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3 Zen Masters

By Daniel Molina

Curatorial Text, Palatina Gallery, November 2009

When I had before me the works that Eladia Acevedo, Leandro Comba and Andrés Paredes created for this exhibition, the first thing that I perceived was voidness, I realized these three Zen masters had produced, each of them in their own specific way, a Tokonoma: that essential space where everything is possible, just because silence resides in it. 

I remembered the last poem written by José Lezama Lima, on April 1st, 1976, short before dying, when he experienced his dazzling illumination: it is called “The Voidness Pavilion”. This immaterial pavilion –that Lezama considered to be the likelihood condition for the poetic and the ground on which loving imagination may be settled – has now acquired substance in the vacant space generated by the works by Acevedo, Comba and Paredes.

These three artists produce by fret working wood, by writing their deep lettering on paper or wood, and arrive at white –or black- through the infinite removal of the whole light arc (or also by light saturation, since Zen masters reject no path; all trails –if followed to the end- lead up to the awakening). 

Eladia Acevedo adds by removing. She makes an enormous effort. She overlaps one paper strip over another, as if she were the most diligent student in a handicrafts class: And all this so that her work is not seen! Acevedo erases the sensitive differences of this world we believe are sharing and creates planes and objects that point to another world, i.e., another way of seeing this world. They are invitations to imagining another experience (maybe shared, maybe not) with no rules to approaching it. More than works, what Acevedo shows are processes. And more than full senses, what her works transmit are poetic fluctuations: hesitant –not due to a lack of knowledge or technical inability, but to wisdom and humility- between seeing and hiding. A full invitation to awake from the lethargy that is born in the excessive sense of the world.

Leandro Comba is a calligrapher that writes holes. He takes matter and applies fretwork, milling and polishing to it: he completes it with the lack of material. His works seem to be inspired by the principles of traditional Chinese painting that Xie Ho established in the Sixth Century China. Like Xie Ho, Comba does not give priority to a vanishing point located in the center, or even within the painting frame. As in the traditional Chinese painting, in Comba that vanishing point is in the artist and viewer’s minds (and is “behind”, i.e., in a past that is unknown to both but unconsciously shared by them). From this mental space, the barely figurative scripts of Xie Ho landscapes and Comba’s calligraphic traits generate a mind perspective where voidness, the suggestion space, shines.
The fretwork by Andrés Paredes offers a new original Reading of the American art abstract tradition. His papers and woods interact with the ñandutí motifs or vegetal and zoomorphic structures (stylized to abstraction) that were produced by the Tupí-Guaraníes and survived - blended- in the Colony mongrel objects. In the works by Paredes, the most important thing is not the matter, but voidness: what is not there. The light, which he draws by playing with his fretwork, is the co-author of his works. So essential are the “immaterial” aspects of his creations that the “material” part of these works resembles a wandering ghost, those that often receive the name of “Luz Mala” (Bad Light or Ghostly Light). More than objects, Paredes produces enlightenments.

Buddhism is known to be an atheist religion. It does not invent another world after death nor does it create fantastic beings - unicorns or gods- that give sense to the vane actions of our lives. Buddhism is disappointing: it teaches us to wake up from the dream of suffering. It is not science but practice. It may not be transmitted in words. It is not speech but a suggestion; it is not said, but indicated. This is how the works by Acevedo, Comba and Paredes act: they tell nothing because they enlighten our awakening. They think about nothing, because they already know everything. 

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