Joseba Eskubi trabaja en la construcción de un espacio escénico, o mejor, de los espacios escénicos, distintos y separados, que son cada uno de sus cuadros. Espacios separados y delimitados en los que la masa de pintura es extendida, girada, amontonada, aplastada hasta
constituirse en atmósfera, en tierra, lugar, en delante y detrás y en masa-figura. No existe, en este trabajo una imagen separable de esa masa orgánica de la pintura, que hace del cuadro un cuerpo.
En la sucesión de lugares de la pintura de Joseba, hubo un día edificios. Edificios o estructuras-edificio, nacidos del entrelazado de líneas y de la delimitación de planos de color, a la vez rígidos y orgánicos. Edificios en mitad de lugares vacíos en los que el viento no soplaba y desde los que, los edificios, parecían mirarnos. También un día quedó fijada, en la pintura de Joseba Eskubi, la línea de tierra. Línea de un horizonte incierto, separando vertical y horizontal. Cielo y tierra que no son sino el vientre de su taller desplegado en cielo y tierra. Ha habido también, en mitad de muchos cuadros, manchas como piedras inmóviles en mitad de un sueño.
Ahora la pintura se densifica en lo que parecen bolsas tensas y sanguíneas, vísceras, muñones, excrementos. Figuras dirigidas a nuestros sentidos. Alrededor aire, suelo, fondo. Encarnaciones gustativas, olfativas y táctiles, referidas a su vez a la futura ausencia de toda posibilidad de sentir. Carne muerta y alimento, como en la historia de la pintura. Es la puesta en escena del encuentro de dos actores antagónicos, plenamente revelados al fundirse en una sola visión. Teatro de la aniquilación de contrarios que es el espacio escénico del barroco, de lo barroco. Zonas de alta densidad en el paisaje de una mesa de disección. Mesa en la que se extienden las figuras de otra aniquilación: la de la suave manipulación de la pintura fundida con la violencia del miedo. Miedo vital e indefinible que atraviesa la obra de Eskubi. Miedo fundador. Miedo desde siempre, pero cada vez con una identidad nueva.
Una modulación sabiamente controlada de las degradaciones de color y de las sombras proyectadas. Un conocimiento sobre la organización de los volúmenes y cuerpos, necesaria para pintar un espacio tridimensional. “Oficio”. Todos los resortes necesarios para que la cuestión sea cuestión de escenografía. Ofrecer, a nuestra mirada, la pintura en un lugar que permita nombrarla. Llamarla víscera, horizonte, cuerpo, enigma. Nombrarla sin dejar de sentir su sustancia, su densidad, su textura.
Sugerencia de colores sanguíneos, de rosáceos capilares y de violáceos de carne mórbida. Aquí o allí, las raras interferencias de colores vivos o la ausencia de color, desagradan, rechinan. Otras veces, vagos reflejos ocres sugieren la descomposición de un cuerpo que se extiende en el aire. El color, su poder de evocación en la pintura de Joseba Eskubi, completa la visión sugerida por las líneas de contorno de los objetos. Configura en nuestro cerebro la representación de lo mirado. Eskubi induce con el color, información que por evocación, nos lleva mas allá del contenido visible, en el terreno de la vagamente sugerido.
Frente a un hipotético vacío de la figura, bajo las masas de color extendidas, descubrimos en otros trabajos, fotografías de obras de pintores que nos han precedido, siglos atrás enterradas parcialmente. Figuras, imágenes de figuras cubiertas u ocultadas, aplastadas por avalanchas de masas cromáticas. Como si el óleo y el bastidor no bastaran para inscribirse dentro de la Historia de la Pintura, la misma que contiene a Halls y a Mondrian. Como infectando la extremidad del cuerpo de La Pintura que es una tarjeta postal con pintura fresca. Materia que es a su vez la que hace de la imagen un cuerpo y como cuerpo, algo susceptible de ser infectado. En otras obras, raras, en las que se produce efectivamente ese vacío de figura, este encuentra sobre el soporte, la forma de un entresijo de escombros, líneas, planos de color superpuestos, deshilachados. Como si el viento hubiera soplado, esta vez demasiado fuerte y nos dejara frente a los restos de un silo derrumbado y en el que, desolado, faltara alguien.
Podemos por último preguntarnos cuando, en que momento, la acción representada ha tenido lugar. Porque el escenario que esta ante nosotros se nos antoja deshabitado y nos envía hacia nuestra propia ansiedad. Si lo que estamos mirando son restos, es porque forzosamente hemos llegado después de que lo que sucede, haya sucedido. Es decir en un futuro. Futuro desollado, desencarnado. Relación otra vez, con lugares privilegiados del barroco mas allá de las vanidades, lugares que eran la ruina y también la biblioteca. Lugares que situados en el presente, contienen cada uno por igual su parte de memoria y su parte de futuro fundidos, confundidos. Es decir, que el sueño de esa imagen que se nos da, se nos da como un sueño premonitorio y porque es premonitorio, el miedo fundamental, del que hablaba antes vuelve a tomar sólidamente el timón, hasta ser evacuado, extendido, diluido, en la superficie pintada. Una vez tras otra.
POETIC OF THE ANNIHILATION
Joseba Eskubi works in the building of a stage space, or better, of the different and separated stage spaces that are each of his paintings. Separated and demarcated spaces, in which the painting mass is spread out, turned, heaped up, crushed and flattened till it becomes and atmosphere in earth, place, in before and behind and in figure-mass. In this work there is not an image that can be separated from that organic mass of painting which turns a painting into a body.
In the succession of places in Joseba’s painting, there were once buildings. Buildings or building-structures, born from the entwining or interweaving of lines and of the delimitation of colour layers, both rigid and organic. Buildings in the middle of empty spaces, in which the wind did not blow and from which the buildings seemed to look at us. Besides, on a certain day the earth line remained fixed for good. A line of an uncertain horizon, separating vertical and horizontal. Heaven and earth, which are not but his workshop’s womb as displayed in heaven and on earth. There had been also, in the middle of many paintings, spots, stains or flecks like still and motionless stones in the middle of a dream.
Now the painting becomes thicker and more solid looking like something seeming tight blood bags, entrails, stumps, excrements. Images addressing our senses. Air, floor, ground surrounding them. Tactile, smelling and tasting embodiments, referring in their turn to the future absence of any possibility of feeling. Dead flesh and food, like in the history of painting. It is the mis-en-scène, the stage, of two antagonistic actors, fully revealed when they blend into only one vision. A theatre of annihilation of contraries that is the baroque stage space, of Baroque as such. High density zones in the scenery of a dissecting table. A table on
which the images of another annihilation have been displayed: that of the soft manipulation of the painting melted with the violence of fear. Indefinable and living, vital, fear going through Eskubi’s work. Foundational fear. Fear coming from ever, but each time with a new identity.
A wisely controlled modulation of colour degrading as well as of the projected shadows. A knowledge about the organization of volumes and bodies, all the more necessary in order to paint a three-dimensional space. “Craft, workmanship”. All the necessary elements so that the question becomes a question of stage scenery. It offers the painting to our eyes in a place that allows the painting to be given a name. To call it entrails, horizon, body, enigma. To call it without feeling its substance, its density, its texture.
A suggestion of blood colours, of capillary pinkish and purplish morbid flesh shades. Here and there, rare interferences of lively colours, or of absence of colour, displease, creak. Some other times, vague ochre coloured glimpses suggest a body’s decomposition spreading in the air. Colour and its evocative power in Joseba Eskubi’s painting completes the view suggested by the objects’ outlines. It shapes in our brains the representation of what has been seen. By means of colour, Eskubi let us absorb some sort of information that, by evocation, brings us, beyond the visible contents, into the field of the vaguely suggested.
Against a hypothetical figure emptiness, below the spread out colour masses, we discover in other works, photographs of partially buried works by other painters of centuries ago. Figures, images of covered or hidden figures, crushed under avalanches of chromatic masses. As if painting oil and stretcher frame were not enough to take and fill someone’s place in the History of Painting, the same one that contains Halls and Mondrian. As if it were infecting the extremity of The Painting’s body that is a post card with fresh painting. Matter, which in turn is what makes a body out of image and like a body open to being infected. In other works, rare ones, in which that figure emptiness occurs effectively, this emptiness finds on its support the form of a mesentery of rubble, lines and frayed, superimposed colour levels. As if the wind had blown, this time too strongly, and had left us in front of the remainders of a hurled down, collapsed silo, in which some grieving person was felt missing.
Finally, we can ask our selves, when, in which moment, took place the represented event. Because the stage in front of us seems to be uninhabited and send us towards our own anxiety. If what we are looking at is the debris, it is because we have necessarily arrived after the happening of what happened, i.e. in a future. In a skinned, flayed, fleshless bony future (deprived of its flesh). Once again, some sort of relationship with privileged baroque places, beyond vanities, places that were ruins and also the library. Places that set in present time hold each one likewise their part of memory and their part of future melted and cast together (fundidos) as well as mixed up (confundidos). I.e. the dream of this image as given to us, is given as a premonitory dream, and being some sort of foreboding, the fundamental fear of which I have talked before takes the rudder helm fast in its hands again, till it is evacuated, thinned down and spread out over the painted surface. Once and again.
(Translated by Joseba Borja)
Sex, the grip of terror, the invitation of penetration, pain, a sense of pageantry and seduction all vie for supremacy in the work of Joseba Eskubi.
But there is glory too: the pagan display of Roman Catholicism and the glitter of courtly dazzle. Coming upon his work by chance, I find myself arrested- forced into a review, not only of the past three centuries of European painting, but of the meaning of the Reformation and the situation we all face as the planet hurtles into the Apocalypse. As a Humanist, I look for answers in Art, not Science. As a spiritual being, I seek deeper understanding. As an idealist, I want to stave off capitulating to my own worst fears. And so in the art of Joseba Eskubi, I experience a panoply of stimulation, vital cues to our existence as a species and even glimmers of an honest reckoning and fair measure of consolation.
In general, Eskubi's paintings occur in the dark. Where light does exist, it's almost never the light of uninhibited liberty; there is a sense of only momentary release from cosmic doom or darkness set to return or descend yet again. But while Eskubi's range and topography are vast, objects occupy the foreground of his pictorial space. For the most part, sky remains a distant element in a sprawling oeuvre I find difficult to categorize: paintings, sculpture, collages, mix-media, assemblage, reworked photographs, organic matter (such as twigs) and found objects like dentures,toys, electrical cords and simple cloth all comprise component elements of his enormous sweep and far-ranging sense of experiment.
There are certain consistent themes or leitmotifs running through Eskubi's art, though. If his work is hierarchical in its antecedents, at least in part, it promises neither illusionary freedom nor accepts blindly any absolutist power: it's constrained by conflict, heavily freighted by its own noble roots.
Spellbound by the specter of puncture, decay and poetic melancholia, Naturalism has been suspended, and if discernible figures ever do appear, they're usually truncated. The closest they come to approximating Reality is when distorted, as in James Ensor's carnival-like parades or processions.
Eskubi's mixed media figures or sculptures do employ closer representations of human form but, almost invariably, these too have been ripped, torn asunder, deformed or glimpsed only in part, never as a total holistic entity.
As stated, the work is dark, but not always in tonality. Still, an encompassing sense of psychic Shadow pervades. Yet in a nod to classic or neoclassic conceits of the 16th-18th century, the poise and certainties shattered by the French Revolution and psychological torment of early 19th century Doubt underlie the drama and display. Ultimately, therefore, Eskubi refers to, and builds on, the grand traditions and historic obsessions of High Spanish Art.
And the Masters are all here: the nightmarish political urgencies of Goya as well as his courtly dances; the superb painterly Velasquez- so evident in the succulent and sensuous brushwork; the odd humane dignity of Ribera's dwarfs; the velvety blackness of El Greco at his most remote or solemn; the infinite luxury of detail, suspended time and sly humor of Salvador Dali; and the wrenching explosion of Picasso's crie de coeur in "Guernica." Eskubi finds his niche in this line of descent and is at home in the legacy.
That said, this powerful and compelling work stands on its own. The vision is indisputable, irreducible. And yet... a poetic quality reaches farther than the Iberian peninsula. It extends to Versailles and the awkward, quasi-tragic Pierrot of Watteau; to his oddly constrained and cool stylized masques.
Then without pause or apology, the artist turns carnivore- swooping from tense restraints of courtly art to the ferocious and the bestial. Luxuriant paint,punctured flesh- bleeding and perforated-conjure up Goya's "Still Life With Three Salmon steaks": pink slabs of raw flesh; Soutine's "Slaughtered Ox"- the great bloodied and disemboweled carcass suspended, crucified; the shrouded popes of Francis Bacon- themselves an homage to Velasquez- and Philip Guston's eerie night specters of looming hooded and ghostly apparitions most evident in Eskubi's use of blues, grays and charcoal black.
But that is not a negative. The clear, lucidity of the Florentine School gains no admission here. This is painting directly out of the Venetian tradition.
All is smoky, ephemeral, mysterious. The Age of Reason and The Enlightenment have fallen to the spooky turbulence of a pre-Freudian Romance.
As previously argued, a state of ritual arrest, fixation and, above all, urgent passion imbue Eskubi's work. Ghastly yet sublimely beautiful, he seduces and ravishes even as he transcends his own implicit fascination with a creeping degeneration to reptilian consciousness, thereby obliging the viewer
to bear witness to the ravaging and implacable demands of Nature. If indeed "biology is destiny," as some claim, for Eskubi, evolution is ineluctable and uncontrollable. This might be unbearable yet it's salvaged from sensory overload by the restraints of controlled space and by beauty. His space provides refuge from assault; his horizon line remains level, thus offering the illusion of the comprehensible. The paint itself- gorgeous and sexually luxurious- is applied with a seducer's mastery. As such, these dark and brooding images have the luster and self-assuredness of historical episode even if event will metastasize in Time. But it is this aspect of inevitability which saves them (and the viewer) from the brunt of unmitigated catastrophe.
Some of his paintings enfold us in gloom; others seem to shimmer or dance, for in the delicious pinks, salmon, silvers and grays, we catch glimpses of Velasquez. Indeed, Eskubi's pallete is a subtle but conscious homage to "the painter's painter." His reds, however, are uniquely his own. Still other canvases burst forth with the intensity and ferocity of Danish COBRA painter, Asger Jorn- the impasto so thickly applied or encrusted we cannot avoid cognizance of Process itself in the creative manifestation of pulsing flesh, delicate membranes, tissues, cells, cartilage and scraped bone.
In Eskubi's mixed media or altered works, commercial reproductions of classic or traditional portraits and landscapes as well as photos serve as a ground or starting point upon which he further expands his themes of the explosive and "uncontained" or "uncontainable". In such instances, we perceive striking
counterpoints between his selected pushing-off spot of departure and where he takes us. Invariably, it is the imposition of organic convolution happening upon what began as passive or classically composed. This harkens back to Jorn's "The Disquieting Duck" (1959), where a bird is slashed upon a syrupy romantic landscape (created by someone else). Herein, it escapes becoming too referential for Jorn's canvas is essentially comic and satirical in nature;
Eskubi's is in dead earnest for his purpose is not to amuse but to remind us of where we have come from, the distance traveled, what we already know and, in some strange way, our collective helplessness to mitigate destiny. What saves the verdict he pronounces from an existential despair is Beauty and, at least, some promise of a greater unfolding wisdom though, admittedly, the prospects are bleak and the odds appear to be heavily against rescue.
Storms roil here; flesh is ripped or torn or gashed, vaginal openings suck us in; the eye's movement is impelled to be circular in its approach, it spirals in... and yet, through it all, there is the unarguable, inescapable reality of the fascinating, at times subterranean, glow of the mysterious and evocative Unknown.
It is primordial, primitive yet, concurrently, as in Goya: alternately majestic, self-assured, horrified and personal while retaining unerring fidelity to the great tradition of Spanish art with its fixation of death and eternity in the midst of life. Put simply, there is sublimity here for any with the courage to risk looking into the milky eye of the Gorgon, to withstand her paralyzing stare... and endure.
What is on display isn't Dante's Inferno, it's the human psyche caught out, yet not so much in struggle but in instinctive thrall. While abstracted, mainly, the subjects alluded to- or issues involved- propel us into an associative thought process. It connects to fearful tangents: piles of entrails; amputated digits; carcasses in still life; torn bodies and forlorn landscapes in which alien creatures displaced or dislocated from their natural habitat exist in a state of struggle or foreboding... an anxious anticipation of impending event. The noble, the sensual and the grotesque coexist in odd dignity, presented lovingly and without apology, hestiancy or judgment. Therefore, while intensely dramatic and confrontational, there is also a quality of immense compassion.
"Human life is conditioned and unfree," Lao Tze counseled. Perhaps.... In Eskubi, we meet constraints and limitation but it isn't the hopelessness of the tomb or the dead end of the grave. There is majesty here, despite conditioning. It is not arrogance but a pride in Being. As our planet reaches the lip of ecological destruction and the brink of nuclear extinction, I cannot help but search for positive signs even in the confirmation of such damage. As a poet, I find it in Art.
As a hopeful-yet-sobered realist, I see it in Eskubi's dark mysteries, for they are not bleak entirely or shorn of hope. In their odd dignity and luminous beauty they still hold out a possibility of breakthrough. In this, perhaps, they not only stand in the tradition of Goya and Bacon, they allow a common sense of shared humanity, gifted by beauty however shadowed by a raw scream of Spanish frenzy. But as Lorca said, the duende is the cry of the Ultimate, the soul in despair,exhilaration and triumph over all constraints of time and circumstance. We can ask no more of a great artist. It is their unique curse and blessed gift to bestow to the rest of us when they function at their finest pitch. In its own way, it heals no matter the wound of delivery or creation. And Eskubi both consoles and heals.
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Frédéric Glorieux says:
"Les images de Joseba Eskubi sont simplement : étranges ; comme le rêve d'un autre. Chaque nuit nous voyons de ces formes dont on ne sait pas ce qu'elles sont. Elles ont envie de crier leur nom et pas un son ne sort, mais nous nous savons ce qu'elles veulent dire, elles sont nôtres. Le rêve d'un autre, nous ne savons pas. On sent l'huile, la photo, du traitement, mais pas de plan, si bien qu'il ne reste qu’une impression : on ne sait pas ce que c’est. Cette insomnie du peintre me plait, mais me gêne, je lui souhaite de parfois dormir, de rêver des chimères dont le vague est volupté."
13th October, 2011
"A surreal genius. A master painter and artist. Some of his work may be difficult to take, but it is all wonderful nevertheless. Works with real power and sometimes with a terrifying presence."
24th May, 2010
Fatma S says:
"inspiring work !
takes abstract landscape painting into a whole new level!"
1st June, 2009
- November 2007