Javier Riera and the intervened landscape

Andrés Barba

When commenting on his work-something he does quite eloquently-Javier Riera likes to use strangely moving terms: patience to describe the attitude that the artist must adopt toward the appearance of the object he depicts, detachment to refer to that second movement that every image elicits in the eye of the person contemplating it after the first impression and that provides the true aesthetic experience,process (rather than progress to describe the nature of the artist´s awareness of his own work and of the world he is attempting to depict). These terms are pleasantly unusual, as are his oil paintings and his photographs. I might add that, in this case patience is an especially appropriate term. Paraphrasing John Berger’s words on the work of Vermeer, he confessed to me that, when taking this photographs (the nature of with required lengthy nighttime exposures) he had the feeling that “light slowly filled the film, like liquid pouring into a water reservoir”. Aside from the beauty of this comparison, I have since come to consider it a clear-cut definition of the experience of light one has when contemplating these images. They give the impression of witnessing an unusual experience of the light (no longer a tool for measuring the passage of time, as it often is); the light here is somehow a de–nominalised light, detached from its own frame of reference. Just as mathematics and music are the most abstract sciences and arts because their aims is purely speculative and has no tangible correlation in the real world, the light of these photographs is in some ways a purer and more abstract light. It has less to do with the sun (time) than with our notion of light, less about  white and more about whiteness, less about passing and more about being.

Anyone who takes a moment to reflect on the nature of light discovers the same paradox; the extremely defenceless and helpless condition of a reality that cannot exist unless in connection with the existence of something else is ostensible. We do not really have an experience of light; instead, we experience illuminated objects. And yet one of the most beautiful and plausible myths regarding how we view the world is the story of Genesis, which ascribes the creation of all that is invisible to that enigmatic Fiat lux, which is not only a conditions of world’s visibility but also of its very existence. In these images, the light appears in an enigmatic state of grace, propitiating the appearance of a reality that is not usually visible.

The object onto which Javier Riera projects this light is uniquely significant: the landscape. At this point it seems pertinent to review the persistent presence of landscape in his previous work. As with the Greeks, the notion that there is a nature prior to concept that formulates it appears to be a recurring theme in Riera’s visual oeuvre. Just as the Greeks held, the physic exists there before the logos; it is the primordially sacred. The most radical step toward humanization that man has made in his entire history is managing to come up with an accurate way to reveal that same nature. The discovery of the concept freed man from his enslavement to the sacred physis. In that sense, the orientation of Riera’s work seems to be a very clear step towards its humanization. The light here does not just illuminate the landscapes – it penetrates it, tunneling corridors through the forest. The treetops stand out sharply against the sky, taking on geometric or crystallized shapes. Here, for the first time, the landscape is intervened.

The radical genesis of this project appears to lie in making the light that intervenes in the landscape go beyond the mere act of revealing it to actually shape it imposing its own architecture, its own geometry of light. In this way, these photographs by Riera awaken us to an awareness of the fact that the artist is immersed in a process of change or re-adaptation in comparison with his previous work. The transforming episodes in the natural process of artist’s lives tend to be particularly significant because they signal a conclusion of the past, but above all because they vividly show us the motion through which new intuitions emerge. I believe I can safely assert that there is a conception of the world that seems to have been “pacified” in these photographs, something decidedly intimate that has been resolved and expressed in the clean arquitecture of these images, their light and their arrangement. The confusion of times- the time of day, dawn or night when the image happens with the abstract time of that de–nominalised light- does not cause one to the conflict with the other. Here, the intervention in the landscape seems as natural as the usual as the usual course of nature itself. Proust gave a prodigious definition of love that can be accurately applied to the light of these photographs: “to live in an identical time”. The lights of these images – the intervened and the natural- live in an identical time; they do not combine or overlap, they occur simultaneously. The result is an image in which nothing happens except the light revealed in landscape.

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