The craving for realism and veracity that inhabits the work of Rómulo Celdrán (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1973) allows him to develop and extend some of the main realist representation strategies. But, in his case, he does so expanding to almost inconceivable limits, which nevertheless do not cease to be an absolute “truth”, the ambiguous and deceptive frontiers of perception. Is what we see reality or illusion? It is, without doubt, both things: Vision and Illusion. Because, in essence, this very unusual artist’s work is in its element in the turbulent field of the questioning of the nature of art itself.
Unlike the ephemeral, spectacular and repetitive practices of many young artists nowadays, Rómulo Celdrán opts for the magic of daily, painstaking, disciplined, coherent and diligent work of an, almost, monastic and mystical industriousness. A real videre et labora, as his is a special and laborious vision that helps us to perceive much more than we usually see (or believe we see).His eye, which is the extension of the pupil of his hand, reveals a genuine paradigm that turns out to be more real than reality itself. I remember, in this sense, the words of Howard Kanovitz, that outstanding representative of American realism in the 1970s: “realism consists in recognising something we have never really seen, a shocking piece of visible and psychological reality which cannot simply be limited by the wish to paint things as one sees them”.
Because it is true that Celdrán, in his work, attains an authentic zero grade of reality that allows him to represent the world and present (it) with disturbing doses of veracity and, at the same time, of a magical appearance.
In order to achieve his artistic objectives, he uses a notable variety of languages and expressive resources: painting, drawing, lithography and sculpture. In the early days, painting – a practice that he will never abandon – became his first and main instrument of visual and formal register. Oil, applied to wood, enabled him to attain excellent levels of formal perfection, coming close to virtuosity, thereby managing to reflect, as well as question, an extremely personal vision of the real world and of nature itself. Despite this, it is important not to neglect his consummate technique that is never an end in itself but rather a faithful companion, accompanying him in all his endeavours.
At the same time, drawing is another iconographic register in which, in my opinion, he attains excellent levels of expression and plastic communication. Drawing that, literally, in his hands becomes a perfect tool for representation and perception and that acts as a kind of visual notary of the world. With the humble accompaniment of a simple graphite pencil, exploring the infinite landscapes to be found in an equally humble plank of wood, Rómulo is capable of reproducing the universe and making it tangible, possible and fascinating for us. Lately he has been working with white pencil on black gesso on wood, achieving both formal and conceptual results that border on the literally incredible. The white pupil of his pencil in its almost circus-like “even more difficult” movements, captivates, seduces, disconcerts and hypnotises the black pupils of our eyes.
And yet, sculpture is perhaps Rómulo Celdrán’s most perfect, magical, rotund and also ambiguous language. A syntax whose alpha and omega letter of plastic writing is the P for perfection. He habitually conceives sculpts out of one sole block of material, be it stone or wood. At the same time, each piece tends to be divided into two parts: a pedestal, that allows us to see the “visceras” of the material itself (be it stone or wood), on which he places different objects belonging to the everyday world (a plastic bag, orange peel, cardboard boxes, a sponge, a coil of rope, sandals, the spiral shape of a hose …). These two halves of the same piece enable him to present a work “with a trick and without cardboard”: the trick of deceptive and ambiguous perception and without cardboard because the cardboard may be (and is) stone …. or wood. Works that depict objects, and that, almost certainly perverting our view, present themselves as objects of desire of dreams and of plausible fiction. An able and complementary chromatic epidermis that is perfectly administered and balanced, the fruit of his pictorial savoir faire, helps to convert his sculptures into authentic and hypnotic trompe-l’oeils and turns us into the petrified observers of his visual siren songs.
Together with these three-dimensional strategies, he has lately opened up a new line of sculpture work reminiscent of the best of Oldenburg, in the form of the representation of another apparent perceptive “mistake”. Thus, the Macro series enters into the ambiguous field of scales, presenting objects that appear to pervert their own measurements. Gloves, tubes of paint or biro lids challenge our perceptions and representations and we feel we could just as easily be cast in the role of Gulliver as of the minute citizens of Lilliput.
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