Essay by Jeffrey Ryan former contributor to Frieze Magazine
A Journey in Paint
Travelers all know the sweet disorienting feeling of being dropped in a new city, and the joy of discovering it. Many of us cling to our maps in hand, guidebooks and hints from those who have come before us. But it is when we put the map away, that the place begins to reveal its charms. We have to look up, and begin to use the landmarks around to orient ourselves. Where is the sun? Check. That cathedral I passed on my right? Check. The river must be near as I can smell the briny air – there it is. In just a few days, this place, which at first was so alien, can begin to feel as if it is our new town. So too with painting: every blank canvas dumps the artist (most likely near a train station), allowing them to figure their way around. Filling up that blank space is similar to learning a place. Buildings take on meaning, signs – even if in another language – become another crumb leading us out of our new urban labyrinth.
We start with nothing much, and before long, we have more than we ever thought. In Fabian Lopez’s paintings, he began with simple premises of filling up canvases with color and form. Paint grew into structures, structures into cities. But at their core – they are just armatures for painting. The beauty of painting is that is doesn’t need much excuse to get going. Walls, roof, with some sky? More than enough. More than enough in the right hands would be more appropriate. We look at these works like the travelers in town – we don’t know what their purpose might be, and we don’t really know where we are. But the artist is kind enough to give us plenty to look at – skies of blues, grays, and pinks, grounds the same save the occasional verdant carpet.
With all the images bombarding our retinas daily, only painting allows us the time to slow down and the luxury of ambiguity to let us determine what we are seeing. Because it is in this alchemy of painting – where a box can become a house, a pile of shanties can become a city, and these in turn can morph right back into abstraction. Like the traveler wandering about a city, built up over the ancient bones and buildings, we viewers of paintings forge our way towards meaning.The bedrock of painting, like the foundation of a city, is built up of those who care enough to stick around; the paintings that effect us, mixing with the lives we lead; and the things we see, in our eyes and heads. Where these paintings are going we know not, but this journey in paint is what counts. Enjoy the ride.
I generate ideas for my work through a reimagined autobiographical lens which intersects oral history, concepts of memory, notions of the other, and other subjects of interest. I’m interested in themes that convey a narrative associated with location, told within a space between nonfiction and fiction, giving me the ability to work in abstraction and representation, or a mashup of the two. For example, Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast years after his stay in Paris, basing the novel mostly on recollections. My paintings function in this regard, at the intersection of fabricated narratives based on physical experiences within a place, through recalling memories that transpose time and space.