MARCO ALOM

Lo útil del vacío

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Marco Alom and the purpose of the void

    

With striking, cyclical force, various masters  in the art of drawing have burst onto the scene of artistic modernity in the Canary Islands. Looking back to the age of 20th century classical avant-garde art, we could mention by way of example Borges Salas in the 1920s, Polycarpo Niebla in the 1930s,  Cándido Camacho in the early 70s, Julio Blancas in the 1980s, and, more recently, Marco Alom (Tenerife, 1986). Alom has not been creating and exhibiting with us for long, about ten years; yet the reach of his eminently graphic work has already made a tremendous impact, and his future looks very bright indeed. Anchored in ink and water on paper, with suggestions of colour, and the artful application of gold and silver leaf, Alom draws on a wide range of aesthetic references in his style and iconography. These references point us in the direction of ancient avatars of our culture, symbolism, surrealism, and the neo-Gothic, which emerged over the course of the last century, from high art to comic. Into this distillation and synthesis, Alom pours the symbolic values of his Atlantic identity: a passion for all things related to the water (sea creatures, boats, legends) and an interest in the archaeological and anthropological. The sea and interior areas of the island generate currents that drift towards large ink drawings on paper and the three dimensions of sculptural-object creation. Fishing and farming, the twin core of island life, create tension within Alom’s creations, tension that is at one and the same time the root and principle of sublimation. Onto the essences felt and the glimpsed depth of the ocean and the earth, both of which are in constant geological flux in the Canary Islands, he embeds and mounts mythographies, legends, and theological visions, attaining a hyperreality akin to the classical surrealist mode. A far cry from formal mimesis or imitation, which moves from the outside in, as the images created by Alom clearly manifest.

Gone – suspended but not concluded – are the exultant, chilling images of Leviatán (Leviathan), a monstrous arapaima that has swallowed the sea, flanked by Adam and Eve, whom we saw in this magnificent island setting as skeletal doubles of themselves, and a shadowy landscape of dragon trees, palm trees, and spurges. We have admired with some trepidation the frenzied Tower of Babel, a parody of all universal architecture placed on ascending rings of sea monsters and shells. Terrifying nightmarish sharks whose huge devouring mouths (Piélagos, CIC El Almacén, Arrecife, 2018) have crushed sail boats from across the ages, warships, galleons, early steamships. Alom leaves us exhausted when he invites us into his theatre of the Apocalypse, passing through the circles of Hell, writhing human masses in ever decreasing circles that evoke the illustrations created by the great Doré for the immortal Dante.

 

The latest creation by this metalsmith painter, Lo Útil del Vacío (The purpose of the void), once again brings us phantasmagorical beings, more typical of remote ages than of the present. Crocodiles, whose jaws define a steaming underwater volcano, are conspiring to bring us a new threat. A terrifying Saint Michael, metamorphosed into a destroying, web-footed bird, crushes beneath its talons the fallen soul of a fellow bird, which we can trace back to the pelican who births the Messiah, and which we had the chance to admire previously in the exhibition Murria (Melancholy) (Sala de Arte Contemporaneo SAC, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 2021). A new addition to this work are his graceful herons, subtle winged creatures fixed in the collective memory, which crouch as if terrified among the long stems of the reeds. They are silhouetted birds; the volume of their bodies turns out to be the fleshy optical illusion of blank paper. Alom pastes over the ink to draw and create a form in constant complexity, the infinite graphic puzzle that mesmerises us; he draws in a quasi-sculptural way.

But another yearning is struggling within. I don’t know whether it might be the transcendent hope that counteracts the destructive end of times and its apocalyptic versions. It emerges in these white herons conceived from the void and, no doubt, in the daring and fascinating allusion to the divine, called by its name, as it is in his piece entitled Dios (God). And it is precisely this metaphysical longing that illuminates the imposing triptych, the mark of this exhibition, Alianza (Sacrificio de Isaac) (The Covenant-Sacrifice of Isaac). Between two panels of fossilised horns stands the lava altar of Isaac. Thanks to God’s indulgence, the sacrificial lamb is offered up rather than the son of the most faithful believer. A golden aura, like the one that occupied the abstract centre of God, protects and covers the offering altar. Alom certainly disturbs us by taking us back to the biblical world of our childhood, in a universe where the mystery of our destiny still throbs.

They confirm and expand the artist’s sculptural will, intensifying the allegory of the Atlantic, where life jackets are strips of pastoral muslin covered with shells, or garments that have once again been claimed by the ocean. Shells we have seen previously, representing the souls of the dead, in the celestial white Cuadro de Ánimas (Painting of Souls). Another ancestral form will be the feathered cape, which will elevate the taciturn, silent shepherd to that heavenly great beyond that awaits us all, whatever form it takes. Through these works, we return to the origins and essences. A tremendous achievement in the furore of the new digital age, which has (falsely) abandoned the old questions and sacred fear.

Jonathan Allen

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