Archive for March, 2005


On Radical Linearism.

Those of you who have seen my simple drawings have done me great good. Their simplicity is shocking, specially to me. I mean, are they really complete works? Surely I must be kidding, right? Surely they are just simple nice sketches which will be reworked finally to really produce a painting. Surely it might even seem a bit arrogant to frame such few lines and pretend they are a finished works. In a sense this is true, but in another quite false. This is why I write this journal; to clarify to myself and to some friends what might lie behind the appearance and decision to draw such lines. In this sense, this journal continues the ideas present in my previous Journal “Lines and Beauty” [link] . In it, I briefly spoke about my love of lines.

So I guess first one must say that these lines have risen out of great love of some painters in particular. They can only be understood in reference to Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, and Miró. I will provide examples of the first two to see what I mean:

1. Klee (drawings and paintings)

2. Kandinsky (drawings and paintings)

If it were not for my contact with these painters, I doubt I would have ever drawn what I have. This is so because “abstract impressionism” led me on a truly anti-representationalist path. As Klee wrote: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” But these drawings are much more radical in their nature, hence the name “Radical Linearism”.

Have you ever stayed up late wondering about what your art shows? Have you ever had the need to express to yourself in words what lies behind your artistic decisions? Have you ever wondered after you submit here at DA, what is it you are doing? Well if you have felt this, then you will be open to this journal. But all this requires a bit of courage and the passage of time. Courage, because it is hard to defend a certain simplicity in our modern complex, technologically-oriented, world. And the passage of time, for I doubt a few years ago I could have even thought about writing this. Perhaps the preparation for my PhD thesis has allowed me to understand myself a bit more. And finally, there is always recourse to great artists and thinkers. As Da Vinci is said to have written:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

Obviously this cannot mean that Da Vinci was a simpleton! Simplicity is far from superficiality. Quite the contrary, simplicity may sometimes provide a radical critique of our supposed complexity; a complexity which may truly be hiding us from ourselves. In this sense, this journal is very Socratic ——remember Socrates preferred, for the most part, to go about without shoes— because it asks of us to try to know ourselves. Perhaps more journals such as these at DA can help us better understand ourselves as artists.

To the problem. You see, the problem with these drawings I did in the period 2000-2003 —–after having drawn for many years much more complex figures and paintings— is clearly that they seem to be the result of a childish inability to develop one’s ideas so as to produce a real complete work. To see what I mean just take a look at some of these radical linear drawings. You will see and feel what I mean:

“Human being”

“Linear Woman”

“Minimalist landscape”

“Peasant “


“Linear Woman”

“Conversation over water”

“Mujer cuadriculada”



“Peace towers 9/11”

“Beating Landscape”




(and many others found in my Gallery; and still others which I have not submitted.)

The feeling some deviant commentators have had can be summarized as follows: “Really beautiful drawings and yet there is something lacking in them, a certain depth. They are cute and nice, but inconclusive. Surely there will come a point when you will have time to work on them.” So much have I heard this, that I even doubted whether to submit them at all, not to mention frame them as they are!

The defense. First of all I must repeat that, contrary to what one might believe, these drawings were done between 2000-2003, so that they belong to a much later date in my artistic production. Second, they arose suddenly as if of themselves. I had drawn extensively before, but these later drawings were quite unique and challenging. They seemed absolutely simple and yet I found myself with no desire whatsoever to modify them much! It is as if they told me not to modify them much.

To understand the issue at hand I must let you see for yourselves previous paintings and drawings which show the complexity which existed before the arrival of these radical lines:

1. Anthropomorphosis (1989-90) (A complex painting)

2. Temporality (A complex sketch from 1988)

3. My house (A complex sketch from 1993)

4. Rezo (A complex drawing from 1988)

So you see, now you might understand why these later drawings puzzled me so much. And what is still worse is that previously I HAD IN FACT used some older drawings to create much more complex paintings. Such is the case of

1. “Coupling”

whose sketch was done in 1987

2. “Soaring Sunset”.

whose sketch was done in 1987 as well

This is very paradoxical to me. I had already created complex paintings from similar drawings when I was much younger. These paintings provided possible solutions for the immature sketches to try to become more complete works. The solution in “Coupling” seems to create much beauty, but makes the lines fall into the background almost completely. The solution with “Soaring sunset” —-–to expand the lines and color them— keeps the value of the lines, but requires the use of color.

And then I asked, what if these radical linear drawings were ends-in-themselves? What would that mean? How could I make myself clearer about this with multiple commentators arguing that these “nice” and “cute” little sketches were just sketches? I told myself that the only solution I could afford to accept was that of making them much larger then they are, simply widening the lines so that they would not seem as fragile as they do. But aside from that, no color or transformation in the lines. I started to worry I was loosing it. And then came DA, and luckily I had to think about these drawings thanks to the comments by several kind deviants to whom I am grateful.

Thinking it through, I came up with the idea of “Radical Linearism”; first as a nice title, but slowly as a more serious possibility for self-understanding. The part on “Linearism” is too obvious to even comment. But why is it radical and not merely another form of abstractionism? Because the emphasis lies in the lines themselves; and, as far as possible, in the least amount of lines that one can use to express oneself with regards to any given topic or subject.

And so AT LAST, the following 10 points are what I think might lie behind the simplicity of these lines. (Please check out my previous journals so you do not believe this is simply a crazy fluke.)

Radical Linearism: some working ideas

1. The simplicity of these lines stands as a powerful critique of modern complexity. Busying ourselves at all times, we may have truly lost ourselves. These lines therefore stand as a kind of therapy against complexity; they remind one of the need to stop and reconsider. In this sense, they defend another kind of complexity.

2. Their simplicity is fueled by an economic critique. Their economy of form and color is set up in contrast to a society which enjoys consuming endlessly (consuming even the greatest of art works). Their economy of means is set up against a world of radical economic inequalities. They put forward the possibility of having less as condition for creating more.

3. The simplicity of these lines points directly to our mortality. Mathematically, a line is made up of points; but a point –according to Euclid— is “that which has no part” [link] . They in fact arose soon after I was diagnosed with a severe illness which made it impossible for me to walk for over a year, and also made it quite difficult to draw. It hurt to draw, hence the need for few lines. Is this why they seem to have a certain therapeutic effect? Is their simplicity to be understood in part because, when one comes in touch with one’s mortality, one gets rid of the annoying superficial complexity of many irrelevant things?

4. Their simplicity opens them as true possibilities. They can be seen as the genetic structure for further projects; a kind of DNA which can generate multiple possibilities. They could allow, as sketches do, to be reworked in different directions under differing conditions. (Isn’t the DNA helix quite linear; not to mention the way we represent molecular bonds?). And yet they are completely finished unto themselves.

5. The simplicity of these lines has a direct connection to Primitivism. They recall the symbolism of lines which appeared in caves as some of the first expressions of our expressive possibilities as distinctly human.


6. Their simplicity can be seen as spiritual. They can be regarded both as a reduction towards the essentials of a given object, and simultaneously as an ascent to a certain kind of “Purification”. Forgive me, but here I must have recourse to truly great painters. As Klee wrote:

“Some will not recognize the truthfulness of my mirror. Let them remember that I am not here to reflect the surface… but must penetrate inside. My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth. My human faces are truer than the real ones.” [link]

Or as Kandinsky famously wrote: “The contact of the acute angle of a triangle with a circle is no less powerful in effect than that of the finger of God with the finger of Adam in Michelangelo’s’ painting.” (p. 77 Kandinsky)

7. The simplicity of these lines opens us to the world in a radically new way. The minimalist group here in DA — ~minimalism —- provides wonderful examples of what this might mean. (I myself have tried to provide photographs in this direction in my gallery.) Your eye becomes unencumbered in an age in which complex images assault us at every instant.

8. Their simplicity has a particular historical and personal context as the Colombian citizen that I am. They stand as a contrasting balance to our famous and magnanimous Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero and his well-known over-sizing:

9. The simplicity of these lines invites the spectator to become an engaged and activate participant who —if she/he is open enough— must be truly puzzled by their very simplicity: As I wrote in my previous journal on lines: “One tends to think that lines reduce. But lines actually make you produce an image that is nowhere to be found in the world. Lines make you activate your seeing and your thinking. For lines ask to be completed by you, the perceiver. At first you do not see it, so you must look closer and engage what seeing cannot. They are deceptive because they seem too childish to hide any depth. But if you can see some depth in them, then —just maybe—- you really surprise yourself and therefore start to see lines all around you in the world. Of course, I rarely succeed in doing this, but I have tried hard for several years.” These simple lines may feed us by reactivating our imagination in an age in which imagination has become choked. And finally,

10. Their simplicity —allow me to venture into the area of understanding I have dedicated my last 18 years to— might even be seen as part of the tendency by multiple philosophers (Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Taylor) to criticize the Cartesian model of reality. In particular one might think of the profoundly influential Cartesian model of the “x-y grid” which has mapped our modern space and psyche. Think, for instance, of how odd our modern maps are when compared to their medieval counterparts. The simplicity of these lines does not seek to control space, but rather to liberate it to its multiple possibilities.


So, in the end, the question which “Radical Linearism” might be said to ask is this: why exactly can’t simple lines be just simply lines? . This journal has been but a humble attempt to answer it.

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