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The ground of nothing

By Josemaría Moreno González

When one approaches the paintings and drawings of the New York artist William Fares –currently on exhibit at Galería Skot Foreman – one immediately discovers that the most urgent theme in his work is the configuration of ground and figure, both of them terms that need a very careful approximation.

But before elaborating upon both concepts, it is necessary to explore a possible definition of the work at hand. Beginning with an easy definition of Fares’ work, one could label it abstractionist, but, as it is the case with anything that easily comes, little of use could be found there. If Fares’ works were a mere abstraction, they would lack the ludic sense that they properly contain and they would be nothing but innocuous, arid pieces missing the pragmatism that seems to guide them in their encounter with the observer.

In the first place I say that his pieces are ludic – to me that’s the most important quality of this exhibition – for each of them, in the most deliberate way, reveal a content that could only have sense if simultaneously one ponders the unrevealed content, the veiled content. The observer must then engage in the game (a cat’s cradle) that consists in being willing to see what cannot be seen, what is not there: and what it is that is not there is perhaps the order that would restore serenity through proportional ideas – geometric thoughts (whence their forms that are not quite determinant) — that would settle the threats of an ever evasive reality, or perhaps just getting to the illusion of that and being granted a cold comfort thereof. Fares the jester!

But the work of the artist is also pragmatic, I said. If Fares found a manifestation of the infinite jest in his paintings and drawings, it is because of a very sober interpretation of what art is to him, and that is, art is confrontational and polemic. The pragmatic line that art traces in our age no longer holds any links to the classical notion of art as communication (aesthetic or cathartic), nor with the disinterested, romantic, and anti-utilitarian ideal, which has probably defined art up to our present days. Rather art is cemented in the direct confrontation between the object (what is perceived) and the subject (that which perceives), in which the former expresses universal schemes of a changing reality, and the latter, the subject, struggles to re-contextualize these within her (historically) insignificant actuality. The foregoing is as good as saying that the creator of a work of art is not determinant in what she produces; that the autonomous observer – the judge of what is being observed — is unnecessary; and that the art object transcribes the truth of the observer; but just one truth, and this one, written in lower case. Fares the demiurge?

It is worth noting then how the ground and the figure, so relevant in Fares’ work, is transformed into a much more bizarre element than was at first thought: the ground, surprisingly, is constituted by the human being in its supposed essence which is nothing other than the product of the confrontation with the unexpected figure — the work of art — this last one defining the former in terms of nothing.

That the exhibition was entitled “Getting to Nothing” is, the way I see it, another caustic gesture of the artist, but it is also its actual pragmatic project: the art as figure conceals as much as it reveals, and that which it conceals is the indiscernible ground that we commonly and fantastically call the human being.

The exhibition of William Fares at Galería Skot Foreman, part of the Art & Design Center Fábrica la Aurora, is open daily to the public until August 31.


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