(Madrid, 1968 )
“A photograph is not an opinion. Or is it ?” I met Susan Sontag one afternoon at the movies in New York... barely two years before her life was painfully extinguished and her body exposed to the fine round lens of the camera of the woman who loved her most : Annie Leibovitz. Now, as I write these lines about the recent and remote work of Ignacio Burgos, I cannot help remembering that phrase by the woman who, from her impeccable struggle for the dignity of man, passed through Spain one evening to collect an award with a white streak in her hair and cancer installed in the trenches of her body.
Today it would be said that a painting is always an opinion. And I ask myself,
Or is it not ?
I met Ignacio Burgos one rainy afternoon in a New York loft. He was not there, of course, what was there was one of his paintings in which, as always, he had come down to life, stained himself with it and shot at it with a gesture that ended up on canvas. What do they have in common, these Arabian or Chinese women, these Egyptian soldiers, these children who face a breakwater or these “warriors” of the sea about to participate in the most commercial and elitist of sporting competitions − the America’s Cup ? What do the palettes – sometimes beautifully impossible – of blues or violets, greens or mauves, used in these pictures, have in common ?
If for Ms. Sontag every photograph is an opinion, I would say that, at least for Ignacio Burgos, a painting is never an opinion. His human cosmologies, populated by all kinds of characters – from a prince to a prostitute – never venture an opinion about the men, women and various animals that inhabit them. As in life itself, the protagonists which have attracted the painter’s attention seem to live the “instant”. That is, without doubt, one of the reasons for which the paintings of Ignacio Burgos “instantly” captivate the aficionado and the most expert collector.
Also striking in these pictures is the absence of the “official”, of politics as an institution, not politics as “civitas” of course. If, as Ortega said, in Spain “everything that has been done has been done by the people and what the people have not done... has remained undone”, then that people as a human universe is, without doubt, one of the ways Ignacio Burgos has of doing things. And the explanation of that universe which is, after all, ours, the personal one that concerns and intrigues us, is, undoubtedly, the explanation from which the appeal of the painting of Burgos flows : one approaches his paintings as if one suddenly understood something... as if
“for an instant” one was given an explanation of something. And that, of course, is irresistible.
Now fully immersed in the twentieth century, when man has seen it all before (or has he ?), we are still chewing over the same solitudes, the same fears and the same questions. On the great illusion which enlightened and dazzled Kant in the heart of Germany and which would subsequently spread throughout the whole of the Western world like rational wildfire – Ahh !
Reason, the great obscurity of Reason – things were imposed and first Nietzche and then Heidegger and Ortega himself, promoted life as the protagonist of the world of ideas as opposed to idealism. Heidegger even raised his voice in a shout that still echoes throughout Europe to say that “being” is being-in-the-world... In other words, that even now, and after having thought for more than two millennia, we have a lot of practical solutions and few answers : we build planes that fly in the stratosphere, we
travel to the human heart from an artery to insert a life sustaining catheter and... we still do not know why love hurts, why solitude appals us and why we have to die. And while philosophy drowns, art comforts... because art explains. It’s just that it explains differently. From the paintings of Burgos, his characters amply inhabit their own lives and that comforts. Sometimes painful lives, sometimes sensual lives... but lives at the end of the day. Men, women, animals and things with the sense of occupying life : There is not a trace of still life in the paintings of Ignacio Burgos. Even death, represented in the guns that hang inertly from the shoulders of some soldiers on “un-guard” is life, a “thing” that hangs from a person who looks, observes,
desires and needs. Life.
Obviously it is not necessary to see Burgos paint to understand that in his
paintings there is “gesture”. But anybody who has seen him knows how far
his paintings “occur”, in a creative process that is by nature abyssal.
Nothing is closed, everything is open and, of course, that is exhausting,
because the painter is always leaning into the void to make something very
solid, very tangible, something with an enormous emotional value, with a,
doubtlessly, high economic value – the market always knows about buying
and selling emotions – and the highest biographic value. The “gesture” of
Burgos goes from the abyss to the canvas, passing, rather than through the
palette of colours, through the palette of his own life “besmirched” in life
with very few qualms. Of course, there are painters with qualms... we are
not concerned with one of them. Meticulousness in Burgos, in short, is only
found in his incisive capacity, in his obsession to penetrate. Surfaces –
bodies, skins, faces – for this painter are nothing but wrappings of content.
Of vital content. It is this liquid, red, viscous and sweet that interests Burgos. Zealous “doctor” of souls, he applies the needle to the epidermis of human things, pushes, allows the liquid of life to flow and sends the result to the laboratory of his talent. The analyses are, of course, extremely rigorous, accurate and, open.
Born in Madrid (1968), he obtained a degree in painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Complutense University of Madrid in 1991. That same year Ignacio Burgos began his international journey taking his first steps in the Hochschule der Kunste Berlin where he studied with Klaus Fussman. This would be followed by his first exhibitions in Germany (Munich, Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig and Cologne) until in 1996 he moved to New York and also began to exhibit in various American cities. Meanwhile he maintained a stable relationship with his gallery in New York’s Chelsea. In 1999, he left New York as a fixed residence, and moved to Paris, invited by the French Ministry of Culture to live in the "Cité Internationale des Arts". During this period, he gave three solo and one group exhibition in the French capital. In
2001 he returned to Madrid and, from there, prepared exhibitions which would take place both in Europe and the USA. One year later The Book, a retrospective book about his work, was presented in the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. In 2007, he was claimed by UNESCO as a member of the photographic jury for the international Humanity Photo Awards 2006 in Shanghai, and he designed the poster advertising The Magic Flute (a dialogue and melodies between civilizations), also for UNESCO.
During the last 24 months, Ignacio Burgos has travelled non-stop : Morocco, where he even had a studio, Cairo, Shanghai, Panama, Paris, London... in an endless evolution, his eye has become adapted to all the shades of human life. His urban experiences have widened with rural perspectives both in Morocco and Egypt, countries which he travels to and “sees” intensely. A final reflection. The “detritus” of this painter – this has always seemed to me the most appropriate term for his work – are sedimentations of coral or the slime of a snail according to the moment. And these “detritus”, honest segregations to the core, have the particular ability to make that which is hidden obvious. That is why, when one enters the living room of one of the many homes where an “Ignacio Burgos” is hanging, one never remains
indifferent. Because... had I said it ?, the honest “detritus” of Burgos, both because of and in spite of his enormous vitality, has that particular characteristic of certain human segregations that we call Beauty.
Nicanor J. Cardeñosa
Writer and journalist