Landscape of Mind – Valencia’s Painting

Manuel Valencia - Sea Poems 06The work of Manuel Valencia shows such comprehensiveness that it is hard to define it as a particular kind of painting. This is the result of the openness of expression in his art pieces, which leads to a broad interpretation that transcends the limitations of tradition vs. modernity and East vs. West. His paintings leave a deep impression upon the viewer due to the infiltration and mixture of different mediums that cannot be isolated or enclosed, creating a clearly unique style in the combination of paper, pencil, color and form. Of course, uniqueness and expression are interrelated. Expression is connected with concept, and concept is expressed by form. In other words, if a painter is not able to get an insight of those relations, his or her uniqueness comes to zero. For an artist, a strong personality means bringing out new ideas from the inside in terms of language, concept and form. Valencia has fully believed in his own instinct and judgment. He flexibly deals with the visual relationship between color and pencil, material and form, whether that means keeping a balance between different colors or breaking that balance to create a feeling of flaw; showing relief in the combination of graphics and materiality, or confrontation between mediums. He has studied and experimented all those relationships with delicacy and from his conceptual perspective, building a perfect infrastructure and open language, and resulting in multiple meanings and paths for interpretation.

Valencia has depicted landscape as his subject matter. However, his landscapes are out of ordinary people’s imagination. He has interpreted landscape into the following three levels of meaning: Landscape as a signifier of still time and space; landscape as a poetic metaphor; and landscape as a mixture of narratives. In Valencia’s painting, a landscape describes the extended process of change in a unit of time or space when mixing individual expression and culture. It is the outcome of his choice, a filtration and editing of images, materials and forms. Therefore, his landscapes give way to a myriad of layers of perspectives. Generally, a landscape is a motif of narrative depicting the relations with natural and social environments. The painter’s subjectivity plays a driving role in the use of a piece of landscape as a narrative unit. Thus, what is being chosen and what is being removed become the elements which create a metaphysical visual expression. In his regard, landscape is not an objective record, but a subjective expression. Valencia shows enough artistic sensitivity to turn an objective landscape into the contemplation and metaphor of a subjective landscape. These two levels are completely deprived from the temptation of objective narrative, leading to the viewer’s psyche. This is a form of contraction and expansion of the time and space hidden in the images, in which the changes in landscape illustrate the scenery of the human heart in a gradual process that goes from contemplation to experiencing and ends in meditation. As a result, his works bring the viewer into a space of new imagination. Some of the images may be thought of as heavy rainfalls, vast darkness, calm sea, poetic landscape, infinite universe, broken walls, abstract representations… This kind of open language has undoubtedly been reflected upon the core concept of his paintings.

 For Valencia, it doesn’t matter whether he is describing a figurative landscape or an abstract image, his expression’s motive and process implies a binary relationship between memory and imagination, experience and sentiment, contemplation and meditation. He focuses on exploring and showcasing aspects hidden in the landscape. In other words, this is not a just relationship between form and content, materials and concept, but rather a new and contemporary expression of landscape linked to nature, society, tradition, language and experience. All of this can only be attained through the artist’s unique methodology and the right use of paper, rope, plasters, cardboard, pencil, acrylic, ink and wash in form, as well as through a smooth handling of proportion in composition, delicacy and heaviness in color, lightness and darkness in the use of ink, and freedom and rigidness in completeness. As we can see, his paintings reflect his aesthetic taste and pursuit of simplicity in texture, wrinkles, grains, abstraction and reality, movement and stillness. Sometimes he even attaches images, adds drawings or handwrites random characters on the already finished piece of work, revealing the beauty of hand-made painting, creating a sense of ebb and flow on the peaceful texture of the rice paper, and adding movement to the picture with a perfect sense of verse and rhythm. This landscape construction method make the viewer feel as if intoxicated in the realm of poetry.

 We could say that Valencia’s work fully presents the characteristics of a “physical painting”. He masters the use of traditional Chinese Xuan rice paper as his media of expression, adding on top daily life objects in order to enhance its vivid and expressive language. Of course we cannot deny the “physical” aspects of his paintings, but the full extent of use of that “physicality” further indicates that the material media itself is both an entity of objectivity and subjectivity. In other words, it has the function of words, and the implication of the multi-layered referential meaning. From such a perspective, Valencia spreads live materials on rice paper, thus changing the expression of unity in paper and brush, and dipping into a form of painting that uses those materials as if they were words, instantly activating the meaning of the painting and the connotations of the objects, and assuring the inseparable relationship between form and material. Thus, in order to understand the visual implications of his work, one must comprehend materials and implied meanings in the physical properties of painting. It is obvious that the artist has given spiritual connotations to the materials in his series of works, and presented a wide variety of shape and texture in a way similar to sculpture or collage. This confirms that material is no longer reduced to lines and color, but also a way to highlight the performance of independent media. It also means an interactive relationship between the material itself and the formal infrastructure of meanings within the painting (i. e., imagery, semantics and metaphor).

 In addition to materials and subject matter, one of the most impressive aspects of Valencia’s work is that his small-scale paintings on rice paper (CARTAS) can be installed into a larger piece of work, linking originally separate drawings in a much bigger whole. Each piece composes its visual expression by space, material and color, highlighting a closed and self-insurmountable world, despite the intuition to comprehend the inner realm of silence, quiet, Zen and meditation.

It is clear that Valencia has very well interpreted the dimension of contemporary art expression. His creativity started from simple aesthetics, adopting open methodologies and image narrative, highlighting materials to express the purity of spiritual nature and the subjective wishes of an artist, and offering infinite imagination to its viewer.

Curated by Huang Du (Translated by Jin Hua)

Manuel Valencia - Sea Poems 30



黄 笃 策展人 

曼努埃尔瓦伦西亚(Manuel Valencia)绘画所展现的综合性,几乎难以界定其绘画类型,这是因为他在作品语言上呈现出开放性,这种语言的开放也意味着解读的开放,即穿越了传统与现代、东方与西方的界限与范式。他的作品给人以深刻印象就在于他有意将媒介相互渗透和融合,使其无法完全被隔离和封闭起来,不断让材料、铅笔、色彩和形式在交融中形成鲜明的个性风格。当然,个性与语言相关,语言被观念牵动,观念则以形式的显现。换言之,倘若不能充分洞察到这些信息,那么画家个性就等于零。如果艺术家想成为一个有个性的人,就必须从内向外充分展现作品在语言、观念和形式上的新意。所以,瓦伦西亚充分相信自己的直觉与判断,他的纸上作品常采用某些轻盈的现成物材料和随意性绘画的表现手段,通过主观的物化过程,将之转化为充满独特视觉语言的审美形式。他灵活处理了颜色、铅笔、物质、形式之间的视觉关系:无论是在形式和色彩的关系上力保画面的均衡性,还是在整体与局部的关系上打破平衡尺度而展现的“缺陷”感,无论是在纸本平面与材料的关系上着意彰显其材料的浮雕感,还是把材料与材料之间处理成“对抗”状态,他以细致入微和观念的眼光对这些层层关系进行了特别精细的研究与实验,建构了结构精巧、开放的绘画语言,而赋予诸多含义,提供了开放性的解读途径。

瓦伦西亚的绘画以风景为表现对象,不同于一般人想像的风景,他把风景理解成这样三个层面的含义:风景是一种时空的凝缩。风景是一种诗意的隐喻。风景是一种混合的叙事。在瓦伦西亚的绘画中,风景描述的是一个时间、空间单位怎样向个人主观表达和文化融合转变的延展过程,它是经由他选择、过滤和编排的图像、物质与形式所生成的结果。因此,他表现的风景向我们打开了多层视角。一般而言,风景是与自然环境和社会环境相关的叙事主体,尤其在以风景空间为叙事的单位中画家的主观性起到内在动力作用,即如何在选择与取舍中形成形而上的视觉语言。这里,风景并不是客观的记录,而是主观的表现。于是瓦伦西亚有着足够的艺术敏感度,把客观之景转换成主观之景的凝视和隐喻,这种双层所指彻底摆脱了风景客观叙事的诱惑,将观者引向心理层面——这是对隐于图像的时空维度的凝缩与展开,透过景色之变化以探视人的内心景观,即凝视到体验再到冥想的渐进过程。因此,他的这些作品就把人引入新的遐想空间,有的(图像)似暴风骤雨,有的如茫茫黑夜,有的像宁静海面,有的如诗意山水,有的似浩瀚宇宙,有的像残垣墙壁,有的如抽象物象,…… 这种开放性的语言无疑证明了他绘画的观念核心。