmare. I would go as far as to say that the deep aesthetic pleasure it evokes springs from this unique quality of offering itself as something to be understood.

All the paintings in this series stem from bringing two distinct realities together within the space of the painting. Realities which flow by in parallel worlds and which only chance, or the artist’s whim, bring together for our contemplation. It could be a question of the real world and the world of dreams. In fact, we relate to his images in a similar way to the way we relate to our dreams. Also to those of cinema, or even those images which belong to the world of publicity and magazines, which invade our daily lives. But Amadeo Olmos does not want to lose sight of the condition of his images. “I am not giving you reality,” he says, “ but rather the images that inhabit it.”

For this reason, he offers them to us through an intermediary presence, which he places in the foreground. A presence which puts us at a distance from the images in the background, making us aware of their ghostlike qualities. When this presence is a human figure, it tends to have its back to us or its eyes shut. What we see behind could be its dream or its most secret thoughts. But often, this foreground is occupied by a tree-trunk or small branch. In that case, where do the other images come from? They could be images that have escaped from dreams of absent persons; images that wander about in space and are momentarily reflected on the walls of a cave. It’s as if they were saying to us: “we live surrounded by semblances, shadows, phantoms”.

It seems as if that world in the background has nothing to do with our world. Not even when we see eyes do we get the impression that we are being observed by them. They are not spying on us, nor asking for nor expecting anything from us. They remain distant and alien, uncommunicative. A world of mysterious rooms, far-away cities, persons abandoned to enigmatic tasks, shadows slithering silently by us – that we cannot visit, nor be visited by. It could be the world of death.

The images in the foreground of the painting offer no clues either. If they are people, they never look at us. At times, they cover their faces with their hands or are blindfolded. In one of the paintings, we see a hand stopping us from coming closer. In another, the largest, there is a woman who raises her finger and points at emptiness. “It’s not possible” , she says. But she doesn’t explain why. But neither is there any dramatic tension. Empty houses, introverted beings, eyes which look at us from a place where they are eternally alone – that is what we see when we look at these paintings. A world made up of fragments and terrible losses. The world of those who have drowned in the depths of a lake, of lovers abandoned in the desolation of their dreams, of the inhabitants of unreality. The world of all those who cannot go back. That is what painting is for Amadeo Olmos, the scene of absence. Only of absence? Then why paint the delicate and perfect leaf, the tree-trunk bathed in light, the face of someone asleep? We all follow strange paths, these paintings tell us, but is there anything else we can do…?

Gustavo Martín Garzo