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Twilight Zone | Arnau Blanch

19/12/2019 - 07/02/2019


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Text

A suspended world

He sought the intervention of chance in his work as a way of collaborating with unknown forces. For this reason – or for any other reason, who knows! -, towards the end of his days, he devoted himself to painting with watercolour and ink on different types of paper. Beyond the results that he obtained, the thing that interested him was what these techniques had in common, that is, their extreme fluidity and the propensity for accidents and overflowing. In other words, the tendency to go beyond the limits. That is, his propensity to rave.[1] True to his own creed, he approached hallucinogenic substances in a methodical and moderate way. His intention, beyond anything, was to observe the behaviour of the consciousness in experimental conditions.

It happened in 1955. He was 56 years old. And if, until then, he had painted to surprise himself and to provoke events in his material, causing the birth of enigmatic figures, signs and landscapes, this time it was going to be different: with the help of doctors and scientists, close to the literary universe, he would agree to be part of an experiment with mescaline[2].

Dazzled by the psychic and sensorial mutations he experienced first-hand, he decided to explore the effects of this substance in detail. On a deep level. More or less for four years. That is, until the beginning of the sixties. And from the numerous sessions in which he participated, being fully conscious, a large number of drawings emerged following a pattern of furrows and ramifications, often ascending, saturated with symmetries and micrographs. He even said that if he had to ascribe to any movement, this would be phantomism, that is, an art of ghosts and apparitions.

Writer, artist and cartographer of the imagination, Henri Michaux, our subject, has not been the only one who has thrown himself, to create, into the arms of psychotropic substances. Picasso, Van Gogh and Degas threw themselves into the arms of absinthe; Syd Barrett, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, The Beatles, William Burroughs or Aldous Huxley into the arms of LSD; Thomas Alva Edison into the arms of cocaine; Lewis Carroll into the arms of hallucinogens[3]. And Wordsworth, Coleridge and, especially, Thomas de Quincey into the arms of opium[4].

For Quincey, opium was, over all, a vehicle, an engine. An accident[5] from which he could obtain lucrative literary benefits. The writer himself associated it with his faculty of daydreaming and his extreme intellectual sensitivity. Otherwise, it is believed that his opium addiction would have been a chronic disease, that is, a lost cause.

Quincey’s intention when writing his well-known Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) was not so much to relate the effects derived from opium consumption – his opium consumption -, but to expose his influences in a mind that, like his, was recognized as privileged and endowed with unusual faculties.

Despite the association that is traditionally established between the use of psychoactive substances with the ability to create and innovate, nobody really knows the truth in all this. So no matter how many artists, musicians, writers and even scientists attribute their achievements to drug use, nothing indicates that this combination is other than a myth. A myth fueled, perhaps, by false certainties. While scientifically trying to clarify if the consumption of psychoactive substances affects the brain processes related to creativity or if the change experienced by the consumer has more to do with the side effects associated with feelings of pleasure and ecstasy, their consumption, from the artistic perspective, is not disapproved of[6].

Its capacity to open the gates to artificial paradises is appreciated.

In his effort to describe extreme visual experiences, Arnau Blanch devotes himself to the creation of an artificial paradise that, like the one of his previous coreligionists, is determined between what he sees and what he senses, between what he touches and what he imagines, between what he lives and what he feels… in everything that inhabits that space and time zone known as wakefulness, to put it plainly. The place where delirium dwells. That is, out of bounds.

Considered as a conscious state characterized by its high level of activity – especially in relation to the exchange of information between the subject and his/her environment – wakefulness is expressed in the substrate of consciousness, that is, the place where such different parameters as sensations, perceptions, attention, memory, instincts, emotions, desires, knowledge and language dwell. That is to say, the space where Blanch pours a year of his life to leave proof of his rough depth upon his return. Of his colourful reality over the surface of a negative.

Halfway between painting and photography, but also between a story and a nightmare, the Twilight Zone series, conceived by Blanch in 2016, draws a sort of interior landscape that, although it arises from his interest in making tangible the universe of the senses, results of enormous credibility for the eye. From macroscopic vision to microscopic observation.

Altering the idea of the photographic negative by using transparent acetates intervened with anilines, scanners, pigments, alcohol, blowtorch, soap, matches, bleach, lacquer or an endless amount of materials that, rather than caressing the material, wound its surface until almost ending with its reason to exist. What Blanch does through his works is to throw the observer’s mind into the arms of an organic and fluid abstraction. Into the arms of a suspended world. Halfway between sleep and wakefulness.

Where nothing matters because everything is already fine.

 

Frederic Montornés

November 2019

[1]Lira was, on the Roman world, the furrow, the mark that delimited the city. Consequently, who suffers from de-lirium goes beyond the limits, beyond the figure of a law-abiding citizen”. La ciudad desnuda, page 168, Alberto Ruiz de Samaniego.

[2] An alkaloid extracted from peyote, a small Mexican cactus, without prickles.

[3] Hence the potions of the fungus Amanita Muscaria that Alice drinks or the opium pipe that the caterpillar smokes.

[4] Hence his novel Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

[5] Francis Bacon affirms on an interview with Marguerite Duras: “I don’t draw. I begin by making all sorts of blots. I wait for what I call “the accident”: the blot with which the painting can begin. The blot is an accident. But if you rely on the accident, if you think you understand the accident, you’re still going to do illustration, for the blot always looks like something. You can’t understand the accident”.

[6]Perec says in his novel Un homme qui dort: “You close your eyes, you open them. Viral, microbial forms, inside your eye, or on the surface of your cornea, drift slowly downwards, disappear, suddenly reappear in the centre, hardly changed, discs or bubbles, twigs, twisted filaments, which, when brought together, produce something resembling a barely mythological beast.” Quoted on page 170 of La ciudad desnuda, by Alberto Ruiz de Samaniego.