Ricardo Alario’s inner seas
At first sight nobody would say that Ricardo Alario likes the sea. Despite his Mediterranean genes and his living in a coastal town such as Marbella, I cannot picture him sitting by the seashore while stoically enduring the rigours of the midsummer heat and, even less, on a suffocating Sunday surrounded by parasols, coolers, omelettes and watermelons. Nor can I recall any works from him featuring the sea as the subject. There are only two acrylic works created during his figurative phase, at one and the same time twins and opposites, representing the beach of the marina. However, underlying their mimetic and representative intention we may sense, maybe due to the pigment’s voluptuousness, a secret desire to abandon such a – perhaps – peaceful path and take darker, marshier and more unpredictable tracks. And that is indeed what happened. In the same manner as the historical avant-garde artists of the early 20th century, in the nineties Alario escaped from clarities and similarities and descended to the swampy universe of the etching press, getting muddy with plates, acids and colours.
However, at the beginning of the new century a fortuitous event was to cause a new change of direction in his production. As though guided by a supernatural calling, he abandoned the loneliness and silence of his studio and headed for the mountain, more specifically to the surroundings of a mill in the nearby village of Istán. His only company were his Super Alpha papers, a set of innumerable tools that are more typical of a craftsman than of an artist: tins, drawers, plastics, iron fittings, glue cans...and patience. There, he embarked on a process that he has called siembra (sowing) and thanks to which he has discovered, with no little surprise and astonishment, the endless possibilities offered by oxidation and the transformation of natural pigments buried under the earth during certain periods of time. We shall not describe in detail here such a process, even if the author has had on different occasions the courtesy and bravery – so unusual these days – to show us the “cooking” of such works, although we will comment on certain nuances that we deem to be of relevance.
Ricardo Alario approaches nature with the mentality of a farmer who knows that his bread will only be granted if he looks after, cherishes and strokes the chosen land. And thus, with an almost Franciscan humbleness and devotion, he arranges his material in an order that has been pre-established in his mind, but which becomes unpredictable in its final conception. The substratum then returns to him peculiar and eminently abstract compositions, of a stratigraphic cut and with horizontal sections. Chromatism is dense and deep and presents a sharp alternation of contrasts: blue/red, ochre/sienna, which conform landscapes of almost prehistoric references and appearances. The title of this exhibition is therefore not accidental: Néogeno (“Neogene”) – the period during which not only the distribution of land and seas was being completed but also when God still hesitated whether to evolve the hominid into homo sapiens or to leave him as he was. Without doubt, it is an art created by the earth, which transmutes into ecological by allowing nature to participate as an active factor in the creative process. In this sense, Alario follows the trail of those process artists of the mid-sixties – mainly Hans Haacke – and their involvement of the environment as a transformer of settings and ecosystems, although Alario does it in a more intimate manner without, nonetheless, ruling out a critic and social aim.
AAnother aspect that fascinates us from his poetics is the presence of blue colour in the majority of his works. A blue that is neither clear nor crystalline, that is not a reflection of clean or transparent waters, as the beaches described above and which are not part of the artist’s life. We notice, at last, a saturated and mineral blue, at times beautiful, at times disturbing, colouring subterranean and even abyssal depths. An image of seas where the sun never shines, nor is remembered. Seas whose only name suffices to forebode rough and even ill-fated nautical journeys: Dead Sea, Sargasso Sea, Sea of Tranquillity... Light and dark, life and death, chaos and order, an extreme duality plunges the spectator into a sea of doubt, while the artist already glimpses beyond the horizon new finis terrae to board and share.
Edgar Neville, one of the notable and famous characters (when the adjective “famous” was not as devalued as it is nowadays) who lived in Marbella during the fifties, once knowingly said that in our town, land was even more beautiful than the sea. We are convinced that Ricardo Alario would endorse those words uttered by the potbellied and perspicacious man of letters from Madrid, since every now and then he goes inland with lover-like excitement and carrying a luggage filled with colour and hope. But we should not lose sight of such a mysterious and obsessive blue that emerges all over the place and whose origin lies, without the painter even being aware of it, in those almost denied Mediterranean genes. Ricardo Alario constitutes a curious paradox – a man that finds the sea in the steep slope of a mountain.
I wish you a good sowing season and a pleasant journey.
José Manuel Sanjuán
Historian and Art critic