Unlike digital icons –or thumbnails– the miniatures of Jorge Diezma have crooked edges; hairy threads of canvas tufting out from beneath their hard, painted surfaces; older, bigger brushstrokes cut mid-stream: severed from previous compositions. Just like digital icons, they refer to a larger body; and, just like clicking on an icon’s surface, the installation of Pitiminí is an invitation to do more than just “behold”.
Holding one painting in my hand puts it in relation to my thumb: my nail is half the size of its face; its texture catches in the ridge of my fingerprint, repeatedly. Some of the edges are not parallel. Others curve.
Perhaps the size of these miniatures encourages me to observe: small enough to bring to the threshold of my eye, their size becomes the key that magnifies their details in focused attention. Their tininess brings their images towards me, rather than my body visiting them on a wall: perhaps comparable to their digital reproductions.
Perhaps this is how this old medium, painting, can be brought into contemporary discussion. With their smallness pertaining to icons, thumbnails, placeholders, representations of larger works, Jorge’s miniatures are simultaneously copies and originals; old and new; supportive and autonomous.
Jorge Diezma is represented by Galería Alegria and Espacio Valverde:
How would you define
Jorge’s work is generous, sensual and stimulating.
How is Jorge?
He is like his paintings: generous, sensual and stimulating.
What does Jorge’s work have?
Apart from the obvious, it has guts.
What was your first impression when encountering Jorge’s work?
I do not remember exactly the first time I saw Jorge’s work but it was probably online.
On the contrary, I remember well the first time I could see his paintings in person. It was during a visit to his house and, at that time, he was painting a large-format still life.
I was surprised by the size of that huge painting, but what impressed me even more was its overflowing composition (both technically and formally). A disorderly set of objects and food that emerged from a deep and luminous darkness. A jump in time while we tasted some canned beers and tried to assimilate what my eyes were seeing.
I also enjoyed a strange painting that Jorge was very proud of. It represented a bouquet with a most academic background. It was painted with a sparse palette -but not boring- and the flowers dripped lacquered varnish. Gravity and time participated in the pictorial process, accentuating a dramatic and decadent aspect that caught me immediately. That painting could have been painted by an advantaged amateur of the third age and left in any storage room for years because of the dust that accumulated on its surface.
Those two pictures, “The Dusty” and the “Great Bodegón” complemented and reinforced each other and showed me an evidence: Jorge Diezma is a great painter!
Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart
How would you define Jorge’s work?
The work of Jorge Diezma is always close to the limit, or to a cliff, where the space-time folds over itself. Diezma is what in cosmology is called “a singularity”; a black hole.
How is Jorge?
Tense, structured and flaming, like the string of an electric guitar.
What does Jorge’s work have?
Deep thought and a diabolical office.
Also, something that always escapes, that flies on its own.
What was your first impression when encountering Jorge’s work?
Restlessness and admiration.
The dialogue that characterised the last few weeks has been about art and theory: speaking about how one affects the other; and predicting, and shaping, how those affects come into play. Catapulted into motion by events before this exhibition (attending an exhibition of women abstract expressionists) and coming to a head while installing (talking about whether to arrange the exhibition in regards to the conversations it might provoke), a potential conclusion segued into being on the morning of the opening, when a [art theory] book arrived in the mail: Clement Greenberg Between the Lines by Thierry de Duve.
The miniature paintings installed at Plǝt- for Jorge’s exhibition, Pitiminí, were brought from Spain in a folder containing thirty-odd potential candidates. Nine were selected and installed for the exhibition and, the following day, seven more were selected to hand to regular patrons: intended for them to engage with from the comfort of their homes. The selection was made minutes before the opening, on the kitchen counter between making coffee and boiling water. Therefore, as guests began to arrive, in a quick solution to protect the paintings, the seven small canvases were quickly placed between the pages of the newly arrived book.
The opening ran its course: people meandered in and out as always, some talking about the work, others not. A surprising talk about Picasso and Banksy came into play, becoming a welcome reminder of how these art stars are often the artists, when initially drifting into to the art conversation. And so on: we spoke about miniatures and framing, and how their pertaining to bigger pictures made them expand across the walls; we spoke about the sole surrealist work –a tiny copy of an Alberto Savinio- becoming the key that opened the rest of the exhibition. The logic behind this last thought was that the process of miniaturisation –in combination with its surreal content- had made this painting abstract, which was an anomaly in relation to the other images. While puzzlement might have led our visitors to observe it closer to the work, it also drew their eyes to observe the material: bringing their attention to the image/material relation. Which is then amusing when thinking back to the discussion about Picasso who, due to his work with abstraction, is repeatedly recognised as one of the original instigators of that very discussion. Making me think that perhaps we were having our own, miniature version of art history condensed into this opening.
In light of the above proposition, the evening then included a healthy dose of art history clichés: paint, portraits, female nudes; male painters, female curators and writers; white cube, room text; opening and after-opening meal; (sale?); new faces, friends acquainted, promises made. And then –food eaten; alcohol drunken- I cycled back home to my living room to observe the works. A new cliché: the one where I sit down and write. Plǝt- has become an ever-familiar environment from which I can observe and draw (hopefully ever-more nuanced) thoughts about the work. And as I sat down to write some notes about the opening, Clement Greenberg Between the Lines caught my eye. However, it was not the cover, but rather the small, wedge-shaped gap between its pages that caught my attention –signalling to me that there was something between them. And as I picked it up I realised it was, of course, the seven soon-to-be distributed paintings.
Its perhaps too easy and straightforward, but the idea that these pages –on which one art theorist unpacks the theories of another– were protecting these paintings [from spills, slips, cracks, bends, general absent-mindedness] left me heartened. Was that not what art theories set out to do? Mark out protected areas for the works that they address? Giving them the hard, protective cover needed so that they may survive out in that open [critical] sea?
The battle of the art theorist is always for the art. If not in collaboration with the artist –such as Pollock and Greenberg- then in making space for the under-represented –such as with art-related feminism. But despite the motion ranging from panegyrical to critical, the action is still the same: creating a protective space for those artists and artworks that the theorist believes are worthy of attention.
Which then makes me smile when looking at the name on this book and the paintings it’s protecting: Clement Greenburg protecting tiny, figurative pictures. Nothing could be further from his own intentions. And yet here he is, in 2019, protecting them perfectly well.
I hope this finds you as well as I, sitting here amongst your paintings :) It’s been a busy few weeks here, but with enough pockets of time to stop and look at, and think about, the paintings. Sometimes the table paintings have taken small excursions in our wallets, to the museums, to work, to film screenings. Other times, I’ve been looking at them here, walking around the circumference of the room, observing the different sized brushstrokes that can be seen between their backgrounds and foregrounds. This detail is one I return to often, as this one, for me, seems to be the most material detail that speaks about two scales. The background strokes pertain to a larger canvas they once belonged to; and this, in combination with the pictures clearly being miniature versions of larger paintings, lets their scales slide in my mind’s eye. We’ve detected some cracks in a couple of the works; thumbed their backs and fronts, flipping them back and forth mindlessly though out conversations; and shown people their enlarged, digital versions to compare. And so, there seems to be a to-ing and fro-ing continuously happening around them.
The discussions we had about female nudes and skin while you were here collided with a discussion I was having with curator and editor Clément Gagliano. Clément and I were talking about art and flesh, and this collision of topics has led to a very beautiful parallel program. Every Saturday we have been screening two video works of different artists dealing with ideas of skin, surface and representation. The first Saturday was still heavily connected to ideas of the nude and female representation, and led to screenings of videos by Martha Rosler and Andrea Fraser. However with Fraser’s work, Little Frank and his Carp, we were already coming back to a more material idea of surface, as her critique of the Guggenheim museum Bilbao led her around the atrium caressing its walls. Then last week, a beautiful pairing between Ariane Loze’s video Décor and Marie Cool & Fabio Balducci’s Untitled - Scotch tape, water, cotton thread, desktop, took this one step further. In this pairing, representation of artworks in houses was explored by Loze, treating a building, and the collection of art works within it, like a skin. In her video, an almost non-sensical narrative played as an excuse to see the works represented in the background, winding in and out of focus with the narrative: sometimes directly addressed, other times shimmering like colourful shadows. And then a very literal, direct, poetic idea of surfaces was explored by Cool & Balducci. What has been really interesting about organising these video screenings has been the conversations around them and realising through experience, as you yourself also said, the most interesting proposition in the exhibition being about the scales and surfaces and representations. With these three words in our minds, we are in continual discussion with Clément, exploring arrays of video artists that touch upon these topics. Throughout these discussions, every now and then, I stand up from my computer (Clément is participating from Paris) and take a pause by looking at one of the paintings. And these trips around the room, funnily enough, confirm that my favourites are still, and increasingly so, the still lives.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the van Gogh museum who, unbeknownst to me, have hanging there a Fantin-Latour. It is a medium sized still life of a vase of flowers. I was actually on my way to Rijksmuseum to see if I could find a Peter Lelly painting, and so this one came as quite a surprise. But there it was, large, and on closer observation, heralding a textured, painted surface. I guess all paintings’ content falls apart into colours and textures when up really close. I guess this is one of those beautiful things about painting.
A picture has been coming to mind recently which is drawing parallels between the experience stemming from your exhibition and language. If thinking about each artwork as a word, then it feels that what we are doing here now is stringing your words into sentences. By treating your paintings as a base -a vocabulary set on the tips of our tongues- we are continually conversing with (a range of) other artists who speak similar words but with different voices. And while programming activities within the exhibition we are ever-careful about the meanings that our sentences send, when stumbling across thoughts throughout parallel experiences, the sentences and meanings are allowed a spontaneity. For example, the comparisons, and range of vocabulary found, when seeing your paintings in relation to the tiny etchings by Rembrandt currently on show at Rijksmuseum. Or when placing your painting side-by-side with my colleague’s work-desk nicknacks. I feel I will never get tired -never loose the element of surprise- of the effect recontextualisation has on artworks. It seems like such a simple ‘trick’, and yet each time it pulls together such playful moments. The experience is like dislocating words into nonsensical sentences and, in sense’s place, finding poetry.
Which brings me to the last part of the exhibition that I have not yet mentioned. The 7 paintings on their own explorations into other domestic settings. Safe, sound, but still silent, Diego and I are extremely excited for them to come back and to hear their stories. For us, Plǝt- is so much about caring, building and conversations, and for us being able to extend this gesture to our regular guests and extended networks, is such an honour. For us, this really makes us feel that working with you has allowed us to continue our explorations with this project of playing, reflecting and sharing. And so I’ll sign off here with another thank you, concluding that the first three weeks of this exhibition have been incredibly enriching, and we are so excited that we still have three more to look forward to.
Hope all is well in Madrid.
Best wishes to you and Cristina,
Diego and Dee