Thursday, November 18, 2010

Enrique Martinez Celaya: The Crossing at Saint John the Divine Cathedral. by craniv boyd

Enrique Martinez Celaya: The Crossing at Saint John the Divine Cathedral.


We are here now for a religious experience. Today we are seeing four large paintings leaning against stonewalls of an unfinished cathedral. It is current art in a house of worship. It is figurative work that speaks to stages of life. The non-commercial setting hearkens back to a time before the death of god or the birth of the museum, a time when the huddled masses experienced art and religion as intertwined. 


The Crossing at St. John the Divine is a cycle of monumental paintings created for the space of the nave by artist Enrique Martinez Celaya. It is part of a series of works from an open invitation of the church to artists and curators living and working today to make art in dialogue with the architecture of the Cathedral or the scriptures of the religion.


The paintings are oriented vertically they rest close to the floor and reach up leaning back against the walls. They are four metaphorical depictions of stations in human existence: a path in a winter forest, a young man embracing a horse, and empty boat on a body of water and an injured child walking in summer time with the aid of crutches. Frailty and susceptibility in childhood, perhaps, or intimacy in young adulthood, a vessel for shared journey in middle age and a cold lonely path in old age. These are my interpretations of these current allegories.


The style of panting is a short departure from realism, a type of representation at home in a cartoon. Celaya's painting manner is at once naive, almost casual yet confident. He is bold and ambitious in his choice of format, that of the extra large. His subjects in this series are stark, spartan, they inhabit a lonely world of extremes and contrasts. A wounded child walking in a lush green garden, the young man and white horse embrace on a flat marshy plane with no man made structures in sight. The boat is the sole vessel in the body of water in the painting, it takes center stage an ersatz for the viewer themselves or a person. The path in the winter forest is this isolation of the boat taken further, loneliness grown older. Is it the path one walks late in life?


 These paintings are like movements with very little action. The are of  stationary happenings, or times of reflection. Celaya's paintings present choices. I see them as symbolic forks in the road, junctures the points in life where one makes a decision: to recover or not, to step on the boat or stay on the banks of the lake, to stay with the white horse or leave it and to walk down that winter path or not. They turn the viewers reflection of the painting back inwards on the viewer. In that they play with the narrative, yes characters are present but the story arch if one it to be divined is loose at best. In that respect these paintings have more in common with pop songs than a romance novel. They let the listener create the story and mold it to their lives rather than explain a discreet fiction to the reader. by craniv boyd©

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