julio blancas

nada que ría

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Both the title of the exhibition and the quotation preceding these lines have been taken from the text that the French poet Francis Ponge (1898-1988) wrote during his creative experience in a pine wood that he visited for a year. Le carnet du bois de pins (Pine Wood Notebook¹) is the poem/diary that emerged from that poetic inquiry. Dated from 7 March 1940 to 22 July 1941, it encompasses all the disquisitions and materials that flow together and attest to his experience: lists of words to check in the dictionary, botanical, agrarian, social or philosophical concepts to clarify, correspondence on the subject, and the numerous versions of the resulting “poetic abscess” with its potential variants. Ponge had set out to “earn” the trust of the forest, “taking it out of the silent world, of death, of irrelevance, to enter(it) into the world of the word”. And so, a few days before the preceding note, he had appealed to it in terms of containment and respect: “-I will not develop within you any thought that is alien to you”, underscoring the nature of his purpose, “I will meditate upon you”. Eight decades after they were written, and about four decades after I first read them, the words of Francis Ponge have returned to me in the pine forests of Julio Blancas, echoing through the nature of all his work.

Pine woods, arise from death, from irrelevance, from non-consciousness! Francis Ponge

Julio Blancas is a serious artist, and his work is one of the most serious creative endeavours of our cultural field so far this century. It is a seriousness that has more to do with his attitude towards his work – almost understood as life – than with his own character or that of each particular work, which more often than not elicit reactions of joy and laughter, through admiration, surprise, or pleasure. A seriousness confirmed by three decades of persistent and tireless work to bring to light, without any thought that is alien to it, an essential and transcendent nature that identifies us. And finally, a composed seriousness, through his visceral devotion to graphite and the continuous learning and perfection of all aspects of his craft, which after all shape a science of drawing – “my craft is more scientific than poetic” stated Ponge in one of the letters in the notebook – that has made him a deeply respected artist.

In the uninhabited pine woods of the author of Le parti pris des choses (Partisan of Things), there is “nothing that laughs², but oh what wholesome openness, what temperance of elements, which a fine music hall so quietly perfumed, quietly decorated, so well suited to serious walking and meditation… From time to time a solitary rock further accentuates this feeling of solitude, it forces the seriousness.” The truth is that these words alone would have been enough to appreciate this exhibition, to understand it even, because nothing laughs in the pious solitude of Julio Blancas’s forests ; moreover, a stone in their midst forces the seriousness.

Stoneyway, Caída and Simétrico are the titles of three pine forests that Blancas created in the second half of last year. Unlike the tormented and expressionist creations of a decade ago, these present drawings invite us to take an exceedingly spiritualised ramble and possess a strange ability to lead us through them, as we leave behind their precise realism and enter into their vigorous execution. And so we inhabit this wooded home, where he has always recognised himself, where, twenty-five years ago, his work faced the challenge of creating a place of its own and a nature also of its own in his first great forests.

These wooded landscapes flow into a polyptych that evokes a ravine. It is a work from 2006 that takes us back to the second phase of his lithic landscapes, in which he casts aside the optical effects and the mineral luminosity that had been the hallmarks of his work at the start of the decade, and undertakes a classical drawing, defined stroke by stroke, in which all the degrees of light and shade that shape it have been drawn energetically and robustly. Blancas presented this work in 2007 at an individual exhibition promoted by the Government of the Canary Islands, the last piece included in the catalogue. This was not left to chance – as almost nothing is in the development of his work – because it foretold his return to a new accessible space where soon after he would plant those other forests, the most enigmatic and disproportionate of his entire oeuvre. In the light of this cyclical emergence, the forests seem to be the lungs with which Julio Blancas breathes oxygen into his work.

Piedra (2020) is a lovingly interpreted object that looks like granitic rock. Through evocation, he plays with the meaning of another sculpture created by the artist in 1996, a beach stone entitled Callao that he created by hewing a block of black marble from Belgium for three weeks. In Piedra, in contrast, he spent six months turning a timber frame into a piece of granite, recreating the granulated surface of the mineral with tiny and precise drops of white paint on small black paint spots and vice versa, covering it completely. The stone, which seen from a distance might force seriousness, when seen up close draws us in, as we delight in the artist’s craft and dedication, delicacy and ingenuity that, as in Callao, crystallise into a measured meditation on being and presence.

Two series of small-scale works complete the exhibition. They were created twenty years apart and substantiate the analytical substrate of Blancas’ work. The first is a collection of photographic collages being shown now for the first time. Composed of photographs of rocks and basaltic formations taken on his walks through the ravines and mountains of the island, these collages provided a framework of reference that enveloped him as he was drawing Gran Grafito (2000), and they are at the heart of much of his abstract graphite work. Their presence in Nada que ría (Nothing that laughs) also evokes a historical link that harks back to Triálogos (2000), the collective exhibition held at Galeria Artizar in which Julio Blancas showed Gran Grafito to the public for the first time, initiating a long, productive, and stimulating professional relationship that has endured into the present day.

Finally, the most recent series consists of small-scale drawings on translucent paper, graphite stains suspended in absence that are in reality nooks in their bark, a haphazard brickwork inspired by eroded forms of that Nature through which Blancas has meditated throughout his artistic career.

Carlos E. Pinto

La Laguna, 4 IX 2021

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¹ Francis Ponge. Pine Wood Notebook, Trans. E. Carrión, Ed. Tusquets, 1976.

² Note by the author. Julio Blancas chose the works included in this exhibition. He asked me to give him a title and to write a text about it. He ran a risk, and now that nothing can be done about it, he must weigh up whether it has been worth it . For my part, I have been able to enclose myself in his work in the company of the Pine Wood Notebook and I must say that I am so grateful for the opportunity and the trust he placed in me.

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