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Gonzalo Borondo - How Best To See

Words:

Edd Norval
June 13, 2018

Under the thick brush strokes of Gonzalo Borondo, the city really does become a canvas. It's not only his form that defines him though, he has an uncanny knack of utilising space in profoundly unique ways.

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Francisco Goya's paintings were equal parts hideous and beautiful. The emotions on the contorted faces of the protagonists have a tightly-wound energy that resides in the smoky abyss between animal and human - good and evil. They're dark and moody, sapping the power of their audience as a means to radiate their own demonic beauty. Goya is one of Borondo's greatest influences - you can tell.


Borondo isn't parroting the Spanish master's style though, instead he's recontextualising it for a contemporary environment and audience. Crossing the paths of one of his large murals is outstanding though - it's a deeply immersive experience that makes you wish cities were more liberal with their application and placement of public benches. You need a bit of time to take it all in.


Like Goya, he's a Spanish native. Maybe it runs in their blood - the ability to paint such dramatically expressionistic and carnal marvels. The characters are rarely fully physically fleshed out, they're either facing away or are painted so roughly as to boil down to silhouette. This leaves our minds with the uncomfortable space of imagining what hasn't been painted. If their twisted bodies look like that, then what could the rest show?

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Perception is important in his pieces. He has utilised two faces of a building to paint a figure on, offering different proportions depending on where you're stood in relation to each wall. He's also painted the shadowy figures farm-workers on hay bales that are eerily reminiscent of childhood nightmares. They're lone figures that haunt the landscape.


Having spent time in London, he was able to ruminate on one of the city's inevitabilities - rain. In the rain he saw wetness, sadness and reflections. The idea of reflection was something that he could use. In between two bridges, on a wall where natural light could reach from the sky above, Borondo painted a modern Narcissus. An upside down portrait that catches the light and bounces off of the water, similar to the original story, becoming correctly orientated, albeit aesthetically manipulated, for onlookers.


Borondo doesn't use social media, and Narcissus feels like a way of examining this. Now, we only see our true selves when we are looking at a copy, a reflection of us. His murals are often poetic musings of contemporary society, rarely political, always deeply human.

In a similar vein of innovation, Borondo worked with glass to magnificent effect. Light and shadow has always featured heavily in his exploratory approach to his subjects and with glass, he was able to experiment in a way that was even more dynamic. The disused buildings that line streets - scars of economic decline and reminders of political failure, were the inspiration for the idea of his scratched glass pieces.


He'd paint the inside of windows with white and scratch away the form of bodies, faces, skulls. The things that are always left behind after these critical moments in economic history - people picking up the pieces of anything that's left. Borondo likens it to walking past the windows and scraping the detritus that clouds the them from the surface. In picking it off, you can see what's inside - what remains of what was once there.


Glass is also paradoxically fragile and strong - it can protect, magnify and grant freedom. On the other hand, it can easily break with dramatic and fatal consequence. The line of frailty and violence seems to permeate his work. Their scale is threatening, yet the subjects have an inherent melancholy that his dark brushstrokes exude. Online, his presence is a mystery and his art remains somewhat similar. Their meaning is never worn on their sleeve. Like the best things, people and places, you need to scratch the surface to find the soul.

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