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Original title: Sin título
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 199.3 x 229 cm
In Patricio Cabrera’s work, landscape is like an axis, a reference above and beyond any thematic anecdote, a kind of recurrent aesthetic argument that also provides the key to understanding the development of his painting as it relates to the creation of images. Precisely by taking his whole body of work into consideration, we can more clearly discern the essential elements of his work through how the representation of the landscape evolves. One of the most remarkable aspects is his understanding of painting: as a mechanism capable of generating images charged with symbolism, closely connected to meanings and implications that clarify the different ways of perceiving the visual as an event of memory. Although Untitled (1985) and Cuatro visiones del mar I (1993)—two of Cabrera’s pieces included in the collection—belong to two periods that differ quite significantly in formal terms and are far apart in time, they represent two, different ways of approaching the idea of landscape. Untitled is part of a large series of works about the wild, rough countryside of northern Almeria. The landscape is constructed by integrating different figurative elements that are symbolic in nature, such as the wall of a medieval castle, a column supporting a statue or a flag flying in the wind. They all surround and define the panorama of a mountain enclosed within a clumsy border that serves as a frame. The scene assumes the characteristics of a disconnected and fragmentary story; weighing the gestural resources and the figurative scope in much the same way as the Italian Transavanguardia—particularly Enzo Cucchi—arranged their landscape stage designs. Critics at the time alluded to certain surreal components to explain the structuring of scenes and stories that tended towards dreamlike atmospheres; nevertheless, the predominant feature of this approach to landscape is the desire for narrative. Cabrera’s later work gradually stripped away the storytelling possibilities and set out a far more allusive and synthetic pictorial field, in which he evoked landscape elements through hints and traces, fragments of branches, hills or mists. He avoids description and uses colour to highlight atmospheres with Baroque undertones. His time in New York made his work even more synthetic by introducing geometric forms and flat colour, as well as an allusive manner based on the interrupted line, in which we can detect echoes of Klee’s later work. The start of the nineties was marked by the eruption of ornamental elements that sometimes act as cartographic landscapes and, at other times, as symbolic hieroglyphs. We cannot speak of a homogenous style, but of different aspects of image production. Psychedelic tensions, dreamlike cartography and surrealist distortions converge in the drawn line that characterises Cabrera’s work of the early nineties, often generating diffuse landscapes. We have to see Cuatro visiones del mar I in this context. Along with other similar paintings, it comprises a closed series on the representation of landscape as a stereotype. If we compare it to the landscape in Untitled, this piece brings us to the outer limits of bareness and simplification, but also to a space where authorship is called into question to the benefit (critically speaking) of production and stereotype. The painting is divided into four fields of identical dimensions, each one describing a trite panoramic landscape, with lines that truncate the forms and establish the changes and inflections of the territory, the sea or the sky. The images seem to take on the appearance of elemental wood engravings, in which the colour has been reduced to a background and a uniform tone for the lines. In this series the landscape may be identical in each piece, but the artist introduces variations in colour. The landscape is produced like a banal cartoon, an ideal place, which could appear either in a children’s geography book or the leisure pages of a newspaper, where the game lies in spotting the differences. The story disappears to give way to a discourse increasingly structured around a reflection on the image.
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