Julio Mateo:
how meaning emerges in abstract art

Metaphysical Art by Julio MateoMy paintings come to be through a paradoxical, almost antithetical combination of absolute spontaneity of execution (they tend to happen all at once, without fussing or changes) and a long period of preparation where I consider all about them before painting them in a flash.

My images are both spur of the moment and pre-meditated. They are both the product of intense study and intellectual considerations, and of intuitive inspiration and passionate emotion.

Their initial inspiration is of the spur of the moment, from unconscious doodles or rhythms. Then I usually go through a long period of analyzing them, considering them and understanding the images in different ways and from different points of view.

This stage, when I am considering images and thinking about them, typically involves many sketches-- at first small, then larger, usually in charcoal on tracing paper, where I continue to understand the meaning of an mage and its permutations, its tolerance for distortions and its possible variations, considering different possible manifestations of its essential form. I may then go on to make further small sketches in color, usually in pastel, and beyond that, sometimes, larger drawings, if the composition is somewhat complicated in pastels or watercolor. I spend a long time thinking about the image, about how to paint it, about its scale and the proportions of the canvas (many of my paintings are large, about 9 feet tall by 7 wide), and getting the rhythm of the form's gesture, of its rhythmic "swing."

When the time comes to execute the actual painting, I experience a lucid calm. Working on instinct I mix the colors, choose my instruments and surrender to the flow of the event and to my feeling of knowingness about the image. A painting's execution may typically takes a few minutes, usually not more than a few hours. I may do more than one in a day, or only one.

Since I usually work in series, I stay with a given suite of paintings, usually numbering from 10-20, but sometimes as many as 30 or 50, until I complete the set.

I start a new painting series by gathering materials: buying canvas and lumber to Metaphysical Art by Julio Mateostretch all the paintings I have decided to make for the new, as yet inconceived series. I spend much more time, in fact, stretching canvas, building stretchers and priming canvas than actually painting the images.

There is usually a period between painting series when I study the last series' paintings, enjoying them and getting to know them, collecting impression and ideas from them, regarding them individually and within the context of the completed suite.

Later, a period of thrashing around sets in during which I consider what to do next-- what, given what I've done up to then, I may want to do next, or what may be left to be done-- sometimes taking stabs at smaller canvases to try out new ideas and images. I may work on other projects, as well, both before and during the execution of a series of paintings, turning out etchings, drawings and smaller paintings.

Eventually I get some ideas that I feel are interesting and worthy enough to become paintings and I begin the next series by deciding to make first one, then a second, and a third. The rest of the paintings in a suite develop out of a feedback process that considers those I have already done and what kinds of things I feel the new series will be about.

In this phase there is a lot of sitting around, looking at earlier paintings, thinking about them, about possibilities; getting ideas, inspirations…In general, I don't do much reworking or wrestling with the canvas or with the stuff of painting. My work doesn't emerge, generally (any more) from a process-oriented search and struggle, nor through the playing out, or the exorcising of intense emotions, or of psychological dramas; nor do I look at paintings as a matador before a bull, nor think of them as worthy foes that I must vanquish, or conquer through force of will. I think of my works as phenomena that somehow manifest through my agency, and my relationship to them is one of wonder and respect. I am amazed by them, sensing that they are their own selves despite whatever intentions I may have had for them, or any expectations of what they might be.

As I work on a new series the sense of the suite as a whole emerges through a process analogous to musical composition: themes, images, melodies come forth through inspiration. They are considered, explored and refined to their essence. Their identities are discovered and understood. Variations are developed and evolved, and, as well, the different expressions of their common essence is also discovered and understood. Within a suite relationships between paintings and larger themes are perceived, and large and small patterns between them are established. Main compositional elements, parts within parts, parts of the whole, are articulated. The sense of the whole, the "signature pattern," consisting of multi-valenced patterns formed from the interrelationship of the parts is understood and expressed in various degrees of explicitness.

The results are the stuff of Art; of architecture, music, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry, literature, philosophy. The art piece: an abstract manifestation in sensible Metaphysical Art by Julio Mateoform, its parts interrelating within a coherent whole; the patterns of their interrelations rhythmically orchestrated through the particular methods of its craft, defined by its medium; the art piece exhibiting order, intelligence, form, correspondences between its identity as a whole and its parts; an order, intelligence, form and sympathetic resonances to which our souls respond, in recognition, perhaps, of their own essential being. "Like Nature."

I like to make paintings that are alive, that breathe and glow, that are light, enduring, that are nourishing, healing and benign, that are generous, grand and expansive, that reflect the highest sublime expression of all that is best and highest in me.

My current work deals in part with the evolution of images with complex associative meanings from elemental abstract marks and shapes. The connections between basic spatial configurations in nature and art sparked my explorations of how the grammar of rhythm and process work within the limitations of physical space to determine structure and form.

Following simple principles of organization, Nature creates infinitely varied, yet inevitably harmonious forms. The relationship between geometric and natural forms led to my interest in how meaning emerges in abstract art, and in art's ability to provide insight into the nature of life.

Metaphysical Art by Julio Mateo

By Julio Mateo
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