Tuesday, 10 July 2012


Juan Tessi and Miau Miau gallerist Mariano Lopez at Juan Tessi's exhibition “El Fru Fru del Rouge” at Miau Miau Gallery in Buenos Aires

Tucci Tabu, the house in Buenos Aireswhere Miau Miau is located in the second floor

Displaced, never ending 
(on Juan Tessi's recent paintings)
by Mariano Mayer

Unlike many artists and generations whose production has its epicenter around the potential narratives that envelop and act upon a certain theme, Juan Tessi examines the “physical manifestation of an idea.” It’s not so much because of his expressive language, whose final resolution is always pictorial, but because it is this type of exterior presence the one that can inhabit an idea. Facing a corpus material and not just the climatic effect that is capable of displaying a kind of absence. Without relapsing into the meaning of every decision, usually understood as an embodiment, material development opts to discover “what if?” It's possible to detect consistent ties to fiction that establish themselves in the every day as spaces of surprise and wellbeing. These images are inclusive spaces that do not exist previous to Tessi´s intervention on the canvas, allowing the possibility of inhabiting an idea.

Up until now, all of his artworks and projects had been organized around more or less explicit narrative forms. His works offered a hyper referential space where the image was subordinate to the story. This time around we are denied, to a greater or lesser extent, the narrative source. The mere suspicion of it can provoke the taste buds of decipherment. Nonetheless, this muscle that the artist incites uncovers a subordination without transparency. The images don't illustrate an obsession, but rather facilitate the entrance into an anti illustrative relationship and from that distance construct a crack, an echo. With the intention of preserving these, the artist works on his paintings as if he was writing an essay whose conclusion is always a delayed assurance. The essayistic quality turns the canvas into an ally, an accomplice format with which to establish open sense interventions and underscore the rejection he generally feels towards synthesis, abridgment or closure. In this militant anti-closure campaign, the brushstroke has assumed other modalities, such as expressing alliteration.

It couldn’t have been otherwise: the images that make up “El Fru Fru del Rouge” include an initial narrative, traversed by a succession of optical drifts. The discovery on YouTube of a makeup tutorial taught by Donna Mills, an American TV and film actress, is the genitive element. Tessi decided to keep the instructions only in audio format and turned them into a fragmented manual of pictorial instructions. From then on he started painting, paying attention to lineal processes, but also to mutable patterns because “once within the confines of audio there were no rules”. To cut back, in this case, actually multiplied the possibilities. The decision to translate the knowledge used for a very specific purpose to a very experimental one allowed him to turn the canvas into a featureless skin. The kind of expression Donna Mills proposes in her instructions has lost its purpose in these paintings, thus voiding the affirmative intentions of makeup. It is not that Tessi merely wants to eliminate the norm, but rather enter a zone of experimentation, variability and uncertainty to discover what that transference can convey. This bonus, through which we “confront the unknown in the blank canvas”, allows us to arrive at this set of abstract images. The almost documentary supplement that the makeup tutorial provides does not replace fiction; it simply displaces it. The farther we are from a narrative, the more curious we are and the artist knows this, which is why he allows us to discover particles and not conclusions, rumours instead of stories. This allows us to escape the speed with which the gaze learned to indulge in itself, extending the attention span and proposing a new temporality in which detail informs.

In her soundless video Instructions No. 1 (1976), Sanja Ivekovic looks at the camera while drawing with a grease pencil on her face the lines that, according to some beauty instructions, she should care for. Once the map is drawn out, she mixes up the lines so much that her face starts to resemble a camouflage pattern. With a less critical intention, but with a similar distant attitude towards any kind of indoctrination, Tessi is also dedicated to blurring the lines, but he seems to do it even before the figure is rendered. The glazes, in many cases, seem to emerge from layers of paste and not from recognizable shapes that have been hidden. It is not about ignoring all kinds of representation altogether, but rather about drawing the blur. When there is a figure, a succession of circles or vertical marks, these seem to happen almost at the end of the whole process, like a touch of blush outlining the cheekbones once the cream, base and translucent powder have been applied. Through overlaps, erasures and simultaneous beginnings, the artist constructs several screens, very close to those that John Cage identified in Robert Rauschenberg´s monochrome paintings as “airports for light, shadows, particles”

On the flip side of some matter painting where the overlap and multiplicity of textures are intuited as the end of a stay, Tessi´s viscous and pasty applications are presented as a beginning. Under these relationships where the painting is an event, the process is subjected to all kinds of manipulations, investment and transfer techniques. Half of a primary rectangular structure is continued in two layers to conform a single painting, like overlapping Photoshop windows or the sum of gray lines sketching out a horizontal form that is reproduced, miniaturized and vertical, in the opposite vertex. The image the artist is interested in, located on the periphery of any figure, like the hand that comes out of nowhere to twist the man’s face in the exhibition flyer, can also arise through a game of revivals. More than images, these textures are a good example of the elements painting has at hand to offer unfinished events or situations where the stress lies in a superposition of losses. The accumulation of tips found in the form of dialogue and converted into a sum of displacements, where functionality is ignorance and contour a formless limit, are now a monologue that leads to dismantling and reassembly. To do this, it was necessary to lose the procedure, override the audio and paint without a script. The loss responds neither to the dilemma of renewing the repertoire, nor to the intention of outlining a new machine, but rather to the fact of maintaining an argumentative silence and building a retention area that includes the painter.

Translation: Marina Reyes Franco

Juan Tessi, “El Fru Fru del Rouge or Tucci Tabu"
Miau Miau
Bulnes 2705, Buenos Aires
Juan Tessi – May 2 thru July 2, 2012

Studio visit to Juan Tessi in April 2011 here

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