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Itinerary*
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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 book?

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 that?

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 of fame.


Ral Veroni
February 1997
* Translated by Julian Scott

 
 

 

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