catalog texts


by Mònica Regàs,
Paris, February 1991

In an old self-portrait where he appears incognito, Carles Cabarró painted a character who is both hieratic and tumultuous, whose very fixedness induces violence Carles Gabarró shows one eye that does not see and another that does not look, in the manner of African statuettes. Like them, he looks at the inside, and leads the spectator's gaze to the point of maximum interiority which should reveal his truth. And doing so, he engages in a process contrary to exhibition, he asks us to look at the inside, while he, not beating around the bush, lays his invisible stare on the world. Invest the world without taking possession of it. Condense by summing up. Think while painting. Paint while thinking. Too much looking inward exhausts and is hard to digest. Carles Gabarró escapes thanks to a curious, higly idiosyncratic method, which consists of determining signs, objects, shapes that act as buffers between the world of senses and primeval chaos, i.e. between himself and his stare. An inside out look, specific to weariness, as Peter Handke would define it: 'What is relative, in a weary look, becomes absolute, and the part becomes the Whole' (P Handke, Essay on Fatigue).

Thus, each of these shapes, more or less metaphoric or symbolic, but narratively more refined from year to year —less literary—, effects a compression of the surrounding world. The pictures' tellurism, this shooting up of objects, results from a gestation evolved intuitively, and suggested by the painter's supple gestures.

All these crania, which might represent as many jellyfishes, eagle's or elephant's heads, or skulls (according to the viewer's choice or the painter's humor), make up an insidious ritual, a motionless and silent danse of entities suspended in the canvas. Gabarró displays a genuine hypnotic shield; he compels us to stare at the painting, to keel over into it before allowing us into its universe. Only after this first initiatory test are we given to see the evidence of these objects, flung there from within nothingness, like meteorites fallen on a meadow, endowed with so insolent a presence as to be unquestionable. 'Si non e vero, e ben trobato', Leonardo would punctuate ironically. The objects are imposed on the painting in the same way as the artist lays his eyes on the world, that is to say, with no concession whatever, brazenly.

Here we are, then, in the unknown forest. An enchanted forest? Haunted? Dreamed? Or simply imagined? No, just unknown, but defined with the crude precision of dream images. Gabarró's forests, like his seas or his frothing crucibles before, are inhabited by dense and sundry populations. In this one, we rediscover the past offires, will-o'-the-wisp or others, that of crosses and (Spanish) boxes, the present of all-curvaceous forms which could, in addition to all the 'skulls ' cited above, be likened to solid and whirling clouds, and a welter offutures in latency, made of geometric delimitations, parentheses and sundry circles.

In effect, the painter trades his chemistry-studentready-to-blow-up-the-canvas side for a game more intrinsic to painting, and therefore more equivocal. To begin with, he indulges again in his already oldfondness for organization. In certain pieces, Gabarró tinkers with real leaden shelves, but only suggests them in others. He partitions things to draw rebellion better This he can do with a 'lock', an encirclement, a vertical stroke... Anything will do. Initially, the insolence seems controled—no element will manage to escape the canvas. The 'thing' will happen within the elements specific to art, with no further contribution by the outside. And we discover quite a curious phenomenon there, namely that each work is proposed to us in its thesis and antithesis simultaneously. Gabarró plays with gray—lead or pigment—and with red, yellow and gray, with the extremely hot, tire, and the extremely cold, the neutrality of metal. But gray also appears as a resultant of the mix of all complementary colors, like a callfor chromatic disorder, an inversion of elements.

In Gabarró's work, gray can become much more pulsive (through treatments of the material, through formal composition) than the seemingly most incendiary reds and yellows. This constant dichotomy upsets the hasic elements of painting, causing reactions of rejection and optical attraction which force us to crack the shield, to want to penetrate this universe in parentheses where the organic and the geometric merge to attain a perfect order.