by Ricardo Pau-Llosa
What should we be withoutThe dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Richard Wilbur, “Advice to a Prophet”
The fact that landscape has never ceased to intrigue painters of diverse styles, including abstractionists, testifies to the complexities and pleasures of this genre. So much is on the table in landscape paintings: the dynamic between immediate space and distances, only partially negotiated by perspective; the shoal-like shifts in light; the mechanics of focus by which the mind configures fragments of visual data into coherent scenes and contexts; the dictionary of tonalities light assumes when filtered by leaves; the paradox of simultaneous dynamic and static form which a tree presents. Existentially, landscape exposes our primary and still essential encounter with our isolation in the natural world. The natural is always in rebellion against its human master. Even those natures we tame and hew, such as orchards and gardens, don this aggressive indifference toward us when they are broached by the painter. It is our expulsion from the garden, and not the place itself, which marks us as the species of reflection, remembrance, and regret. These concerns surface dramatically and lucidly in the paintings of Lucas Blanco.
His recent works, exhibited at the Deering Estate in Miami, bear the fruit of a provocative insight. The shadows of branches and trunks, mottled by the piercing light on the ground, form a visible counterpart to the roots we do not see, locked in anchors and sustenance of the earth. The painter has found a way to represent what we know and, more importantly, feel is the scene’s core necessity. We, the rootless, often use the image to connect us to each other across time—that roiling river, pitiless as it is pure. Blanco’s paintings delve into this linkage between time and setting. The root-like shadows fan out from a trunk to web among others, much as the roots do, reinforcing the fundamental sphericity of all experience. Are we not surrounded, bubbled within our sensorial and cognitive range? Are not the ground we walk on, the floors of our buildings, our beds and table tops, the unacknowledged planar equators of the worlds we conjure at every step of our lives? And in Blanco’s paintings the shadows tell us this, promising the ground beneath us is as transparent as the air, as luminous as the dappled leaves. Here is the vein-work of all living, mirrored up from the earth, professing itself in the language of shadows cast by branches.
Other of Blanco’s recent works revel in the immediacy of the landscape of paint itself, medium and surface wrestling in the intimate storm of an image. The spatula and the brush elevate relentless homage to our journey, physical and imaginative, through landscape. Embankment and path sign the human history of these scenes as surely as the painter’s passionate record of his moments in nature. There is no passion like that of plein air painting, the surrender to the pervasive muse of the immanent. There is no retreat from the parapet of the easel in this situation for the scene is here to unravel whatever conflicts we have hoarded so far. The love of the moment must be equal to the bravery of skill and the conviction that, out of the inexhaustible reality of nature, endless images are still to be harvested. We are not so destitute, so exiled, after all, in a landscape whose mysteries we can apprehend through art and the imagination.
© Ricardo Pau-Llosa