The painterly fictions of Javier Carricajo

Beatriz Vignoli

On his monumental oils on canvas, Javier Carricajo brings together the technique in Venetian and Flemish paintings with 20th century thriller film visual syntax in order to produce disquieting fictional images. His realistic paintings push the seemingly true to the edge of the impossibly real. These pictures do not record a moment in time. Their previous outline was made up editing together and merging several photographs from studio sessions by the artist. Drawing some inspiration from films by Alfred Hitchcock (who superbly mastered out-of-field narrative effects), Carricajo brings ominous innuendoes to the expectancy of next frame.

I’ve been lately more interested in gestures and almost some suspense, in outlining a situation that can never be completely figured out –a scene with missing clues, belonging to something that goes on in another paintings but that you cannot guess where does it end, or where has it begun. I intend to produce that sort of tensions which are suggesting something I cannot fully comprehend myself. For, if I get the full picture, I can’t see the point of it. Certain mystery/horror thrillers have that kind of suspense when you cannot guess what’s coming up next. And that’s very Hitchcock; anything might happen...” (Javier Carricajo, unpublished interview, October 21, 2008).

That fearful something lurking out of frame connects his work to some contemporary culture of the embarrassing picture –those blurry and vaguely perverse records of anonymous deeds on the Internet. Two self-portraits, one painted in 2007 and another one in 2009, show the painter in two self-images that, in spite of the relatively short span of time between them, couldn’t differ more widely. In the first one, as a long haired and spectacled young man, Carricajo sits with a drawing block on his lap, poised for hunting after his subject. His poodle dog playfully romps by his side. The figures are arranged in a pyramidal composition, Renaissance-style. The frontal back of the chair provides a square angle that breaks the continuity of one of the sloping lines.

In the other self-portrait, his face confronts the viewer and is framed by an evenly short hair. Standing with one of his works as a background, the painter holds a huge palette in his hands. Save for the modern T-shirt the attitude of the artist’s figure –as well as the light, rich in shadows, that draws its shades and chiaroscuro– refer back to Counter-Reform Baroque portraits of martyrs. “A painting is a statement”, the artist has said, and every one of his paintings exemplifies such overall law –particularly these ones, where every iconographical item is endowed with a readable iconological sense.

Art critic and curator Ana Martínez Quijano refers to “displacements and fusions” when addressing the work of painters who conceive their images in photographical terms (Carricajo, among them) as well as of photographers who think painterly theirs. There is a new humanist realism by Javier Carricajo and his local peers (Juan Balaguer, Paula Grazzini, Mario Godoy, Pedro Iacomuzzi or Jorgelina Toya) that should not be mistaken for a mere photographical realism. It’s a new trend, one that spins from the hyperrealisms from the seventies (represented in Argentina by Juan Pablo Renzi, Diana Dowek or Pablo Suárez) in order to go one step beyond the photograph as document, looking for the painting as make-believe. Both find a common ground in their sharp awareness of the fictional nature of the image. Or what Plato, in The Sophist, would call mimesis phantastiké, “the art of phantasmagoria”.

Rosario (Santa Fe, Argentina), May 2010