Juan Narowé Negative Capability

01 Jul - 02 Sep 2022

Overview

‘Negative Capability’ is the first exhibition in Barcelona by the Brazilian artist Juan Narowé, which brings together a wide range of languages, media and formats that arise from drawing. The exhibition is curated by Francesco Giaveri and is part of the program of the 11th edition of Art Nou.

 

Well, strike another match

Yeah, go start new, go start new

‘Cause it’s all over now, baby blue [1]

About to get dark, groping towards something or someone.

Negative Capability is also the title of a recent Marianne Faithfull album. It is a concept that John Keats describes in 1817 in a letter to his brothers, referring to the capacity of being “in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason” [2].

Juan Narowé and the works gathered on this occasion seem to move in a sea of uncertainty, a chaos as scattered as diffuse.

I know it looks like I’m movin’ but I’m standin’ still [3] 

It is disturbing to observe what surrounds us and nourishes us, often in the middle of a deep confusion. Even more when the decision is made of not simplifying nor reducing this chaos to a rational synthesis that tames and softens it. Perhaps using a convenient umbrella of rational theory adapted on purpose. The refusal to put forward a conclusion stands out in Narowé’s radical search, with its epic touch; his choice consists in following the path indefinitely, one step after the other, first in one direction, then in another. The turning points, the divergent moments presented in this exhibition, are remainders of a fleeting intensity. Signs, gestures, even doodles. Or images that aspire to become icons. All of them, the result of a long process of trial and error, practising and warming up the muscles, of accumulating and subtracting to finally achieve a broken figuration. And yet, when they appear on paper, canvas, on a table or zines, there is no conclusion in sight, no demonstration, only monsters that move us.

Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain [4] 

Doubts, mysteries, uncertainties live in a boiling magma. With great patience, a dedication that is practically an obsession, the artist represents the flashes that the heat of the fire brings back to the surface, even if it is only for a moment. Attentive waiting, a state of alert against possible flashes of intensity. Observation and repetition. The two sides of a sheet overlap and become mixed up, and there is no reason to separate them.

The empty handed painter from your streets

Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets [5]

In the exhibition, there are tables, some of them real, made of wood, where an endless number of characters and situations unfold. There are also represented, drawn or painted tables, which present objects and situations; in short, other tableaux. We also find pedestrians, thinkers and simple objects that almost speak. Juan Narowé has observed a lot, with decision and delicacy at the same time. Observing and thinking finally get together in melancholy, in the classic position of the hand that holds the head, whose weight, due to the excesses of what has been seen and thought, needs to rest on something, to have some support. The melancholic state allows, despite everything, to reflect and look at the world to try to change it. It is an active attitude. A tense concentration.

Juan Narowé affirms his determination to stay in the middle of the chaos, grabbing a few flashes on the fly and then give them shape, a single one amongst all possible ones, and then continuing all over again. Because it is indeed getting dark, but not completely yet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships. [6]

Dear reader, I thank you for getting so far in this text. I hope that your reading is also taking place away from Juan Narowé’s solo exhibition at the gallery Ana Mas Projects, where you have been able to enjoy his works without the noise of these lines.

To bring you this project, it has taken months of phone conversations, visits to the studio, doubts, mistakes, confusions, changes of mind, and finally, starting all over. Searching, watching, drawing, asking, reading, observing, thinking. And the opposite. And everything at the same time. His work was so extensive, his search was so continuous (this form, this face, this life)that I was under the impression that this exhibition actually was a chimera, something like stemming the tide.

For this reason, I think that we should not confine his works with a premeditate theory, but offer some references whose tone, as in a song by Marianne Faithfull, would allow to continue navigating through Juan Narowé’s imaginary, without introducing anything so irritatingly rational that would put out his magic, or at least try to.

Francesco Giaveri

 

 

[1] from It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue composed by Bob Dylan. Included in the album Bringing It All Back Home from 1965. Marianne Faithfull published a version in Rich Kid Blues, an album recorded in 1971 but launched only in 1985; successively Faithfull recorded it again in 2018 for Negative Capability.

[2] John Keats, letter to George and Tom Keats, 21-27 december 1817.

[3] from Not Dark Yet por Bob Dylan published at Time Out of Mind in 1997.

[4] from Not Dark Yet por Bob Dylan published at Time Out of Mind in 1997.

[5] from It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue composed by Bob Dylan. Included in the album Bringing It All Back Home from 1965. Marianne Faithfull published a version in Rich Kid Blues, an album recorded in 1971 but launched only in 1985; successively Faithfull recorded it again in 2018 for Negative Capability.

[6] T. S. Eliot, Marina, 1930.

Installation views