Juan Astica gives the title “Tempo” to the exhibition he has just inaugurated at the Smart Gallery, and the reference to music is evident and immediate. Being a musician himself, it is not surprising that this is not the first time that Astica has appealed to the inductive reservoir of that vocabulary, as another of his recent performances is titled “Merecumbé”. In this case he preferred to move away from the dance allusions to which he is usually associated with the Colombian onomatopoeic style, to focus on a more conceptual resonance.
It is commonly accepted that “tempo” is the speed of execution of a piece, which is not to be confused with rhythm or compass, although like them, and as the name indicates, it passes in time and not in space. That is to say, it is successive and not simultaneous – except when it translates into coincident sound phenomena – and its quality and timing It is left to the performer who, however, is specified or suggested, through additional annotations to the musical writing, how the character of that movement should be.
Astica’s scores suggest that they were composed according to the rule of two converging “times”: the pictorial action that transpires, the one that invades us at the beginning when we see them, the feeling of being in front of the very moment of the elaboration of the painted, comes from “Cheerful lively”. And immediately, already succumbed to the dialogic predisposition of the fleeting contract with the viewer, that dizzying initial impact seems to have been imperceptibly slowed down in the delicate path of a “moderate cantábile“.
The immaculate ivory-colored neutrality of the gallery walls, with the conviction of an equally impeccable assembly design, makes the area a strategically calibrated luminous resonance box, essential for the scenic effect of that rare binary dynamism, all supported in the relationship virtuoso that Astica establishes, precisely, between the bone lividity of the fabric, the profuse irruptions of the white pigment and the exquisite chromatic selectivity of a discreetly radiant palette.
In the case of the canvases, Astica’s constructive sign does not allow the visible dominance of the brushstroke with sufficient tolerance, although this tacit eccentricity never manages to completely dissolve it. The painter weaves a subtext of segmented coloristic interrelationships whose molecular dissection is barely perceptible, given that above the fleeting sutures of that unstable branch, the rays and sparks, the crepitus, the gushing, the dripping and the bleeding of the oil burst into an even more disruptive way with an unusual fluidity. The ghostly milky outflow of the dense snowy magma is at the same time liquefaction and freezing, veiling and revelation, and all the multiplicative logic of this obsessive and obsessive suite depends on the action and reaction of its multiple manifestations, in a silent mathematical enunciation that challenges and it fascinates, it dazzles and can be seen in identical proportions.
The works on paper, of smaller dimensions and almost intimate tactility, distil the laborious precision of graphic embroidery and the panting strokes of linear calligraphy, lovingly inducing the eye to train its less stimulated muscles, to skip the inertia of legibility and to surrender to a self-nomenclature of reference, without ceasing to persist in its necessarily random paths the echo of a scriptural order. The inexorable specter of a semi-naked semantic logos is adorned every now and then by the fleeting flashes that open the physiognomy of that atonal grid to a simulacrum of textuality, where each drawing cell threatens to add links at an intermediate stage between the plane and what is called page.
What is striking is the eloquence with which that playful energy of original elaboration is made visible, its conjectural choreography of manual and bodily gestures and maneuvers, and at the same time with how clearly the lurking conscience with which the Astica rogue allows himself to overcome the his sensual follies, taming immediately according to the far less risky need for a conclusive orchestration, the factors of which must manifest themselves in perfect equidistance.
Astica is, proverbially, “painter of a painter”, that is, a “painter of painters”. Many of his colleagues recognize not only his undeniable category, but his guiding lucidity, his tireless ability to mark, without clamor or pontification, pictorial uncompromising indications with the risk of possibly compromising those hypotheses, usually unprovable, that a certain public yearns to a in terms of accessibility. Again, this did not happen. All of us, local and foreign, are once again privileged witnesses of the new phenomenal turn that Astica applies to its relentless methodological economy of calculation and waste, of corsets and chaos. Between zigzags, sketches, turns and somersaults, calculated patches and disjoint alphabets, the painter returns to reach tender madness, the impossible vector of a painting in a state of visual oxymoron: the painting of inconstant constancy, of incontinent content, of direction that disorients , of impertinent relevance.
* Draftsman and painter. The “Tempo” exhibition, of paintings on canvas and paper by Juan Astica, continues at Smart Gallery, Avenida Alvear 1580, ground floor, until 27 May.