Ricardo Valbuena

by Judith L. Carmel

Museum of Modern Art, Bogota 1987

Within the panorama of relative contemporary mediocrity, where in multitude of exhibitions one gets to meet the artist and ask one self how this more or less noticeable, pleasant or shy individuals produced the works on show- works that on occasion are even less noticeable than it’s authors - Ricardo Valbuena is an unexpected surprise, for he is as energetic and engaging as his work and both deserve especial attention.

Valbuena’s paintings and drawings are openly expressionistic both for their emotional content and their execution. They show the concentrated capacity of the lines and brush strokes to reveal the animated gesture of the artist and produce splendid pictorial images charged with various emotions. Some times the emotion is silent and evasive like in the series of the Underground and in others it is intensely dramatic.

In this case a strong and loose calligraphy is used to define forms and figures, causing a disquieting sense of motion. This is particularly true of the monumental Blue Triptych and other compositions that are overpowering because of the strong physical presence of the figures.

In choosing not to represent a specific environment but rather isolate a figure or a face against a neutral background and present it directly, the artist intensifies the emotional impact that his images can exert on the viewer. The monumental faces covered by a gas mask or partially hidden behind a hand, in particular, produce this type of crude and immediate psychological energy.

Other subjects where chosen for their potential to create in the spectator a feeling of anxiety or urgency. This is the case with the series of horses. Here the figure is placed frontally against an abstract background that allows the artist to produce images full of strength and movement.

This sense of immediacy in life characterizes much of Valbuena’s work. The different figures that inhabit his world are not represented in identifiable narrative contexts, since the artist openly conspires against painting as a vehicle to tell stories. His images are isolated instances of human vulnerability; fragile abstractions; symbols. Some pieces where inspired by the London Underground. These images are silent. Speed envelopes the isolated figures that seem trapped in a disturbing stillness. The apparent immobility and feeling of entrapment of these figures is a disquieting experience, for it shows us their great susceptibility to urban isolation. The painter creates a particular inner tension by visually juxtaposing the emotional conditions of each scene with his energetic drawing technique.

One expects the figures to move and jet they don’t. After viewing Valbuena’s work, to turn around and walk away, is to allow this images to echo repeatedly in one’s memory.