Angel Vergara, ‘Illumination 5  (12 jours et 6 heures)’, 2014, Axel Vervoordt Gallery

The works of Angel Vergara (°1958, Spain) is a continued research into the power of the image. By means of performances, videos, installations and paintings he tests the limits of art and reality. He questions the way the contemporary image shapes our own reality. Every work is an attempt to break through the image and to make its impact come to the surface on an aesthetic as well as a socio-cultural and political level. With his work, Vergara creates a new, suspended reality, grown from the artist's personal dialogue with reality and with the image by which it has already been transformed.

Decontextualized images of reality are mediated by the artist and transformed into art. The viewer is thus encouraged to question his way of perceiving the everyday and the way it is presented to him in images. Also, the position of the artist himself is questioned. How can he fill the gap between what is real and what is art? How can he make reality enter art and art enter back into reality?

Vergara's work is above all transparent--physically as well as conceptually. The transparent supports on which he paints allow the outside world to intimately become a part of the painting and to shape it. Reality is literally reflected and projected on the painting. Its fleetingness is captured by the artist and concentrated into a gesture, a stroke of paint. Vergara's paintings hide nothing. There is no denial of their making process; there are no hidden meanings beneath their surface. Though parting from (the image of) reality, Vergara's newly created images become autonomous objects that break through the ready-made narrative of their referents. They are open to new interpretations and to new modes of signification.

Vergara's paintings comment on the abundance of images that are continually forced upon us and that block the psychological mechanisms by which we shape our own reality. The plenitude and the speed of the contemporary image makes it almost impossible to distinguish between fiction and reality. Our memory is polluted. Vergara's image slows down the speed of the contemporary image to the time of painting. For a brief moment it freezes the flux and encourages the viewer to again take on a critical position towards the image as a referent of reality.

This work was part of the exhibitions Life Illuminations, held at Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp (22.05 - 05.07.2014).

In this exhibition, a series of "life paintings" was shown, made on different layers of glass or Plexiglas. For these paintings Vergara parts from moving images he sees through the transparent support on which he paints from the backside. By looking at the subject of his painting through his own painting whilst it is being painted, the artist doubles the layers of meaning of the image and of the imaging process. And by literally accumulating different layers of transparent supports, the layers of meaning extend to infinity.

The two smallest Illuminations shown in the exhibition were based on a documentary film about the behavior of animals (lions), whereas the source of their larger pendants (of which Illumination 5 is an example) was the coincidental projection of what happened in the artist's studio, onto transparent surfaces. They reflect on the pictorial tradition of the self-portrait. By combining all, Vergara questions human ethology: how does the "condition humaine" shine through the artwork?

Like the meaning of his works, the meaning of the exhibition title, Life Illuminations, is not univocal.

"Life" emphasizes the time-based character of his paintings and points out the direct, instantaneous process by which the moving image is transformed into art (live). It also denotes the overlapping of art and reality/life.

"Illumination" refers to light. Both to the physical light of projection and reflection, and to the mental light, the almost hallucinatory effect the act of painting has on the artist. "Illumination" also makes a reference to medieval illuminations, often comprising multiple parts of a story into one contemplatively painted image. The monks meticulously painted according to certain traditions of the image, but unavoidably also added a subjective touch. With his own "Illuminations", Vergara brings down the daily flux of images to the speed of the medieval illumination. And of course his "illuminations" are also Rimbaud's Illuminations (Painted Plates).

These are but a few paths that can be followed to interpret Vergara's exhibition, but as is the case with his work, it is impossible to peal of all the layers of the its meaning.

Angel Vergara - Life Illuminations, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium (22.05 - 05.07.2014)

About Angel Vergara