Analogies: with words and without
foreword to the 1998 exhibition catalogue by Cecilia Vargas
Here is a paradox. I am a painter. I have chosen to use a non-verbal vehicle
to communicate and yet my work has very strong links with the written word.
I look for specific instances in poetry which move my imagination into a
creative frequency conducive to making paintings. For me, there is a strong
analogy between painting and poetry both at the point of creation and in the
moment of reception.
“The poem still offers possibilities of meaning - but only possibilities.
Should any of them be too precisely realised, the poem would lose the
greatest part of its efficacy, which is to agitate the consciousness with
infinite possibilities by approaching the brink of meaning and yet never
falling over it” (1).
It is ironic that I find myself quoting Clement Greenberg on an idea which I
believe grasps the essence of my recurrent linking of poetry and painting.
The efficacy to which he refers is the kind of efficacy I would hope my
painting could share with poetry. His seminal and controversial article had,
nevertheless, the opposite intention. In an attempt to clarify the
detrimental “confusion” that had been taking place between the arts “in the
past several centuries”, he sought to demarcate the boundaries between them
and to define their own specific identities (2).
“Tendencies go in opposite directions, and cross-purposes meet”, as
Greenberg also said (3). Cross-purposes they are. It is the case that I had
to refer to a theory of differences in order to find a way into an
understanding of similarity and analogy.
Octavio Paz says that difference gives life to analogy. It is because
something is not that it is possible to build a bridge between two words,
between two worlds. The bridge does not eliminate the distance, does not
cancel the difference. Analogy says that one thing is the metaphor of
another thing (4).
The visual repertoire which inevitably informs the physical appearance of my
present work is varied. It comes from painting, textiles, ceramics,
pavements, old walls, nature, science. This repertoire has been reworked as
an arrangement of repetitive motives within a given space. It has been
focused towards an exploration of analogy. Taken literally, repetitive
motives constitute a pattern. And yet what matters in this context is the
pattern’s analogical power - what it evokes. What it says and what it does
not say. That is the function of the bridge.
For me, pattern is rhythm. It is shape, it is ‘trapped colour’. It is not an
image, it is not static. It is in motion. It does not have internal
boundaries. There is no protagonism, no drama. It is something which is
happening. It is surface and substance, skin and structure. It speaks the
complex language of visual analogy, a silent rhetoric.
London, August 1996
(1) Clement Greenberg, 1985, ‘Towards a Newer Laocoon’, in Francis Frascina
(editor), Pollock and After. The Critical Debate, Harper & Row, London
(originally published in Partisan Review, Vol. VII, No. 4, July-August 1940,
(2) Op. cit., p.35
(3) Op. cit., p.40
(4) Octavio Paz, 1974, Los Hijos del Limo, Seix Barral, Spain