Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”
For his second solo exhibition at the gallery, José María Sicilia invests the entire body of the gallery with artworks on paper and sculptures.
The guideline of the exhibition, called The Instant, is the deepening of his research on sonograms that are graphical transcriptions of sounds following different variables (such as amplitude, time and frequency). In the works exhibited on the ground and first floor, the sonograms are stylised and originate from bird songs of various species. The first works created in 2009-2010 on this theme had a sober chromatic appearance (graphite on white plaster) but here, instead, the visitor is confronted with a real symphony of exuberance and shimmering colours.
We find, in the big triptych in the room on the left, a red characteristic of Sicilia, but also, in other works, swatches of pure colour alternated with wide ranges of white giving air to the works. These artworks' organic dimension is clear and we can perceive an echo of nature's beauty and prodigality. The interweaving of forms each symbolising a bird song even give the impression of a puzzle that, once assembled, leads to harmony. Yet, this orchestration of forms and colours let appear, from time to time, the artist's hand gesture. Whether he uses a paintbrush, a stencil or a tool, we can feel that he gives entire liberty to the line and that the colour's quivers spring out of that freedom. Do the tracings' developments, the thin strokes and the jolting lines symbolise migrations and twisting flights?
We willingly read his works as some kind of drawn signs that will become understandable and audible once seen in their entity; hard not to hear, in the work in black covering, the audible reminder of an owl or the hooting of another owl, difficult not to suspect long silences, unspoiled by squeaks or croaks, in the white surfaces. The quality of his works lies in the connection of a "visual musicality" to an underlying life full of joy and energy.
Besides colour, Sicilia incorporated the notion of translucence in his new works. This notion, which is fundamental to his artistic practice (we find it in his works on beeswax as well as in his prints and works on paper), is induced by the thinness of the paper he uses. Passionate of Japanese paper and Japanese artists' meticulousness, Sicilia has experimented with many types of paper before finding this particular one that combines flexibility, lightness and resistance and allows him to fold, unfold, refold it and play with the inside and outside. By looking carefully, the visitor may notice that a fold has created a Rorschach-like spot of colour or that a swatch painted on a junction area of the folded paper appears in two separate places.
Sicilia weakens the strength of certain colours. This paper quality is very rich to the artist’s eyes and allows him to modulate contrasts and gradients, to play with traces and partitioned forms.
Another characteristic of his works is the printing on both sides of the paper, the recto and the verso. By working on both sides,
The artist's numerous travels to Japan made him more and more interested in Japanese traditions and animistic believes. Sicilia was invited to exhibit next October at Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art and developed, following his first visits to the earthquake region, a work connecting his sonogram research to the 2011 drama.
He used data on the radioactivity level of the damaged nuclear power plant's no.1 reactor to visualise in 3D the sonograms that are exhibited in the wunderkammer. Through the twenty little sculptures named Winter Flowers Fukushima the invisible somehow becomes visible. They seem to be made of bone or another organic material, which strengthens their strangeness.
Through this exhibition, we feel in Sicilia a real promiscuity with nature; its beauty but also its devastating power, as in Fukushima. In some way, he reminds us that we belong more to a universe than that the universe belongs to us.