Fascination for matter

Producing smoke by calcining wood, capturing it by restricting air and then mixing it with water to make ink, is a practice originating from primitive states of culture, times which did not conceive frank separations between the artist and the mystic. The use of black pigment made from smoke has records ranging from the prehistoric charcoal to the toner cartridge of a laser printer, through the ancestral and effective Chinese ink.

Sahagun, that obsessive informant of the colony, reveals the Mesoamerican version of the invention: “They make these natural ink from the smoke of the teas, and it is fine ink. Call it tilli ocotl. Meticulous, the friar translated the pre-Hispanic description: Tilli (black): it is the smoke of the pine, it is the soot of the pine (ócotl, ocote), it is a blackener of things “.

The infrared image of a nineteenth-century European canvas allows us to clearly observe the original sketch, traced with carbon black, one of the most stable and permanent pigments we know.

And were those ancient mystic-artists who discovered the magical qualities of intoxicating smoke, which soars skyward, describing beautiful and unappreciable forms? because there is no ritual without smoke. And art, we know, is still a set of ceremonies. But this is the 21st, the century of pathologies.

Sabino Guisu is frankly an arsonist. Childhood chronicles describe him as a member of a band of dangerous pyromaniacs, guided by a wise Oriental axiom: It is not the same to burn a pot as a forest.

Guisu, like Wolfgang Palaen, directly applies the smoke on the surfaces, allowing to capture, in the work, the capricious dance of the volutes. Sometimes, the combustion is applied in the softness of waxes, woods or copal. Sometimes the roughness of the gas and torch is necessary. One of the many differences with Paalen is that Sabino’s study does not have fire insurance. It is not a minor matter, if the artist has given the large format, but it is worth it: it has achieved an early mastery in controlling the random movements of combustion, and of course, a certain degree of intoxication.

Honey is the other element Sabino has found to get into trouble. Viscosity and adhesion are attractive properties for someone willing to stick to the consequences. The fluid crystallizes. The pieces have a shine that comes from something alive. The temptation arose from the discovery of a honeycomb in an area of ​​risk: beyond the danger of a honeycomb in the courtyard of a museum, bees produce masterful strokes, and their existence is at risk.

Sabino chooses his subjects following a deliberate symbolic route. The icons of civil resistance, the great map of the world, the tzompantli, when linked with the igneous, the images refer to historically intertwined concepts: sacrifice and liberation. Slavery, genocide, revolution, our history is marked with fire, by an imprint of sacrificial ritual.

In the pieces produced in co-production with laborious insects, the route follows processes of transformation of matter and adhere to two terms of postmodernity: ecocide and extinction.

And if one passes speeches, one can simply stand at a distance, lose us in the scrolls and contemplate, captured in the cloth, the strange and ancient fascination of smoke.

In the work of Sabino Guisu, in the volatility of smoke and the density of honey, the artist’s skill conforms to the natural modifications of matter.


  • 8 agosto, 2014