At that time I had to rearrange my life as a result of disappointments,
losses and melancholy. I realised that art, which was so important
to me, could be a futile and banal occupation. I knew that from
it and through it I could take up a position, present beauty and
symbolise feelings, crystallising them for myself and perhaps for
others. I could take up a position and even incite to reflection
anyone who might be ready to receive the work, but all that was
no more than a setting of the scene, a more or less convincing proposition.
There was no goal then, no holy grail or absolute
truth to be reached. I saw my profession as an uncertain way of
life (as I still see it) and knew that I could only represent and
make use of the itinerary of that journey, a mixture of ingenuousness
and experience, with no possibility of discovering its meaning.
I also became aware that I was just one among many,
not a chosen one, and that however much dedication and will-power
I put into it, I would never attain, in art, the utopian philosopher’s
stone which for so many centuries was seen as a gift from God, nor
on the propounding of a truth, but as a product of politics and
the market. A strategy.
I never had any real problem in relating to others,
but none of my dear friends was a patron of the arts or could secure
me a place on the Parnassus of the elect. Furthermore, politics
does not come easily to me, and I have no linking for it either.
The party of the others is not mine. Politics, like art, in the
abstract, is a composition of idealistic propositions, but human
beings are only looking for power and the way towards that ideal
and abstract goal may easily become diverted.
Up to now I have not been able to gain access to
the market, I see it as something difficult, competitive, alien
to the inspiration and the divine muses which I naively expected
to find. It still bothers me that what the world sees, in its language
and exchanges, including my works, are products, mere merchandise.
The obvious fact which became clear to me was that
the most valued artist was the one who was best quoted on the stock
exchange of art, the most successful, the one promoted by a government,
the one who rubbed shoulders with high society, the most distinguished.
This made me see that art was no more than a show
organised around the powers. I envied those artists of the past
who, while dedicating themselves like me to the same task of creation,
yet had the higher consolation that they were working for God, even
if they might be subject to a despotic king or capricious patron.
In searching for the direction of my will and my inclination I found
that my efforts formed part of the absurd - of a world made by men,
with opposing values created between human beings - and that truths
succeeded one another in turn like passing fashions.
It is true that art, perhaps in spite of itself
or the desires of the artist, gives form in every age to the content
of beliefs and is, in its extension, a map of being and its history.
It is one thing to see it in the abstract, but in practice, for
an artist, an apprentice demiurge, to feel that he is just another
map-maker among so many others, within the immense map-making institute
of art, was something which did not match with my aspirations. Moreover,
the world and life were out there, eluding the maps, and drawing
the map-makers into their labyrinth.
This was the root of one of my problems. An aspirant
to art is educated in the history of art and by reading the biographies
of artists. It is there that he obtains his archetypes, contrasts
and compares himself with others. He tries to place himself among
the pages he reads in order to find himself and believe. But what
would become of me, living in a marginal country, with an exotic
nationality, a person who, in order to seek consecration, had to
flirt and exile myself to some world centre quite possibly under
cockade of a “Latin American artist”. All so that after
some years and with a bit of luck I might be able to attract the
love of a historian who might devote to me...a line?, a page?, a
It might be a wonderful experience to read about
oneself on the day when the article appears, but even if one were
to reach the bibliographic levels of Picasso, what could that represent?
The Catalonian, the spoilt child of the century, the business of
publishers, flew in the heights, casting his shadow over artists.
He was already far from being a man, he was “The Artist”,
registered trademark, an emblem, a stamp, a god. One had to attain
his heights, to touch him, to dethrone him if possible, or, if there
was no other way, to accompany him. To sit reluctantly among Pollock,
Basquiat, Matisse and so many others (not to mention the old masters),
hoping from humanity “a more just and final judgment”.
That is what is at stake. And was that the reason for all our anxieties?
To impose over others? Could our condition and goal be reduced to
An ancient philosophical theory developed in Alexandria
maintained that the origin of the gods was nothing more than legends
about long-forgotten heroes, remarkable men who had survived in
the oral tradition from distant times, ascending and taking on Olympian
proportions. Whether we believe it or not, much of that mechanism
of deification survives in our desires and we compete for our immortality,
even if for death and time it counts for very little. However, I
find in our desires (and also in our destiny) not only a dark side;
I also see in their ambiguity a persistent desire for redemption,
the need for the promise of bliss, which “someone” made
to us before our infancy, to be fulfilled.
In view of what I saw before me, what could I expect
from art? And what was more important: how could I maintain a degree
of sanity and happiness with or without it? The first thing was
to put aside the great longings, the Olympian goals. To separate
what was history of art from art, and then with further precision,
to separate what was considered as art from my work. I needed to
recover what art in itself could offer me, beyond the opinions of
the cultured or sophisticated public, who are the only ones to give
opinions about art: introspection, company, knowledge, poetry, strength...and
to retain, with all of that, as another prize, the pleasure which
comes from creating some of my works.
I came back to the same subject and reviewed my
alternatives. Politics (as opposed to my own particular form of
politics) was definitely beyond my capabilities. I could not, as
this often demands, relegate my sympathies merely in order to follow
certain economic interests or the interest of prestige. In that
sense, I had to recognise that it was a matter of luck as to whether
or not art could lead me to a position of respect or social recognition
which some artists achieve with their work.
None of my friends had progressed economically to the point where
they could help me and the market remained unmoved and indifferent
to me, a thirty-year old and complete unknown.
I knew that I had to earn my living somehow, but still I looked
at with suspicion. With my romantic ideas I was afraid that my poetic
substance might become prosaic by the mere fact of crossing the
Rubicon of the galleries and the dealers.
As for what I called vocation, it continued to be a mystery for
me. A deep and vital necessity? A neurosis? It was a great help
for me in my task of living, but sometimes I wished that my health
and peace were not so dependent on its presence. By devoting myself
to art I felt that I was taming a personal beast.
The divinities of the world, whether inspired by
faith or reason, exploit our misunderstanding and our poverty in
order to increase their strength. The opinion I had of my images
was related with this vision. I saw them as miserable when I was
suffering, whether in my life or work, because of the lack of warm
higher beings and I saw with sadness that the “sacred image”
to which I would have liked to have gained access only existed naively
in a small number of religious periods. Nevertheless, I have managed
to retain a certain religious spirit, in spite of the fact that
I feel the lack of a source of inspiration, and a certain utopian
idea of humanity. My images are in many cases metaphors (or scraps
of metaphors) of the otherworld. Perhaps because I make use, in
myself and in others, of human desires and curiosities or perhaps
because I am drawn to do so by a powerful presence of reality.
I feel them to be mediocre when, within a narrow
atheism, I prefigure for myself the farrago of exaggerated productions
which the world spews out every day. Only when I am creating do
I achieve with enthusiasm (a theological word if ever there were
one), the benefit of wealth. But in general I see no more value
in ready-made images than a pretext which leads me to give form
to a new idea.
I find art so relative that I consider my images
to be the same. My consolation is that if I do not achieve the success
which our profession offers to a few, the few spectators who feel
attracted by my work will want it for what it has to offer. Then,
if one day the goddess fortune should encircle my brow, the cultured
multitudes will look with pretended or genuine ecstasy more at my
laurels than my work and I will enjoy the warm and indifferent lullaby
* Translated by Julian Scott