The feast of color in the painting of José Caldas
José Caldas is a Venezuelan painter born in Táchira in 1953. For many years he has lived in Aragua, a region of the country where, between 1970 and 1975, he studied painting and drawing with Evelio Giuseppe, Alejandro Ríos, and Jorge Chacón, the latter with whom he reinforces his experimentations about color and landscape, being within the Grupo Sabaneta, led by Chacón. He begins to exhibit his work in 1981, and since then he has held a large number of individual and group exhibitions, and for his work and artistic career he has been awarded several prizes and awards.
Caldas's work inevitably refers us to Fauvism, an artistic avant-garde that emerged in France around 1904, whose main representative was Henri Matisse. This movement was nurtured by the post-impressionists Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, as well as the art of Africa and Oceania. The main visual element of the Fauves, the central theme of their works, the most important thing in their paintings, was color, which they applied to the canvas just as the pigment came out of the tube, pure and pasty, distributed with great energy, emotion, and spontaneity. The colorful Fauvist painting invites the viewer to enjoy and celebrate life, in fact, there are two works by Matisse that sing to the joy of living, those are, precisely, Joy of Life and Dance.
In Caldas' work, with his unmistakable personal stamp, we also notice the impact and predominance of color, an element of expression with which this artist builds all the space, figures, and forms of his compositions, imprinting them with a festive and cheerful tone.
Caldas invades the entire space of his pictorial supports with color, he seems to have a horror of emptiness, of blank space, which is why he covers the surface of his canvases with vivid, pure, saturated colors, loaded with thick and pasty matter. Caldas applies the color directly from the tube that contains the pictorial substance (oil or acrylic), an ingredient that he spreads with a brush, spatula, the palm of his hand or any other instrument that serves as a resource to achieve richer and accentuated textures.
Caldas says that:
“Energy is in constant motion, and this energy is color. The energy that revolves around the bodies is a whirlwind of colors in perfect harmony. And to think that it has always been there, waiting for one to see it and enjoy it. This is what my work focuses on, showing the harmonic movement of color, the aura of the landscape”.
In principle, this is the underlying intention, which justifies his pictorial work. We can consider color in Caldas' work as the soul of beings and things, the energy that makes them vibrate. In this painter we observe a passion for color, a color charged with sensuality, but, at the same time, we also discover in him the idea of color as a spiritual phenomenon, as a carrier of a vibrant energy that expands throughout the universe.
It is worth noting that for some artists the theme is a pretext—as Caldas himself has stated on certain occasions—to build their aesthetic discourse with which they give prominence to some element of visual expression of their interest, which in the case of Caldas is the color. However, in the production of Caldas, the thematic content also deserves special attention, where we discover an interior and an exterior space, although both are connected, they coexist.
In the first case we are referring to a domestic landscape full of elements typical of the intimacy of the home, those that we find in the living room, dining room and kitchen, such as, for example, tables, chairs, lamps, clocks, books, stove, cooking utensils, fruit and vegetables, whose repertoire this artist takes advantage of to build his visual poetry, his compositions, among which are still lifes. In these interiors we find that the artist incorporates windows that connect us with the outside, that allow us to see, from the inside out, fragments of rural and natural landscapes; but we can also consider that these windows are pictorial recreations of the same artist located in those closed spaces; that is, painting within painting; that is to say, that the artist quotes himself, puts his iconographic repertoire into dialogue with each other, generating a visual interlocution between his works.
In the second case, there are the external landscapes, those that the artist builds in the open field: mountains, rivers, seas, streets, parks, and city businesses. In both spaces, interior, and exterior, we locate another aspect of Caldas's theme: the religious symbology of the world of Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean religion originating from the Yorubas, a people of West Africa. Some deities of this cult are represented in the still lifes. For example, the watermelon embodies Yemayá; the pumpkin, the orange and the banana to Oshún; the toys, sweets, the clock indicating three o'clock, and a kind of African mask, symbolize Elegguá (child and adult); the knife alludes to Ogún, and the splendid nature, all the vegetation, the landscape itself personifies Ozain, just as the sea symbolizes Yemayá.
Although the explosive and festive force of color is notable in the work of this artist, he has managed to combine and harmonize form and content very well, since color and theme merge into a single visual expression.
José Gregorio Noroño