By Ms ATHENA SCHOINA, Art Critic
We theorists (art critics) say that when a work of art reaches the exhibition hall, our discourse is redundant because the work is addressed to your senses and your contemplation. This is the desideratum which the creator strives for through his elaborate formulations in his works. In any case, we critics usually facilitate things by lighting a path; you can find your own walk on that path and your own way to approach and converse with that work of art, out of the thousands which a work of art propounds.
Manuel is a virtuoso artist, a “wizard” of marble, I would say. He knows marble like very few people do, but does not surrender himself to his facility with it. His idiolect is surrealistic, it yields fluid forms which are eternally in motion. He coils his forms around axes of symmetry with a lyricism and a sarcastic tone, with humour and, indeed, with a disposition towards illuminating the inner aspect of things, the anima rerum (the soul of things), like the Romans used to say.
He chooses different coloring styles and materials which are incompatible with each other: he combines natural rocks with metal; he combines glass with marble or solid pieces, materials through which the sculptor acts as a copper caster. There is a great difference between the two: the sculptor extracts volume until he gets to the final phase of the work; the copper caster designs and insists upon details, he passes his form on to wax (cire perdue is a very old method), he turns the wax upside-down, the wax’s place eventually being taken by copper. We say, then, that this creator insisits upon the Plastic Art and disociates marble sculpture from the philosophy of coper casting, that is, from approaching the material in order to give prominent details. Because, what else, if anything, does a work of art do other than express the style, the character, details, a dimension of life and ways of thinking?
Manuel combines both these technical methods because he has the ability to do so. He combines the perception of the marble sculptor (who perceives volume, knows the material’s grain, its durability, how to touch each material, how he will converse with it) with the philosophy of the copper caster, precisely because, as I said earlier, he has the facility to know the Plastic Art like few people do. He accentuates details, not to cause one to say “Goodness, how much he can achieve!” (because then the artist loses his meaning), but in order to give through these details a precision which creates in us a sense of certainty and security, while, at the same time, raising that sense through the dimension of surrealism; that is, he creates aspects of the outside world which are connected to mechanisms of our psychic hinterland. Because what, I wonder, does a conspicuous violin that twines mean? It is as if sound itself twines around its own axes. What, I wonder, do a face, a gesture, an eye or a facial caricature mean? They convey to us the sensation of a grimace that reflects the emotional state of an individual, of a persona, of a mask. (persona was a Latin term, denoting a facial mask through which inner reverberation can be heard.)
Therefore, Manuel, combining remnants from antiquity with human facial masks, with gestures, with musical instruments, with details which he enlarges and magnifies or which, at other times, he diminishes, gives us the microcosm and the Macrocosm which we carry around within us, the universe which, through the insights we have during our ruminations, we can sense we are a part of.
Here at this exhibition, sculpture and painting are combined. Through forms and experiences, a sensation of peeling is given, as if the colour peels off a wall, or off the pages of Time. Manuel passes from one dimension to the other. The imprints of his forms, vivid and realistic they are suddenly projected as if only to vanish a little later. There is something transient about them, something precise, clear, definite, but, at the same time, agile. Thus, his work conveys the entire mutability of life and, at the same time, renders valuable and remote elements familiar and tangible to us.
I would like you to see this exhibition in the way you personally wish, because, above everything, art is freedom. We simply light some paths. It is my belief that this exhibition will speak to your soul many more things.
Ms Athena Schoina is Curator at the Goulandris Museum, Andros, Greece.