Nov 11, 2006 - Dec 11, 2006
by Cristóbal Zapata
Observer, streetwalker, philosopher, call him what you wish; but the truth is that to characterize this artist you will have to gratify him with an epithet impossible to apply to the painter of eternal things, or at least the most durable, of heroic or religious things.
BAUDELAIRE, The painter of modern life
1. Crossings/ Transitions
Born in Cuenca (Ecuador) in 1965, Pablo Cardoso was noticed very early on, when at age 24 the II International Biennial of his city awarded him the Alberto Coloma Silva Prize. In 2001, in the VII Biennial, Cardoso presented Geodesia, the pictorial installation which inaugurated the period of his "trajectories", and to which the jury awarded a Mention of Honor. The work consists of 55 small elliptically shaped paintings of highways, in front of which was placed a banister, alluding to the arrival and departures which are part of all existence. Here we see several hallmarks of his recent work: the use of photography as a model for painting, the idea of sequence in the form of a succession of photograms, the choice of black and white which interprets the object of the painting, producing a certain analytic distance from the real datum. The long voyage in which Cardoso has embarked begins here, to be followed by the cycles 29.IV.02, 18.VI.02 (titles which refer to the dates on which the artist made his walks around his city) and Lejos cerca lejos (2004), works presented at the international Biennials of Gwangiu (Korea) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). These would be followed by the series Coordenadas (2003-06) Sábanas (2005-06) Abismo-Desierto-Mar (2006) and FF (2006). All of them have in common to have been taken from photographic documentation made by the artist, which are subsequently "retold" by means of what Cardoso calls a "literal paintbrush", that is, a brush that patiently makes a literal copy of each photograph.
What is the meaning of these detailed fictions, these obsessive pictorial repetitions? In these works Cardoso develops a secret poetry of passageways, hallways, highways and landings, places of transit which become metaphors of the experience of fugacity: places with auras appropriate for epiphanies, encounters and unexpected reencounters. Cardoso exacerbates the melancholy and sense of deja-vu which envelope these anonymous enclosures, rarefying and clouding them "slipping them out of focus", as a form of resisting the innocuous shrillness of the media and the visual saturation which they propitiate at the speed of real and virtual highways. It deals, in short, with the loss of substance of contemporary life, of returning to people and things their very density, their mystery, their silence, their essential sluggishness and opacity: to restore to them their ontological prime.
The concept of fugacity as a war against the passing of time is central to Cardoso’s work. The sensation that in contemporary life everything takes place at high speed, that one lives in a strictly present tense, leads the artist to recuperate and consecrate that instant which ceases to be and threatens to disappear from our sight and from our memory, redeeming those human acts from their fleeting destiny. This is perhaps the meaning of his Mesas Consumidas ("Consumed tables", 2001) and later the splendid Mesas ("Tables", 2003), a collection of roundels which renews the prestigious genre of the still life, paintings of sybaritic sensuality which celebrate the agape in its final stages, a kind of visual sonata whose chromatic brilliance rings with tones of melancholy. Employing the technique of blurring, the studies in still life are close-ups of the residues of the banquet previous to its conclusion, emblems of the transitory, gastronomic memento mori. According to Gombrich all still lifes are potentially vanitas, in that each material