An Apostole of Silence
by Julio Sanchez
Among the qom it was meritorious to learn to remain silent, or to speak only when essential. Silence helped protect spiritual intimacy, and reinforce the links with Nature. The qom were called tobas by the white men, and they inhabit the Argentinean Chaco.
A scene from Rhapsody in August by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa: an old lady - a survivor of the atomic explosion that destroyed Nagasaki - is visited by her old lady friend. They sit down to have tea, and they remain in silence. One of her grandchildren finds it a bit crazy for his grandmother to sit in front of her guest without uttering a word.
There is a culture of silence that is universal and timeless. Of which Martín La Rosa's paintings partake.
In his pieces there are some men who do not occupy the center of the scene; rather they are a footnote to the silence. The horizontal lines of the floor accentuate the quietude. In one of his paintings there is a white cloth that drapes a plank supported by two sawhorses, resembling a rustic and improvised altar. Upon it, a man snuggles. He is protected by an infinite silence, sheltered by a light of eternity. It looks like the dream of a man who dreams of himself.
Another man rests an arm over an uncertain piece of furniture. There is
nothing, except for a wall and the floor.
The character is like a neighbor who sits on the front step of his house to watch the absent dwellers of a ghost town go by. But he is inside a mute room. A supernatural calm delays the wait for someone who doesn't arrive.
In another painting, a bearded man sits on a chair and, within the same
environment, looks upward, but nothing bursts in. Barely a minuscule
difference of tint in the light that envelops him. It seems that only when we quiet down can we distinguish the subtleties that surround us. In poem 63 of the Tao Te King one can read: Practice non-action, dedicate yourself to not busying yourself with anything, taste that which has no taste.
In another set of pieces, Martín – with the precision of a Flemish paintbrush - paints still lives. English captures it best: still life, life laying still, (the literal Spanish term is "dead nature").
There are flasks and empty bottles; pure transparency, pure container
without content. A few quinces are the only living company. Some are young and fresh, others convey the passage of time in their excessive ripeness.
And that which, in other paintings, appeared to be suspended outside of time, here acquires the dimension of the vanitas, the one inspired by Ecclesiastes (1,2), vain and ephemeral pomp.
Martín's craft relies upon Caravaggio's least dramatic light, upon Vermeer's most melancholy sun, upon Morandi's crepuscular density, and upon his own withdrawn gaze. But time and light appear to be the true mainstays of his paintings. The glassware, ceramics, fruit and humans are appendices to eternity. His art arouses in the onlooker the very silence it represents. In the latest series there is merit beyond an outstanding technique. There is another, superior, value, and it is the ability to remain silent in the face of stridency, so as to be able to connect with something more profound and more true. Like the qom. Like Kurosawa's old lady.