Wednesday, February 17, 2010

5 x 5 Submission 43 - Pedro de Valdivia

Pedro de Valdivia
Pedro de Valdivia's paintings absorb the viewer into a world that combines the mystery of a disjointed narrative with the materiality of the picture itself. In Dear Madonna, executed in 2009-2010, De Valdivia presents the viewer with an over powering portrait of Madonna. Madonna is seen in a bath of flowers both painted and intricately woven beads. Closer to the viewer, the sudden intense feeling is ecstasy on what appears to be either pain or pleasure.

De Valdivia's paintings are often infused with a heady atmosphere of
disjointed nostalgia. They appear to be snapshots from his religious
upbringing. In La Negra Madonna, the eponymous figure looks as though it
might have its origins in the artist's own memories. However, as he
explained, "A voice inside of me says-when I reach my last breath of life
I will just be a memory, a dream, and my paintings will live on for me."

When the sculpture Tempted was created, De Valdivia was living in Seattle; however, he had spent some time back in Pasco, WA and it was on his return that religious and abstracted themes became a more potent and frequent presence in his work. However, people mistakenly assumed his pictures were based on traditional model studies. Instead, De Valdivia uses a range of materials, from pictures he has taken to others he has culled from National Geographic, Vogue and other magazines. When painting religious subjects, he found that being an artist compelled him to reject the traditional life and conservative religious beliefs that provided him with security and to seek out new artistic developments he now lives and works in Seattle.

This element of biography or reference was deliberately skewed by Pedro De Valdivia's experiences both in and, crucially, away from Seattle. It was at a distance, while immersed in the life of another culture, that he came to a more profound understanding of the role, or even meaning, of an evolving artist: “A painting lives in two different worlds. On one hand a painting lives in reality and on the other a dream world in which the painting originates."

In this strange duality, this paradoxical role played in Distant Land is both an intimate and a dreamy washed-out environment and one to which
the artist, and by extension the viewer, is emotionally bound, it touches upon Sigmund Freud's notion of The Uncanny. In his essay on the subject, Freud had pointed out that the German word for 'uncanny', Unheimlich, had a strange semantic overlap with its opposite, Heimlich. Secrets, and therefore the unknown, exist within the realm of the home, of the Heimlich, and yet in this way become directly related to the unfamiliar, the strange, the Unheimlich. It is in straddling this peculiar territory, this disjointed, nostalgic, mysterious and evocative zone of ambiguity, that De Valdivia's great paintings such as Distant Land gain their strange and profound power.

"Many of the paintings are of the Virgin Mary or Madonna, but in many ways I want to celebrate the diverse combinations of culture. Often I direct my focus to the woman's eyes, in a sense I'm capturing the feeling of forever conceived in through the eyes." In this sense, in his sculptures and paintings he represents both home and a strange world of frontier mentalities of religion, abstracted peril and at times inclusion. Yet the elaborate bead work in and around the figures, these flickering shades, as well as the Gem-like flowers in background, add an air of the elegant, the voyeurism, the meditative, the personal reality unexplained.

"Seattle is wet and the sky displays dark washed out tones of gray and blue. In a strange way the Seattle weather enlightens a sleepy yet dreamy mentality which allows me to enter a dream state of consciousness. Also, the Seattle weather is expressed in my paintings through the washed-out and dripping pigments of color". When he studied as an artist in Seattle, he found himself deliberately reacting to the sheen and gleam and precision of so much of the art of hiscontemporaries and the luminaries of that period. His own pictures are in part a reaction to the increasing neglect that pure painting was beginning to suffer. He has presented a deliberately dreamy subject in a deliberately hand-made manner, emphasizing the process of the picture's creation, heightening our awareness of the materiality of the paint itself.

This is underscored by the presence of a device which became particularly associated with De Valdivia's paintings, the sense of a veil between the viewer and the main motif. In Dear Madonna, this is accomplished by weaving each individual bead- flowers of multi-colored tones scattered across the canvas to give the sense of psychedelic beauty- and the woman in the foreground. These deliberately heighten some of the view. Seed beads grace the viewing experience while bringing our clear focus to the surface itself. In one way, this can be seen to undermine the entire nature of the illusion of the painting, reemphasizing the simple fact that Dear Madonna comprises an amalgamation on a surface. And yet on the other hand, this compositional device, these obstacles to our view show De Valdivia attempting to capture a more authentic and aesthetic impression of the world as we see it: “First I tend to paint the facial features with light then I begin to bury the face in a dark abyss. Naturally as people look at a portrait they most likely are drawn to the eyes which in my paintings I obscure. Having the talent to tinker with visual ascetics is a pleasurable experience.

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