In the Light of the Ineffable
By Gisselle PErez Llanes
Science is unable to solve the ultimate mysteries of nature bacause, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature, that is, we are part of the mysery we are trying to solve.
Some areas of knowledge and phenomena of life have never been fully known and understood by human beings, especially those related to the divine. Society has always suffered from a neonatal and primary attempt to explain its humanity in the light of the presence of a God who is presumed to have created, decides, controls and sees everything, without fully understanding the magnificence and immensity of the same.
Bernardo Valdes proposes a reflective painting, figurative-rapporteur of everyday life common to human beings, exposed to the sovereignty of the sky as a metaphor for God. In the works of the series called polvo y GRACIA (dust and GRACE), there is a marked anthropological sense, specifically in relation to faith and how existence is in its primordial essence linked to a Creator. The proposal handles the orphanhood suffered by the creature with his back to the one who has given him life, under the effect of daily incentives. It exposes a state of consciousness of the human plagued by the divine even in the most ordinary of human actions, that is, we could say that we are in the presence of a pictorial work of theological vocation.
polvo y GRACIA activates in the subconscious the dichotomous presence of human conditions such as: fall/redemption, creation/glorification, misery/compassion, dead matter/living matter, which ensure the indissoluble romance of all that is earthly with the heavenly.
The documentary aspect acts in a certain sense as part of the thematic foundation of the series, since Bernardo uses photography to take referents of reality that will later be transmuted to canvas. The scenes depicted are ephemeral, come from varied contexts and appear as archetypes of common life experiences that are subordinated to the unintelligible immensity given to the celestial. The act of giving meaning to human activity through painting as a medium sublimates the tangible and ordinary. The artistic periods to which Bernardo indirectly alludes, from the color palette, from the technique, from the form, from the conceptual, belonged to that time when reality was captured directly from nature, through the so-called Beaux Arts, photography had not reached the status of art. Perhaps this is the reason why, despite being inspired by photographic images, the series acquires all its meaning and presents itself with a sublime aura, since there has been in its conception the discursive intentionality that the photographs taken have not had.
Bernardo assumes his pictorial work with an undeniably romantic look, making use, in the case of this series, of some ideo-aesthetic resources of styles such as the distant Gothic and the impastoed brushstrokes of Impressionism, and even flirts in some cases with the abstract. It incorporates the Gothic in a sense more inclined to the formal and to the connotation that in that period had as a whole elements such as the pointed arch, the verticality and grandiosity of the formats. I would dare to classify this series as “living painting”; just by knowing that one of these canvases reaches four and a half meters, it is possible to deduce that it will generate, recalling the aesthete Hans George Gadamer, a kind of “game” between the piece and whoever observes it. In this way, the pictorial work of this series fulfills its purpose by provoking the action of movement of the spectator’s gaze, which will progressively and metaphorically move from the earthly and material to the celestial and transcendent that is assumed to exist.
In the series, special attention is paid to the landscape in order to, from formal and conceptual winks, cling to some of the principles handled during the European romanticism of the eighteenth century. Thus, expectant and nostalgic solitary subjects appear in contexts of immensity or objects that are the work of human creation, in the face of the metaphorical representation of an immensity marked by the outline of the horizon. Scenographies that reveal themselves to be settings associated with a human-reflexive solitude in the midst of maritime environments that subsume and dominate human existence.
Among all the universe of signifiers present in these canvases, it is possible that the sea is the one that is most analogous to the figure of God, since it is an invariable element in all the works. According to the theological view implicit in this work, just as the sea is not knowable in its totality, neither can be the supreme divine figure under the affirmation of a human knowledge that suffers from scarcity, inaccuracy and finitude; just as the sea becomes a refuge of anguish, God is assumed as a refuge in the midst of storms and human uneasiness and in the same way that the sea is associated with the mysterious, the Bible attests to the inscrutable nature of God. In the words of Jorge Luis Borges: “the sea is the ancient language that I can no longer decipher”, being then that, in polvo y GRACIA, the maritime is parallel to the divine. As has been pointed out, Bernardo’s narrative has a clear theological anchorage and, consequently, is indebted to the teachings of the Christian faith, with emphasis on those that deal with the definition and essence of the human being with respect to the figure of God.