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Maria de Ftima Lambert

Painting Exhibition of Francisco Laranjo


Riga (Latvia) September 2002

For X.Z.M.

Ekphrasis and Landscape: Now I am a sensitive being2


The act of remembering may transform what is incomplete
(happiness) into something complete, and what is consummated
(suffering) into something incomplete.
Walter Benjamin, Das Passagen-Werk, Gesammelte Schriften.

I
Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving
himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the
streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to
escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else,
brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within.
Paul Auster, City of Glass, The New York Trilogy, London,
Faber & Faber, 1987

1. Throughout time and by many artists, landscape has (sometimes) been


constructed as equivalent to nature. It was understood and made visible
as an analogon. Which implied a practice of painting that surreptitiously
and persistently conformed our cognitive categories and, therefore,
conditioned our spatial perceptions.
2. Improved definitions of the world were promoted through landscape;
poetic extrapolations of the real were aimed at. Thus one would arrive at
a celebration of the world, through artifice, achieved through the artists
distinguished intentions. In the XV century, for example, landscape was
only considered natural due to its almost supreme level of artifice.
3. Historical obsession in the representation of landscape also consisted of
organizing objects within a given space that interconnected them, thus
possessing specific characteristics.
4. Historically, conceptualisation of landscape depends on different
approaches, matrixes, knowledge and technologies.
5. In the last decades of the XX century, the purpose of new figurative and
representational revisitings was taken up again by some authors through
the pictorial (and spatial) approach to landscape.
6. This mingling of territories, also considered in their aesthetic condition
real, surreal, abstract... - and not exclusively socio-artistic,

1 ...Pero hacia donde vaya llevar tu mirada... Pablo Neruda, Crepusculario, Farewell.
2
Hgen Daid, On the Open Way

anthropological or ideological, provided the absence of frontiers; almost


the annulling of domains. In the contemporary situation, the sphere of
landscape took on the proportions of the panorama.
7. The landscape of nowhere (sometimes knowingly atopical) was
disembodied; revealing the anthropological iconoclasm then lived.
Incursion into aesthetic landscape reflected an effective intention, aiming
at approximation through irony, of philosophical recycling, of historical
critique of painting (in relation to itself), but it also meant a prospective
return, with individuated propriety, of painting itself.

II
Those tormented by the fever find great relief in the sight of
painting of fountains, rivers and small brooks, a fact that can be
proven.
Lon-Battista Alberti

1. We know, through the conventionality of European Art, of the opposition that


characterizes Western landscape and Far Eastern landscape. They present
striking differences as to their chronology and technique. Their respective
affirmative natures make a simple comparative study impossible. However,
when carefully considering both iconographies, one may observe numerous
instances of reciprocal influence.
This was the case held during the Middle Ages in Siena: the residue of such
influence had touched, as an example, Piero della Francesca (see the
landscape of the hills in the back of the portrait of the Duke and Duchess of
Montefeltro). On the other hand, Italian influence can be noted in Islamic
miniatures. That reciprocal influence was also almost certainly felt in the vdute
with rocks by the Dutch painter Joachim Patiner (circa 1480-1524).
The most determining and well-divulged case of the influence of Eastern
conception on the West was introduced through the print work in the paintings
of the impressionists and post-impressionists, and later in the fauvists. In the
opposite direction, the East, from the XVII century on, received particular
contaminations from classical buildings or archaeological reconstructions.
Dialogue between Western and Eastern conceptions of landscape is
approximated in the work of Francisco Laranjo. His canvases and
drawings are islands in an ocean that, going against cartography and
without any dissolution of identity, bring both ideas of landscape together.
The direction of his gaze, a principle prior to the making of the painting, is
like that solitude when facing the landscape that travellers see (those
who travel and stay in one place, not tourists) that can be found in
journals lived out somewhere:
Je suis seul, assis en face de limmense grise de la mer
murmurante...je suis seulseul comme je lai toujours t
partout, comme je le serai toujours travers le grand Univers
charmeur et dcevant
Isabelle Eberhardt, Lettres et Jornaliers, Paris, Actes du Sud,
1987.

2. According to some researchers, Chinese landscapes and, later, Japanese


landscapes, most probably have their origins in cartography and in recourse to
the imagetics of landscapes for the decoration of palaces, as well as in screens
and painted rolls. Francisco Laranjo constructs a new conceptual, saluting both
traditions.
I slowly unroll the paintings, and as I observe them, I move
forward in a boundless extension that surrounds me on all sides
and opens me into a feeling of the infinite inspired by the sky.
Zong Bing

The basic tenets of Taoism underlie this poetic declaration by the painter Zong
Bing (375-443), thus very probably pre-empting the evolution of landscape
painting in a multi-dimensional manner (for him, reading the rolled-up painting
was the same as a journey through spaces that could be travelled objectively),
which was thought to be above all due to the work of Wang Wei (699-759).
Anthropo-cosmological awareness of the variety of nature produced with
remarkable results, even in Japan series of screens and roll-paintings
depicting the four seasons and weather changes -- works whose typology and
character have been commented on and explained by different specialists.
The atmospheric effect, which is so emblematic of this painting, was achieved
by replacing discontinuous lines and/or patches that originally limited the forms
and, also, by the representation of layers of low clouds between two mountain
peaks, an invention attributed to Mi Fu (1051-1107). These procedures were
added to by the treatment of stains (called splashed paint) in all the images,
known since the time of Muqi (a painter active between 1240 and 1270).
One of the painting qualities centres on the simplification and use of empty
spaces, and led to a high degree of abstraction with Xia Gui (active between
1190 and 1225). Following this, the disappearing of the lyrical intensity would be
compensated, time and again, by a vigorous expressionism (for example, in
Gao Qipei, 1672-1734, who painted directly with his fingers).
Supposing someone who imagines understanding
And builds illusions about his own Revelation,
Glimpsing the Spirit that animates everything
Unites the way and purifies the soul,
And gives birth to the desire for rising to heaven itself;
These are no more than premises of the limited
Exploration of the frontiers,
But their action is insufficient to achieve
The Way of absolute emancipation.
Dogen, Fukanzazaengi

3. All of these presuppositions, all of these meanderings through the history and
aesthetics of landscape painting, serve to apprehend the conciliation that is
stated in the work of Francisco Laranjo. Without symbolic or social
deformations, his painting and drawing involve planes that can be articulate and
are enriching, taken from either one or another of the two areas of wisdom.

If from renaissance theorisation of drawing3, there is a stressing of its essential


substance, its indispensable presence of bearing, a wide and welcoming Way
is expanded from the Japanese way, in which the game of spaces and graphic
fillings are implied.
The metaphysical definition of emptiness that Francisco Laranjo establishes,
whether through the long extension of the background or through the density of
dominant colours in the smaller canvases aggravates the intensity and
simultaneous subtlety of details approximating the waves of visual and sound
perception, which is almost olfactory and tactile and emanates towards us. Its
synaesthetic multivalency confronts the two worlds, expanding through the
countless paths to be unveiled.
The rolls of painting drawn in diluted and intense blacks, the units of
transposition to the multiple neutrality of variants of grey and white demand the
dramatic almost uniformising pigmentation of the small canvases. The latter are
understood as minimum vestiges of yes and of no, in which the two depend
on the one...4
The articulation of the calligraphy with the consigning of graphic elements that
configure the landscape stimulates an ethics of the image as a landscapesubstance. The emptied dimension, from which drawings of essence and nature
are suspended, is the supreme vehicle for the liberation of restlessness (East)
and of disquietude (West).
Landscape may be conceived of as a rhetorical description of a work of
art saving theoretical discussions for such an argument...
The calligraphic landscape opens the way to being made present in the
mind, through the signs, the words, the graphic symbols, a persons
effectiveness, of a place, indeed, the almost material concretion of an
image... susceptible of being volumetricised.
It is the aestheticising of landscape through visual language; it is the
verbal depicting of visual experience...
Francisco Laranjos present exhibition stresses the concepts/principles
underlying the aesthetic perception of landscape achieved for the receiver
subject the property of the individual who generates it:
-

Aspect/approximation/detail
Overview/drawing away/amplification
Rigour/direct appropriation of appearance/essence
Expansiveness/retaining of perceptive suppositions
Transformation/deformation/transfiguration of the seen and of the
invisible.

I recall, by Francisco de Holanda, Da pintura Antiga, the enriching arguments, in keeping with
the aesthetic thought of Michelangelo, present throughout different chapters in the book.
Francisco de Holanda was a Portuguese writer of the XVI century, a contemporary of
Michelangelo Buonarroti (of whom he was a direct source of his thought). He travelled to Italy,
where he remained for many years. He worked on the subject of art, and was the author of an
extensive body of work, of which, besides the work quoted, the famous Dilogos de Roma
(1538) is of note.
4
I am freely quoting excerpts from Inscription on Faith in the Spirit by Sin Sin Ming, in Jacques
Brosse, Os Mestres Zen, Lisbon, Pergaminho, 1999, pp.38-39

Thus, the true action of the soul on things returns; the discovery of meaning
following the traces, the graphic marks of the instant and of duration: If we
abandon ourselves to all words, to all thoughts/ There will be no place for us to
go.5
III
Not following (or remaining) in the body of the outstretched, unrolled or
concentrated landscape, all routes of vision are plausible, as long as they are
brought from within oneself, the object erasing the subject, the distinctions
being extinguished, the saturation capsizing.
I am here

and there is nothing to say

If among you are


somewhere
,
let them leave at
.
What we re-quire
is
;
but what silence requires
that I go on talking
.
Give any one thought
a push
:
it falls down easily
but the pusher
and the pushed
pro-duce
that entercalled
a dis-cussion
.
Shall we have one later ?
,
we could simply de-cide
not to have a dis.
What ever you like .
But
there are silences
and the
made
help make
the
.
I have nothing to say
and I am saying it
and that is
as I need it
.

those who wish to get


any moment
silence
is

;
tainment
Or
cussion
now
words
silences

poetry

John Cage, Conference about nothing, Silence, New England, Wesleyan University Press,
1973.

The construction of landscapes results from the discussion of the active and
passive visual elements that interact within the author, simultaneously invading
him and being born from him. The silences and the words become indifferent,
the meanings without urgency, the aesthetic permissiveness impregnates
humanist conscience.
Words can be used to draw internal landscapes, full of incoherencies and of
participating logics. The diluted or explicit evocations that are revealed or
retained belong to the memory or to the future of each one of us, as we intend
to be the authors of inaudible landscapes.
It is up to the observer to make himself available to follow the decompression of
the gaze loaded with constricting social or psycho-affective preconceptions.
To know he is travelling, building the sequence interspersed by fragments of
landscape that are cut, separate and gather together again.
The landscape unfolds, the detail is nucleated, and time is centred in the bare
space.

Idem, Ibidem

(Everything has changed because we have changed it; it has


changed both the outer and the inner geography.
Thomas Bernhard, Darkness)

Maria de Ftima Lambert


July 2002