Quite often it is psycho affective stimuli hidden in the memory that drive the themes in the artist’s work, especially when this work has been developed away from the far away country that exalts memory as well as the wounds, scars and little joys of childhood. In the nostalgic heart of the expatriate, mother earth is felt even more intensely, inducing the displacement of meaning or the way in which reality is perceived. When living in a universe lacking in references, he can only account for illusions. Thus, his signs belong to a language of pain, in accordance with his internal demand.
This preamble introduces FERNANDO MONTES, a Bolivian from La Paz, trained in Buenos Aires, Madrid and London, where he has settled down. Despite the distance, he has not felt the need for inventing a mythical homeland for himself in order to represent his community and create his singular iconography, anchored in daily existence. In effect, he has never ceased o to paint every reality, that of the humble, hardworking people of the Andean highlands, sitting women, alone or accompanied by their children, the deserted plateau lashed by a wind that we imagine harsh, the ruins of temples and abandoned cities from the pre Columbian era, the remnants of ancient dwellings crowned by the summits of the cordillera.
Although he feigns interpreting all too evidently a silhouette that impresses the retina right away, he does it to better recreate the oppressive atmosphere of the surrounding space, its unforgiving light, its layer of silence, the thinness of the air, nature in a raw state. Emotion is born, here, from the imposing solitude, from the harsh nudity of the landscape, from the heavy silence of suspended time, from those incarnate yet distant characters, massif and anonymous, bent under their silent pain, fused with earth and sky. The rigor of the environment, the haughty and desolate ruins on the mountainside, the meditative posture of those women with erased faces in close up, the extreme severity of the compositions plunge us in their petrified vertigo.
Yet, when elaborating his indigenist typology, Fernando Montes does not illustrate the picturesque or appeals to it; neither does he resort to the archetypes of a conventional imagery. Harnessing the power of painting he evokes by equivalence rather than narration his mineral like creatures emerging from the shadows of antiquity. What exudes from his sculptural configurations is, above all, “their intimate immensity” and their relationship with the universe. Yet, the contemplation is not totally lacking in tension, but drama does not have a bearing on the seemingly serene surface.
To raise his pyramidal architectures, his groups of women or children wrapped in somber clothes, his ruins and his peaks, Montes has developed his own tempera technique, with colours prepared by himself. This technique has, according to him, “the marvelous ability of reflecting light, the primordial element of my quest”. His work is based on a precise and meticulous stroke, with geometric accents, coated with a granulated matter obtained through wise chromatic combinations of predominantly gray contrasts, spattered with touches of alternately sharp and soft light. Then, he lucidly creates these concealed spaces, real refuges of natural colours, these unlimited landscapes that convey a sense of withdrawal, away from the urban miasma, a sense of freedom of indifference, unless it all is only about virtue and wisdom.
It is evident that all the weight of an ancient culture so many times affronted resonates in the unique images that Fernando Montes presents images that are both simple and grave, impregnated with solemnity and deep spirituality, continually elevating the mind.
Critic and Art Historian