Jose Maria Bermejo

Like other Spanish painters formed in the last decade, the young Sevillean artist Jose Maria Bermejo oriented himself early on toward certain strains of American art, from Willem de Kooning’s work to Jasper Johns; In his earlier canvases he showed a Fauve-like tendency toward pure, independent fields of color. though he reserved the right to mix palettes and to invade space with dynamic gestural marks. In this show Bermejo displayed a new maturity in his visual language, which goes back and forth between abstraction and a figurative illusion free of definite forms or themes.

In the recent paintings Bermejo’s thick, powerful calligraphy has given up its chaotic and scattered quality. It reveals an order; it has centered itself within clear, unifying modulations. Yet it has not lost its restless energy. Whirling patterns of paint reveal differently shaped and scaled corporeal masses, strange black silhouettes which contrast vividly with the surrounding color; within the labyrinthine structure of the brushstrokes Bermejo’s introduction of the tangible, the concrete, has a mysterious rather than a simply physical quality.The colors develop by gradations from light to dark, while white highlights accentuate the luminosity of the individual sections.The paintings have some of the feeling of reliefs, as if Bermejo’s arabesques of acrylic reject their attachment to the canvas and desire, like light, to project themselves beyond it, merging into our sight and our senses.

Impulses toward automatism, toward the instinctual, balance oddly with more rational elements in these paintings. Bermejo seeks an esthetic experience that cannot be easily classified or identified, that would disorient and disconcert. This is one reason he fragments line and color, sends his hatch marks in all directions, and immerses the rough forms of heads, animals, and human figures in a jungle of energetic brushstrokes against which they struggle in paradoxical harmony. He gives himself up to the complexity of the act of painting, of covering a blank space with pigment. The canvas presents itself as a field where the most diverse powers confront each other, those known and unknowable forces that struggle confusedly in each of us. At times, art such as Bermejo’s can seem to bring these forces under some sort of control, giving measure to the complex nature of all that concerns us; at others, it reflects their intractability in the face of all possible method or foresight. All in all, the work affords a rare equilibrium in the confrontation it describes, and this and the painterly skill underlying it demonstrate its maturity.

Aurora Garcia

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.