Man and the World
Before arriving at what was a sublime moment for him, one must pause, even if only for a few lines, and ponder Juan Antonio Guirado’s most academic work. Some of it is made up of obvious learning exercises, which every painter does at the beginning. Spanish architecture and landscapes. Other pieces resemble evident Costumbrist scenes also very Spanish in style. In any case, these are scenes that are imbued by a primitive, native realism. Nothing really special—however, not even the smallest or most uneven of details is to be dismissed when analysing the work of an artist. Little details can explain as much as psychoanalysis. That realism will never truly leave him. In fact, it will resurface in the midst of one of his most typical swathes of colour and abstraction. Out of the simplest of things, the most complex can emerge, as Brendan Prendeville claims in his book Realism in 20th Century Painting: “It is legitimate to doubt that the word ‘realism’ has a coherent meaning, given the diverse uses that have been found for it, in changing contexts and with reference to disparate work. As with any word that has a long history of varied use, its meaning is as complex as that history. […] Realism lacks a simple meaning; we may go further and admit that its meaning is conflicted or contradictory, that there is
more than one tradition at play.”9 Juan Antonio Guirado, after the years of teaching and learning, gambles with realism in a very surrealistic way.
The shadows of Spanish tradition, anonymous faces, veiled self-portraits, Death’s unexpected visits, armies of souls in purgatory, of chiaroscuros, of dreams and nightmares, all surface in his work. I do not know if, in his trips to Paris as a young man, Juan Antonio Guirado studied the masters of surrealism. But there is no doubt that, either consciously or unconsciously, they rooted themselves in his way of seeing the world and his way of seeing art. They will come back to him through meditation—subconsciously, not unconsciously—in his act of finding himself and the inner peace he yearned for. Maurice Nadeau states: “The surrealist movement was understood by its founders as a means of knowledge, of discovering continents that had not been yet systematically explored: the subconscious, the marvellous, dreams, insanity, hallucinatory states; in other words, the other side of logic’s décor.
The final goal will still be the reconciliation of two worlds that have been opposed to one another until then: man and the world.”10 The fact that André Breton was an artful, stupid egomaniac does not have any bearing on his laying down the foundations expressed by Nadeau. In the end, personality killed off personality and a suggestive art movement of the 20th Century came to an end. There was one, and only one, fundamental concept: “the reconciliation of man and the world.”
Surrealism must be stripped of all frivolity, of that phrase which is no less dazzling because it has been repeated too often, “an umbrella on an operating table”11 by Lautréamont. Juan Antonio Guirado does not pay attention to narcissists’ trifles. He digs deep, aiming for the long-lasting, at whatever he could scratch out of dreams and the corners of landscapes that, as has already been said, lie somewhere behind the battlefield.
That is why Guirado might draw inspiration from Dalí’s painting, and shelter himself under his cloak rather than in the manifestos drawn by others. Take notice that Dalí was expelled from the surrealist sect by its dictator-priest, Breton, and he found his own personality in the spotlight with resounding success. But this is not what has seeped into Juan Antonio Guirado’s work from Dali’s. In fact, if we stand in front of many of the paintings that Guirado made when already involved in Intrarealism’s maturity, that patina of minuscule but not trivial details does emerge. In this case, Dalí does nothing more than imitate primitive painters with all those incongruent details. Before Dalí there was Hieronymus Bosch and the whole of Flemish painting. As will be seen later, Hieronymus Bosch was one of the anchors and motors of Essentialism, which Guirado joined via a foundational exhibit in Malta. Landscapes within the landscape. Juan Antonio Guirado does not practice such meticulous, affected detail with the premeditation of a copyist. Like Goya or some of the masters of Impressionism and then Expressionism, in just one brushstroke he drops all of these meanings, and even more.
Behind the material emerges a court of disturbing trifles. I’m afraid that in Guirado, Surrealism is not something that has been studied, imposed or planned. It flows naturally, just like many other experiences that he carried with him and which end up being associated with the initiatory journey he began in Australia. There are mirages in Australia’s deserts. His pictures are a real place where they will reproduce or manifest themselves. Later, the Essentialist movement and its proposals will accompany him. But before, following chronological order, another “ism” comes into his life: Intrarealism.
To be cont.