Suspended Beings

By Antonio Correa Iglesias

For Roland Barthes, “In the field of knowledge, in order for things to be what they are, what they have been…”, they must be established from and in the language. Even R. Barthes went as far as to state that it was not the human beings who spoke but the language that spoke through them. The in advance character of this consideration can lead us at least along three paths: the linguistic distraction, solipsism, and the rhetorical artifices. However, in the field of art, the linguistic management established from symbolic structures banishes or at least should banish any sterile Byzantinism that is so frequent in a poly-saturated society of ontologically empty images.

The above is nothing more than a pretext to analyze the work of the Cuban painter Jorge Santos (Havana, 1973), whom I discovered randomly.

Santos works with unpredictable images that, as such, are not clichés in their morphology. His beings participate in a weightlessness deprived of realms, of precise dwelling, beset with the gag of silence. His work is an exercise in body perception, a monologue biased by the vertigo that hurts and leaves a wound. Sinuous is all the animosity, the intimacy of that line which is the hangman’s rope in the archeology of silence. Exile and disturbing ostracism are disguised in his solitude with an iridescent laugh.

Jorge Santos’ entire figuration shows a world that hides other worlds, antipodes of the supra-nature, sublime and transitory as the very existence of time. His figures resemble menads brought from the underworld, where they joyfully revive the orgiastic spirit of memory, like the dead, who laugh nobly in Mohammed’s house.

The feeling of emptiness, lightness and weightlessness acquires a force in the pictorial contrast that reproduces the gloomy spaces of silence. They are suspended beings, devoid of a conclusive purpose. The flaccid shades produce the chill that recalls death as a system devoid of complicity. The muddy line that sutures their mouths forbids all dialogue, breaks the glass where the last drops of desire evaporate.

The composition of his canvases greatly reminds me of medieval theater, where the characters of a piece are scattered in the own dramaturgy, as if the sense of interruption would succeed in calibrating the wandering point of the plot outline.

The iconoclastic nature of his actors places the magnetism of the portrait and its tradition in the center of his pictorial search. Jorge Santos talks with this secularity as if wanting to validate Galeb’s hazy face but with all that was excluded from this tradition, and condemned the grim fate of what Borges called “the impossible space of reflection.” His iconography distills a bitter sorrow, as of one who holds guilt and deep pain in his conscience, one who knows that return has not been ensured to him and that eternal life is a transient illusion.

Although it may not seem like it, all the anthropological research in Jorge Santos’ work “hides” a profound religiosity, a grin of sacred emotion that ionizes the already evanescent sense of lust to make way for a sacramental solemnity that pervades everything.

The glassy eyes of his characters add a touching detail to his figuration. Unnoticed, everything happens in an infinite gaze, overcome by the hallucinatory mystery of a yagruma leaf. Self-absorbed, they carry an existence already infested with ghosts. What fears does Jorge Santos have to build such a lacerating figuration, so full of sudden palpitations?

At the same time, the skillful mastery of a technique generates a dream that is calibrated in an asymmetric parallelism as breaking up. There is no gravitational center in the painting of Santos Marcos; in any case there are forces and tensions that generate a counterpoint from each of its elements.

His painting, from the most recent to the most famous, has succeeded in stringing together a consistency that banishes any hint of formalism; any vain find. In an area oversaturated by “political art”, Jorge Santos bets for a genealogical inquiry, for a search that radicalizes not only in his visuality but also in his chromatic exploration.

And the fact is that you cannot be scrupulous in terms of contemporary art; and Jorge Santos has been evidencing it with his work. Nothing stops him, his work grows in the fermented atmosphere of his workshop and with spatula and palette he gives life to a swarm of hallucinations, of specters, of suspended beings that, in order to become what they once were, have to be remembered from the language and the image, in order that perhaps one day they may succeed in dispelling  the contagious agony of their existence.