Valencia

Simeón Saiz Ruiz

Galería Tomas March

Even amid the accelerated rhythm of contemporary life there are artists who still practice meditation and repose. Simeón Saiz Ruiz works with such care that he has painted only four canvases in the past two years. But his meticulousness does not in any way imply indifference to or withdrawal from human affairs. Since 1996 he has been working on a series titled “J’est un je”—a play on Rimbaud’s celebrated phrase “Je est un autre.” The trajectory of the French poet, who abandoned his country and his lover Verlaine in pursuit of new cultures (reaching Aden, in North Africa), exemplifies the uprootedness of the contemporary subject split from any national identity.

According to Saiz Ruiz, a similar crisis of national identity has emerged once again in the former Yugoslavia. Basing his paintings on documentary images of the horrors that have taken place in the Balkans over the past decade, the artist has focused on the victims’ pain while avoiding any hint of morbidity or sensationalism. We are not dealing with history painting that celebrates the military exploits of one side or another, nor with a narrative that converts its protagonists into heroes. The artist’s interest lies elsewhere. Indeed, his work, despite its vital chromaticism and fiery tonalities, is visually cold, as the paintings are based on photographs of television screens whose images have been optically distorted. In Saiz Ruiz’s earlier works chromatic masses predominated, but little by little a series of points—like imitation pixels—have come to fill the surface, so that close up it is impossible to make out a recognizable image. Such is the case of Víctima de ataque a un autobús en el puente de Luzane de la carretera entre Podujevo y Pristina (Victim of an attack on a bus crossing the Luzane bridge on the road between Podujevo and Pristina), 2000, which resembles a pointillist accumulation of colors. In other works, on stepping back, one can make out certain forms or bodies that conjure a lineup of cadavers covered with blankets, as in Matanza en Racak (Racak massacre), 2002. The canvas’s enormous scale might lend it an epic character were this not toned down by a combination of colors that curiously recalls the pattern of a cloth or tapestry. The distancing thus effected does not prevent us from recognizing the tactile sensations emitted by a work constructed with so much effort, and it elicits an awareness of how important it is to resist our irrational fascination with violence.

Skill and virtuosity, forgotten values related to traditional ideas about painting, here serve to further a critique of the society of the spectacle, which, unscrupulously, makes even unbearable suffering tolerable for the beholder. In this way, one might argue that Saiz Ruiz’s art, paradoxically, deals a blow to the aestheticization of violence that constantly feeds the mass media, by utilizing the most pure and classic visual and aesthetic resources within the artist’s reach.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from Spanish by Michèle Faguet.