Evidence of Absence
February 25 - April 15, 2017
Opening: Saturday, February 25, 2017, 6 - 8 pm
in presence of the artist
In its current exhibition Galerie Karsten Greve AG St. Moritz presents new works by Venezuelan artist Raúl Illarramendi (*1982 in Caracas), which simultaneously explore and also mediate the fine line between drawing and painting. Illarramendi stages his systemic probing of these mediums by observing and then reproducing diverse and at times derelict areas in the urban space, masterfully employing an intricate technique by applying graphite and coloured pencil to explore the essence of painting.
Illarramendi seeks out spaces in an urban environment which bear the marks of spontaneous human activity, detecting fleeting changes to the patina resulting from relentless wear and withering. As a mindful observer he assimilates these fingermarks on dust coated surfaces, signs of decay, scratches and other ephemeral phenomena on walkways, cars, trucks, garbage cans and garage doors. Illarramendi documents and catalogues these seemingly neither special nor permanent manifestations – certainly not worthy of depiction – photographically, amassing a repository of templates from which he sources his motifs and unfolds his aesthetic sensibility.
The textural properties of surfaces are not only the subject of Illarramendi’s works, but as it happens, it is also their processing shaping the overall effect – similar to the way in which the quality of a fresco is informed by the underlying plaster. In order to recreate a surface smooth as paper, an elaborate prime coating process is employed, which involves sanding between each coat and finishing with a layer of gouache. Illarramendi then goes on to add countless delicate graphite- and coloured pencil-strokes to the prepared drawing ground, the densely-packed and softly smudged appearance dissolving the individual markings, illuminating them in a colourful mist. The exquisite matt texture of the canvas enhances the soft, almost powdery colour effect of the pigment layers, interspersed with contrasting irregularities that appear to disrupt the predominant superficial harmony. Illarramendi uses the negative paces, the absence of drawing to generate the information, becoming discernible through the coloured surrounding areas. A foolproof intuitive approach to surface textures and an impressive colouristic sensibility allow the artist to comprehensively flesh out the canvas. Illarramendi transforms or rather even sublimates the tangible reality of an initially dire situation, adorning a grimy piece of asphalt with an aura of singularity and uniqueness.
This emerging impression of immateriality and spirituality refer to the transition into pictorial abstraction. Illarramendi is less concerned with the specific characteristics of drawing and the infallible identification of the depicted subject, which proves to be rather elusive. Rather, he makes use of drawing to approximate painterly means. He aspires to finalize the particular abstract coherence of an accidental arrangement of amorphous traces blots, sprinkles, stains, drippings or smears. Acknowledging them in terms of painting as a consistent All-Over covering a surface, Illarramendi seeks to portray this very quality. For this purpose, he has “started forging the drawing, trying to make it do what it is not supposed to, rejecting line as a means to construct the space.” (Illarramendi) Obliterating the treacherous marks evidencing the mechanical activity of the medium involved, the artist´s painterly approach privileges the “fluid and uninterrupted filling of the surface”, exacting from drawing the naturalistic imitation of material properties of paint, namely its viscosity and fluidity.
In Illarramendis practice, drawing serves as an instrument to represent painting. The single line, its mere apparition simultaneously prefiguring its annihilation, fades away and dissolves in an overall impression of blurred color fields and hazy hues. Furthermore, Illarramendi´s emphasis of the material aspect of painting, his careful depiction of superficial traits, allows for an understanding of his work as “drawn painting”. Starting with a collection of everyday spots and smudges, Illarramendis in-depth examination of painting is based on his view of “abstraction as an image and as a process”, which in turn leads him to a discovery of countless pictorial possibilities, in which the artist “is tempted by the idea that one could find all of painting in these subjects.”