The work of Antonio Romoleroux is universal, Oswaldo Guayasamín, Quito, 1989
The work of Antonio Romoleroux is based on the concept that art must respond honestly to the artist’s personal philosophy. This is the only way for it to have any validity. Even though this principle may seem elemental in theory, it is not in practice. It implies the possibility of disarticulating international artistic currents, but on the other hand, it allows the development of an authentically personal work of art, which responds to his culture, surroundings, and history. Therefore, Romoleroux’s artistic work is sustained upon his own definition of artistic syntax in which technical research performs a primary function within conceptual formulation.In this sense, his development process as an artist as well as the elaboration of his artwork is especially important. In the beginning, he researched the symbolic possibilities of signs in sculpture. Presently, he traded this interest with engraving, expanding in the technical and conceptual possibilities of paper and symbol. Paper is not an inert and inexpressive support; it carries a symbolic charge in its origin, elaboration process and the history of its use. In order to activate this content, which we may call “natural”, the artist has empirically researched on the manual elaboration of the paper. This led him to work with different types of fibers starting with those of a limited artisan use like cabuya, or fibers from wood-waste like sawdust and very fine ones such as abaca. His intention is to make paper that carries a meaning in its material composition but also the necessary technical support: flexibility, elasticity and resistant enough to bear a copper plaque or resist the process of a large-format engraving. If generally this technique has been limited by the size of commercial paper as by the size of our country’s printers, Romoleroux defeats these obstacles by producing his own paper and printing in a press built by him. He surpasses any technical conventionalities or local infrastructural limitations by “inventing” an adequate technique to suit his particular artistic needs. According to historic investigations, Pre-Colonial Ecuador produced large quantities of paper, a fact that bears a significant importance for the artist. In other words, his technical option is not only concerned with personal impulses but with tradition as well. In his words, it is a way to “give their memory back” to the peoples.While technique and support carry a conceptual meaning, the symbolic system is a result of deep reflection consisting of semiotic theories, research on Amazon culture symbolism and the elaboration of a personal symbolism that congregates this process. At the moment of creating, Intuition and gestuality surpasses the intellectual stage. The original sign, although sometimes still authentic, is a simple reference, an evocation that turns into the mark of the process and the liberation act that this implies. The serpentine shapes and the heightened colors create a surface that alleviates the severe contents of the symbol suggesting a free, joyous spirit.This same content is depicted in his last work with a language that moves beyond. He recurs to a mechanically manipulated figurative image, first, by the photographic camera and afterward by the computer. According to the artist this is an evident way to blend apparently contradictory cultural spaces that conform the present world. Flowers, as the serpentine shapes, are a symbol of freedom and hope as well as the integration of the ancestral and modern. In his work, it is the need to reach a liberating state of expression that allows for all creative actions, from the manufacture of handmade material to the intuitive process that leads to image production be integrated light-heartedly.
THE WORK OF ANTONIO ROMOLEROUX
DR. INES FLORES
We must begin by giving credit to the work of Antonio Romoleroux (Quito, 1968) for its organizational appeal: in this case the artist is the Demiurge who wisely builds each composition in order for the integrating elements to occupy their exact space in everything. Behind his work is his love for the being, represented by the TREE as the paradigm of nature whose spirit has been captured in depth, in its vital and mysterious flow. As he links the different ways of meaning, he magnifies silences and absences to transfer the enigmatic adventure of the jungle toward an artistic fact.To his work, Romoleroux incorporates a process of investigation and technical experimentation that is consciously transformed into artistic facts. He works with handmade paper, photography, and scanner, laser, metal and fire and through his work he speaks to us of different natural processes; but his speech includes new voices. It might be affirmed that in this way, a great metaphor of the relationship between art and science is being completed. Romoleroux alludes rationality and spirituality as well as individual and collective customs of modern man very strongly in terms of the TREE, victim of the transformations of a destructive process.The great JOYOUS TREE, with a flute-like trunk, achieved through acids and fire, with splendid textured spurts, in its luxuriance offers a disquieting narrative plot, and in PREGNANT TREE, the warriors (symbol of bravery) are distributed in a harmonious composition while the hammer-collage (strength and work) surpass the conflict between the shape and the object.Romoleroux redefines space as a product of a profound meditation, as a reflection of the man-nature duo. Therefore, he converts materials, canvas, organic paper and metals in symbolic elements; in other words, they communicate something to somebody; something that may be summarized in one word: poetry.
Raul Pérez Torres
Paper is like life, fragile and wonderful, Antonio Romoleroux said to us as he recycles fibers, cabuya, sawdust or abaca, it is the rediscovery of the song of the forests. Because the paper born from his hands is covered with the forest’s murmur and joy, as are the semiotic ancestral symbols that melt, harmonize, multiply and travel the long road of our search for identity.Art and nature that place the artist’s philosophy to a test, his diaphanous need to transit through the luminous Amazon cultures, those shamanic canticles that live in paper, in texture, in the musical ritornelle, reinventing an ancient language and using modern gadgets such as spray, laser, copper, photography with audacity, only to burrow in the depths of history, to redefine his surroundings full of textures and freedom.
At simple sight, it is identifiable with “materic” art because of his research on nature, the properties and combination of certain materials, Antonio Romoleroux may be related with the already distant informalism whose echoes were first felt within Ecuadorian art through Aníbal Villacís and Enrique Tábara, participants of the Spanish gestation of this movement. We could also enroll him with the graphic symbol and significant texture seekers, a reason for placing him among these artists as well as with Estuardo Maldonado.Nevertheless there is an aspect he has undertaken on his own in much of his work: the decorative immanence that involves the repetition of minimal shapes in a larger morphological context. This may be the deepest sense of what he disembowels. This is what his latest work seems to tell, photographs of female faces and bodies over which he has projected simple geometric designs, easily relatable with primitive tattoos.Without considering them as epigone manifestations of pre-colombianism or informal routes, his work full of tactile and retinal virtues, carries dexterities and charms of artisan work depurated by a sensitivity that solaces within the contrast of materials and the fine finishing which is not exempt from primitive elegance. These works have little or no paint at all, and the only thing in common with the art of painting is their bi-dimensionality.Asides from a healthy incursion in photography, which may be the beginning of a more radical renovation of languages, the novelty of his recent work is that in several cases, this is simply about paintings. Paintings that place an emphasis not only on the realist handling of fragments of nude female bodies but also on ornamental detail: rings, tattoos, piercing. A testimony of the decorative needs that have always been present among human beings.
ROMOLEROUX’S SYMBOLIC WILL
HERNÁN RODRIGUEZ CASTELO
Alangasí, June 5, 1996
Antonio Romoleroux won the “Mariano Aguilera” award in 1995 with one of his works that incorporates handmade paper with a copper plaque rich with etched trace. The simple metallic form, an elemental totem; symbolic in itself and heavy with symbolic drawings. It was a novelty due to the materials and elaboration – more so for the elaboration -; rich in hermetic senses and severe beauty.Even though successful in a national contest, he has also exhibited individually. Once again his artistic expression begins with the elaboration of support: handmade paper, made from sawdust, cabuya (hemp), and ceibo (from the silk-cotton tree) -, thick, rich in material and as a material, and rich in textures given by the material. He has used materials such as industrial and natural waste, recovered for his artistic expression. On the paper surface is a copper plaque, colored with acid to give it beautiful turquoise shades, for example- the incised etchings have enriched the symbolic writing. On the paper are also engraved etchings with white oil paint, traces gathered from old indigenous cultures.And the artist, anxious to multiply these semiotic fusions of human boundaries, has included in his work laser impressions that significantly reproduces the jungle warriors in their primitive and naïve nudity.In this firm unit of artwork, the game conjugates from nature to culture, and from the most primitive to the most advanced in science and technology. All of it gathered in an iconic message with the significant tension of artistic message and with a severe beauty that catalyzes the message.In this rich and suggestive line of work, the sample offers a manifestation that parts from a familiar referent: the tree. There are several trees. A symbolic forest in this unmistakable style.“Hollow trees,” adds to the support of this paper and the copper plaque includes three hollowed trees: in the set of nature and culture they represent the void. This may be interpreted as the somber annunciation of ecologic destruction or as any feeling of desolation.In ¨vital tree”, the paper support has the shape of a simplified treetop. Over this large surface there are copper leafs melted in horizontal, arbitrary and geometrical lines – and tree shaped hollowed leafs, in their natural order. To these suggestions, the trunk is added, which is a metallic tube with colored streaks due to acidification. The rich symbolism of this tree is that of the ease to access the world of symbols for the innocent spectator who may climb the tree to pick the fruits of senses and impressions.And another tree has laser impressions of warriors and metallic hammers cast in its top. New contrasts and therefore, new interpretations.But these are not the only techniques and expressions in this inciting sample: there are pieces that have a traditional streak. It seems that these have a symbolic sequence or gestual symbolism. But only seemingly: These artworks have interesting and significant artistic novelties.In order to understand them we must begin by observing the obverse: they seem like very heavily textured, rich surfaces with multiple traces and incised drawings that were made sometime ago during our pre-colombian age. Yet, this is only the obverse: what is not seen. From there, the color passes on to the canvas through the incised canals. Turquoises, yellows, reds, ochre; oxidation marks. The canvas gathers chromatic traces that passed from the other side – from the depth, from the not seen, and the artist completes them with his soft pastel illuminations respecting the symbolic sequential sketches (“No End”), or with energetic traces, almost gestual, created with a vaporizer (“Jungle”)In other words, not even then did he use only an easel: the same vigorous decision to explore possibilities with materials and techniques, always trying to bring forth dividends from concept and symbol. The same intransigent symbolic will.This will is so powerful that the artist rolls a large, rich engraving and places it inside a metallic tube … The work in both tubes is achieved with acid and fire – “The Being”, that with a soul of conventional artwork, is conceptual artwork. The being seen with a harsh, sometimes brilliant exterior, but with a pulp wealthy in language …
Mónica Vorbeck De la Torre
So far, Antonio Romoleroux is a young artist, born in Quito in 1968, his artistic career is yet brief, nevertheless, we can glimpse his eagerness to seek and the gradual consolidation of a need for individual expression, together with his immense capacity of material and formal experimentation.He attended the Colegio de Artes Plasticas –The Art School of the Central University of Quito for a period of three required years (1985-89) and almost simultaneously worked as a member of the serigraphy and engraving workshop of the Fundación Guayasamín (1988-90). In his first work, he focuses on satirical themes and social causes; these are of a classical cut in the formal aspect. But his work as an engraver is what paves his path: he knows how to take advantage from all the experience that practice gives him as well as the education he received in the courses given at the Guayasamín workshop. Between 1987 and 1991 he received mentions or awards as an engraver.1992 seems to be a year marked by the confrontation with diverse Amazon cultures. He makes the book cover for the book Mundos Amazonicos, which opened the doors to the universe of signs. He investigates the complexity of ancestral Amazon symbols and its insertion into cultural and natural contexts of the tropical rain forest. So begins a coherent, intuitive process in search of formal mediums for him to express his intentions. In the beginning, the signs are assumed with out major transformation, presently, these will bear more freedom and with it, a more suggestive capacity. An ornamental abstraction derives; many times it is calligraphic, lineal. The support becomes an active element, creating first an irregular relief surface by means of engraving techniques, presently gathering more importance within its matter and as a malleable element also created by the artist.Expressive need drives Romoleroux to learn in an autodidact, empirical manner the artisan process of making paper. In this process there is an implicit vision of the history of our civilization: the evolution of writing materials (Sumerian tables 4000 B. C., Egyptian papyrus 3500 B.C., parchment 200 B.C.), which leads to the invention of paper, attributed to an official of the Chinese court, Cai Lun around the year 150 A. C.But more suggestive than the symbolic implications of the origin and evolution of paper as a knowledge transmitter is the evocation generated by natural fibers and the evident manual process of its elaboration. Immediately, It takes us back to nature, primitive cultures, ancestral reminiscences that produce in us an appraisal of what is primary which has lost its meaning due to paper mass production and its daily, generalized use. It would be a very instrumentalist viewpoint if we say this is an ecological crusade. Romoloreoux does not create paper by recycling other kinds of paper, but begins with fibers such as cabuya, others as fine as abaca or as vulgar as sawdust. Wouldn’t it be a mere estheticism of the felling of forests and the abuse against nature? Nevertheless he manages to greatly sensitize the organic origins of paper and a distancing from its technological industrial manufacture.Also, Romoleroux incorporates engraved copper to the handmade paper, thus once again recovering the elaboration process, the esthetics of the worked surface and not the final result, impression. The contribution of graphic arts to the divulgation of knowledge, imagination and cultural traditions, religion, history and art only comparable with books is latently distant. From its origins in European art toward the end of the 14th century, one of the most highlighted and fascinating aspects of graphics has been to relay human creations, turning them into a sort of encyclopedia with images of culture. Romoleroux works with formal and matter mediums that were considered unconventional until the appearance of informal art during the fifties, but during the last four decades have been widely accepted. Spontaneous inspiration and the integration of randomness define the creative process. It is not pure painting, but a conjugation of many elaborations, experimentations and technical processes that produce an intermediate form between painting and objectual art. We may talk of material painting or better yet we should describe it as relief in paper and metal. The surface seems more like a live organism and the materials melt within the same pictorial plane, they speak their own language and allow the spectator a free flow of associations. These works do not intend an intellectual interpretation; they do not take impulse from our intellect but from our general sensitivity. Perception is directed by the materials that remit us to nature, to what is artisan, primitive cultures, the mystery of human knowledge, and in some cases his work has photographic images of the present as a counterpoint and integrating part of history.Most of Romoleroux’s work presents more or less the same concept structures; nevertheless, signs and shapes vary and seek harmony in their images. The composition obeys conventional esthetic principles, space is divided between large equilibrated surfaces, and inner structure is characterized by the wealth of organic and ornamental configurations.Many times, the desire to communicate instantly with a large audience seems stronger, a desire that impulses Romoleroux to use a conventional language pleasing to the sight. Nevertheless, great art must be dense in visual substance yet subtle in meaning, it must not exhaust at first sight. In his best work, Romoleroux subordinates his technical knowledge and his artisan dexterousness to his expressive intention and the energy of human nature emanates from the handmade paper and from the textures of natural fibers; artistic creativity is reflected in the arduous, laborious process of engraving on copper plaques, impressing and melting it on to the handmade paper; the depiction is spontaneous with insistent lines of abstract ornamentation, supports and images of the xx century are linked, creating a brusque yet suggestive contrast with the evocation of traces from the past .
Manuel Esteban Mejía
In Antonio Romoleroux there is a permanent interest for life and art that inevitably reflects his pictorial work. It is also inevitable that this interest sets forth as a vivid disquiet that guides his artistic thought and action to an extreme that during practice, this attitude is the beginning and end of his creative pursuit.In the same way, his work is the constant affirmation of a spirit unwilling to continue with the usual pictorial outlines because this would mean the renunciation to adventure and vitality that art bears. But this does not mean that he responds to impulses or the pure exercise of instinct, naturally, he does not reject them either. At this point, he possesses a necessary symbiosis, one that seeks to join ideas and accomplishments through an intense will to create.Vividly inclined toward experiences with matter and form, and undoubtedly seduced by certain technological contributions which he pampers in his intellect and work. This is why he produces from support, manufacturing the paper he will use, sometimes framed sometimes not, as well as applying natural pigments with a true chromatic meaning. Copper plaques in different formats, embedded in paper thus configuring a basal unity, join the organic and inorganic. Metal is submitted to acids in order to obtain and impose symbolic shapes that reminisce Amazon cultures, as is engraved paper in some cases and computerized photography in others. As a whole, this discards the assembly approach.Part of his intentions and explorations is that these artworks be hung, or also, as objects, separated from a wall; that they assume the virtue of a tapestry or highlight their irregularity concerning format. That they activate sensorial systems with the direct intervention of the spectator and that canticles and music be heard is one of the virtues. That the integrated materials and the developed symbols offer diverse meanings as well as chromatics, textures and mater density employed; this is the challenge the author makes to whoever confronts it.In these works there is a feverish will to express and not only to surpass technical obstacles, reason for which Romoleroux is not appeased by breaking-up with formality but reaches toward an integration where conceptuality and formality unite, intellectuality and the artisan conjoin energies to project an artistic image with a contusive result.His experience is significant within current Ecuadorian art. Intelligent and beyond time, it maintains and expresses a latent perception of surroundings which is one of his reasons for being. This is why it offers itself easily, but its possibilities are many when we burrow into personal values and collective meanings.This is not artwork that may be merely reduced to an experimental or articulate scale for it is has strong cultural substance. As we reflect on the context, it challenges the spectator with a persistent attitude or to join with it.What is above is not the least of his merits, but it reiterates this author’s creative and intuitive capacity when it comes to the search of the self.