MUSAC hosts a solo exhibition by artist Néstor Sanmiguel Diest (Zaragoza, 1949). This comprehensive review of his recent work brings together a number of large paintings structured in modules configuring large surfaces of colour and text. Superposed layers of information act as screens, simultaneously revealing or hiding a succession of pictorial stories that make up the author’s particular universe.
Founding member of the A Ua Crag collective (Aranda de Duero, 1985-1991), Néstor Sanmiguel Diest embarked on an intense solo career in the 1990s grounded in a defence of pictorial practice as an activity resembling a sentimental restoration, the title of his first series. An activity born of the need to find a logical order, or a number of them, through a conscious attempt to structure the void and shape chaos, aware nonetheless that there “will never be time enough”. This quest materialises in a working procedure that verges on alchemy. A production underpinned by the development of complexly encrypted visual and narrative patterns, applied with a rare pictorial rigour (not exempt of a high dose of irony) that translates into the use of painting as the “craft of avoiding”.
A process-based approach that takes form in works constructed through detailed and obsessive geometric designs, under all possible combinations, created from modules systematically repeated on the surface of canvas, paper or even on the exhibition space walls. Colour is another of the key elements that the paintings revolve around, with tones ranging from monochrome to nearly fluorescent inks.
This system of “transmutations” results in a series of paintings where figures and backgrounds are interconnected, generating a blending of text and colour planes that forces the gaze to readapt so as to accommodate the absence of a single point of reference or theme from which to approach the work. Facing these pieces demands an extra effort that is vastly compensated by the work’s suggestive complexity. The viewer will find references to a highly personal concept of art, tied in with the pictorial and literary tradition and rich in poignant nods to Op Art, geometry or discourses on perception and decoding, but where a number of additional quotes from fields as varied as music or language can also be read.
Like vessels for the immaterial, Néstor Sanmiguel Diest’s works are closed in on themselves, heightening the curiosity of those who, standing before them, begin to suspect that there may be at least three reasons for placing what is seen from the shadows of the author’s heart in a specific place and not in any other. A voice, something focused on expressing what is unspeakable, that runs throughout these “celibate machines” that appear inhabited by inner demons.
The exhibition shown at MUSAC brings together the artist’s most recent work. It includes, amongst others, Las Emociones Barrocas (The Barroque Emotions), a series of 73 76 x 106 cm panels dated between 1997 and 2003 recently purchased by the museum. Work blending acrylic, ink, graphite and printed paper on rotofor paper. Like a diary or travel log, the piece is a documentary compendium, a vessel of time gone by, that begins with what the author terms “recollection of forms” –closed and sealed- from the period that ended in 1997. The Baroque Emotions are arranged randomly in the exhibition space, according to a system that rounds off the author’s work, at least temporarily until the next “unhiding” – the next exhibition. An element of repetition that compounds a method in itself sufficiently complex; a systematic superimposing of layers, not strictly pictorial, employing opposing methods. Breaking away from a narrative plot, Sanmiguel deconstructs the work’s formal elements to establish a system of infinite combinations that generate a number of readings structuring different plots, times and even contradictory machinations.
This same random procedure applied to completing the works through their placement in the exhibition space guides the installation Pollock 1943, a geometrical dripping built from 300 21 x 30 cm tablets; and El descenso del buscador de perlas (The Pearl Diver’s Descent), created especially for the exhibition at MUSAC. Panel-fragments of a narrative whose visual elements are handled as if in a flat and discontinuous universe, where each item refers only to itself, but that at the same time is able to clarify the phases of a work in circulation, methodical and perversely perfectionist. A solution that is cold opposition, by way of an antidote against emotion.
The Second Name of Things includes some other of the artist’s recent paintings, such as El Suicidio de Lucrecia (Lucretia’s suicide), also in the MUSAC’s collection; Sigue Sigue Sputnik, or the three-piece series Mari Paz en París: Trinchera blanca, El corazón de la defensa y El ojo de ángel (Mari Paz in Paris: White Trench, The Heart of the Defence and The Eye of the Angel). These are works developed through a more ‘silent’ procedure, with episodes overlapping, but limited spatially within the surface of the canvas.
A selection of 99 drawings are also shown for the first time at this solo exhibition. Works from 1999 to 2007, under the title Historias Secretas (Secret Stories).
The book. El segundo nombre de las cosas
On occasion of the exhibition, MUSAC is to publish a book under the same title El segundo nombre de las cosas (The Second Name of Things), with reproductions of the 73 visual and textual “episodes” that make up Las Emociones Barrocas (The Baroque Emotions). The book includes an essay by curator Beatriz Herráez and an interview with Néstor Sanmiguel.