Untitled 4, 2001. Oil / canvas. 100 x 150 cm
There is a kind of drifting, an aimless wandering in the decontextualized images, searching for signs of recognition and identity. In the paintings of Amadeo Olmos, men and plants make their way outside of their own environment. The imaginary present is not drawn from landscapes, it is based on images. Amadeo Olmos’ painting reflects this situation. We are a mirror. Look as we may, for a long time now we have not been able to find images. They find us.
It’s what we could call truth without reality. I imagine snowfall on an abyss. What a strange sensation! A Russian friend told me about his repeated surprise each Spring on seeing the thaw flowering into solid objects like a ball, a bicycle or a spanner in the garden of his house in Udmurtia. We are endlessly snowed under by images, which instead of depicting the world, conceal and deform it. We have ended up living in a universe of images created by ourselves, but which we have refused to interpret.
This reversal of the role of the image could be considered a form of modern idolatry. The painting of Amadeo Olmos reflects this state of affairs, but is not unmoved by it. Olmos tones down the brilliant fascination with the iconography of cinema or press, whose images he confines to the background of the painting. Backgrounds consisting of human figures substitute landscape, converting their faces into clouds and the folds of their clothes into mountains. They bear the character of a sudden still, of a film in arrest, where the sun doesn’t burn and the moon doesn’t shine. To immobilize a figure in a fixed image is to paralyse it for that instant. A strange prison, “the tragic silence of a world deprived of the unforeseen”, as described by Papini in The Fugitive Mirror.
The figures are decontextualized and force the viewer to ask questions.Like the majority of personalities with an image, or TV personalities who assail us daily, they have lost their identity by converting themselves into a visual object. What is happening to them? Where are they going? Where have these beings, neither destitute nor outcast, come from? Nor are they specific persons. They are anonymous beings, unknown, the ones who constitute the landscapes of figures through whom Amadeo Olmos transforms images into a painting. What mystery lies behind the painting? None. The images do not conceal what they represent, but the mystery remains intact. The mystery is the painting. Or the paint. Paint consciously creating images in order to destroy them, painting which fights with the images, since Olmos is at once both contemplative and, as every true artist, iconoclast.
How can one explain the presence of these beings of which we know nothing? How can one explain the presence of a plant or branch? Nature enters the space of the painting with the fascination of an intruder and the intimacy of an indoor plant, where life renews itself. The human and vegetable kingdoms coexist without blending. But we find unexpected and remarkable parallels between the shapes of human images and the shapes of plantlife. Like the character Sebald, who in the first few pages of Austerlitz, sees in the gaze of nocturnal birds in the Antwerp zoo, the grief-stricken expression and pointlessly penetrating stare of concentration camp victims, Amadeo Olmos surprises us with the same profiles in a mountain, a branch, a shirt or a face. He does not depict long flowing hair as a river, in the manner of Leonardo. He discovers similar shapes, which life then mysteriously transforms into separate entities. There are branches in necks, legs in branches, architectural arches in bent leaves, a perfect dome in a plant suddenly caught in the air. At times the echo of one shape in another is more forced: such as the knot in the embrace. At other times, the contrast in shapes and the spatial parallel between the human and vegetable kingdoms is subtle: a simple intersection of diagonals.
His starting point is abstract, even when he retains a representative element. For this reason, the invisible is no less visible. The unpainted parts of the canvas form a wonderful mantle; those shapes which persist under the canvas like faceless roots, overflowing darkness in obscurity. Silence is space. It creates those surprising affinities, and equally those significant contrasts, such as in *Sin título, 12, where a tree and a human being – both given the status of a character – are strangely confronted with one another.
The space of the painting, its internal logic, its reality and not its images, is what allows both spheres to coexist. Man and branch, architecture and branch, the different ways the shapes impinge on the space, on the unpainted space, on the silence, by incorporating themselves in the painting, they begin to feel they have found their true place in the world: everywhere and nowhere. Nape of tree, ankle of branch, spine of shoot, leaf of lip. The relationships and insinuations shared by the images, of one order or another, constitute the theme of these paintings, where images of plants, architectures and men invade each other, confront each other, overlap and decipher each other.
To begin with, we mentioned the coming and going of images of modern man, projected onto us and which we project undeciphered, like mirrors. The visions of Amadeo Olmos are the result of a distinctive attitude, which questions the images without irony, or drama, with a strange tranquillity. Few people have his patience for observing for days on end. For him, the universe is always a chrysalis on the point of transforming into something else. He observes and paints this strangeness, without which there is no thought. Or perhaps only the sweet hope of it.
His attitude to life is contemplative and also constructive. He enjoys creating – painting in this case – and seeing what happens, without judgement, excitement or melancholy, observing as a whole the genuine mystery presented by the desire to know, when this turns into a scientific, artistic or spiritual experience.
Nevertheless, his latest paintings restore representation to the forefront and the figures acquire life with a vengeance [Sin título, 54 ], confronting the viewer with tension. The shapes break free from anonymity and the contrast between colour and a monochrome background becomes more intense. One of the characters turns around and asks a question. [Sin título, 59] What are those eyes trying to penetrate? No longer is it silence that challenges the viewer, but rather something still without form, like a drop of water on the point of making the glass overflow. Perhaps it is the flowering of awareness?