The Grace of Magic Without Mystery
Lan Tham Vi, 2005

In an era such ours, when we are witnessing a dehumanization of life and the arts, it seems significant how humor, inventiveness and irony have been used to turn the world into an emotionally bearable place. So-called political artists proliferate in the current art scene, artists looking the world’s adversities in the eye and behaving as committed and engaged characters. In contrast, other art practitioners, including Fernando Renes, show no interest for metaphors and discourses, behaving more like comical antiheros who, rather than showing a readiness to die for a cause, embrace the vicissitudes of life and run with them.
     The antihero is brilliant in practice while the hero is brilliant in theory. Renes brings with him the comic relief for a society forced to take everything seriously. The clown has become an ingenuous survivor, while the hero has become a suicide without wit.
His work functions like a form of therapy, a way to exorcise and share his life experiences. When he draws, he liberates thoughts and actions, nearly always through the humorous and comical. In Lecciones de dibujo (Drawing Lessons), Juan José Molina claims that the action of drawing is a representation of ourselves in the action of representing, clarifying the itineraries of our own consciousness, making itself evident in front ourselves: drawing basically implies a redefinition of that territory from which we establish the references. Representing is, accordingly, a controlled and difficult act of evocations and silences established through signs which we are able to decipher by its preexistence in the historical memory.
The drawing by Renes focus on everyday situations, fleeting glimpses of a world immersed in permanent change. Drawing is presented as something unique. Rather than telling stories, it attempts to render, not unlike Breton’s automatic writing, what springs from reason and moral without any kind of control. Through drawing it is possible to treat objects impossible to tackle with the same accuracy in other media. Drawing opens up a whole field of new possibilities. It is the most natural, simple and manual of all techniques.
Charlie Chaplin was regarded as a great comedian thanks to his representation of that timeless kid damaged by modern life. He looks at what surrounds him from the viewpoint of a child, yet never discarding his status as an adult. Interpreting wishes, concerns, dreams and fears, Chaplin creates his own world through his personal perceptions and life experiences.
In the text for the catalogue published for the exhibition presented by the artist at the CAB of Burgos titled De Covarrubias a Nueva York, Rafael Doctor Roncero includes a fantastic tale titled Carioca, narrating the experience he had in a camp, where he learnt he was going to be the heir to Spain’s most famous felt-tip pen brand which bore that very name: Carioca. Starting from a box of color felt-tip pens, and a secret notebook in which two children caricatured their surroundings, he gives us some idea of how important kid’s drawings are in our understanding of the world.
Rafael Doctor defends the universe of children’s drawing as the best way to create a personal world in sharp contrast with the world of others which, like reading, limits itself to reconstructing one which has already been invented. It shows a concern for the need to preserve this medium, this universe of felt-tip pens and paints playing such an important role not only in the world of children, but also in that of adults.
The lively colors Renes works with range from chocolate brown to phosphorescent tones. They are bright, intense tones characteristic of a box of Carioca felt-tip pens. He depicts everyday objects, dreamlike images, invented or caricatured characters.
He also uses sentences imbued with wit and a certain irony which, in most cases, make reference to anecdotal episodes of his life. Personal episodes rippling with humor. We have a good example in works such as Hotel Carter (2000), where we see a New York hotel with a poster claiming someone tried to steal my suitcases in this hotel, next to the word WELCOME. Another work that draws our attention is I love hiking, in which we see Duchamp’s Etant Donnés in a reference to voyeurism.
His work is essentially based on watercolors on paper, though he has also created animation videos, including Couch Grass- Grama, which was screened at the 1999 Injuve Video Competition. In the video, remaining loyal to his working method of manually drawing his figures, he made up to 3.000 drawings without any use of computerized animation. When speaking of this video, Renes said “I threw myself into a constant working routine, and managed to achieve a form of expression which revealed something that had always been present in my way of providing a temporal development to the notion of fragmented unity”.
His drawings manage to establish a high level of empathy with the beholder. Despite the fact that some of them seem initially indecipherable to the public. Renes invites the spectator to make a free, personal and non-transferable reading. The acceptance of his works might be largely due to his use of a language not far removed from mass culture, such as comics or cartoons.
Hans-Georg Gadamer talked about art as place in which human ludic activity reached its perfection. And it is with the spectator (or the artist as a spectator of him/herself) that the game takes on its true dimension. Art materializes the essence of the ludic. In that particular play of art, the representative function is fulfilled because it is essentially a representation for, that is, the real or hypothetical presence of the other it is aimed at. Each work of art is actually materialized in its opening up to the spectator, and in the meaning bestowed on it by the beholder. The play of art is then a form of truth encouraging spectators to recognize (themselves).
As suggested by Charles Baudelaire, the best art restores the magic freshness and strange reflectivity of a child’s peripatetic perception. Far from peluchismo (what we could translate as an aesthetic of soft toys, a term used by Fernando Castro to allude to the current tendency of certain artists to co-opt the territory of childhood in a cynical and perverse way), the work of Fernando Renes stands in the midst of that hermeneutic compulsion of art which strives to find symbols everywhere. His works hide no mysteries, nor any pretence other than being exhibited as a self-portrait. Renes claims that the only thing he wants is to convey through his works to the spectator the same liberating sensation he felt when making them. The word of the artist is expressed through his work; his word is a extension of his drawings.

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