Manuel Saiz

Galeria Ciento

Few contemporary artists have been able to transcend historical precedents without maligning them. Yet Manuel Saiz has been able to acknowledge the important changes in art of the past few years, drawing on a collective creativity and transforming it for his own purposes. Although he works as a landscapist in the grand tradition, he has claimed a territory that is all his own. His landscapes are circular and dynamic, simultaneously subjective and objective; he reclaims a tradition of the artist as both interpreter and creator. To Saiz, everything is fodder for the artist, but at the same time everything should be subjected to the artist’s decision and choice, given that he considers art an individual political act. Language, material, image, sign, memory, desire—all are equally important elements in Saiz’s approach to landscape.

Saiz’s recent work oscillates between conceptual didacticism and a more reductive pictorial concreteness. He does not tend to use irony, and his titles are usually direct and descriptive. Yet his conceptual panels can be read as manifestations of a highly intellectualized discourse. When Saiz shakes off the burden of linguistic seriousness, his work becomes more rigorous. In this show, for example, several of the works contain words, but he uses them as signifiers of a consciously amplified landscape. They surrender their semantic energies to a purely visual function. Here language and painting become symbiotic in a manner similar to the way that a sculptor melds various different materials and objects in one piece. Still, everything belongs to the realm of the landscape, which for Saiz is as physical as it is existential. Thus in one untitled piece a cone with its base on the wall becomes a primitive symbol of elevation, as it opens its iron wrapping to allow a regenerative border bursting with grass seeds. Another work features an opaque, leaden chromatic coating, which is applied to paper that has been branded roughly with an iron; on this coat is a sentence that underlines the artist’s respect for the legacy of the avant-garde. Saiz’s work can be disturbing, as in the painting in which suspended trees portray the demons that keep a vigil on perception and play tricks on it. Elsewhere, a very beautiful prism of diminutive tiles is crowned by a cone made of cord and covered with shoe polish; it ends in a glowing light-tube. Saiz’s work is experienced in opposition to convention, as a voyage without itinerary; it is a landscape of affirmation.

Gloria Moure

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.