Ornamento Escondido – Jerónimos monastery
Acrylic on aluminum panels
A work in 15 steps
1 – on the walls of the church, certain grooves seemed to run in lines that traced arches and outlines of drawings. The blocks of stones interrupted those lines without impeding their continuity. In the dim light of the interior of the church those drawings appeared and disappeared in response to the clouds that drifted capriciously by, blocking the rays of the sun.
2 – I begin my walk through the cloister. In my mind’s eye i make pictures with all the memories I can summon, including those of certain Sunday mornings when, hand in hand with my father, I strolled between these arches.
3 – In the cloister, revolving on the spot, I gazed round a full 360º. My eye passed from detail to detail, taking in the thousands of ornaments, each merging into the next, looking the same but always different.
4 – The yellow-ochre of the stone became more intense by the contrast with the blue of the sky. Between areas of light and shade there is a continual, warm vibration.
5 – It is impossible to stay still in this place. Wandering through the cloister is inevitable, compulsive. At one moment I want to watch a detail, a piece of ornamentation, then immediately I want to see what comes next. Thus the eye proceeds, in a cinematographic sequence, moving in and out, from panorama to close-up, interleaving continuous vision with frame-by-frame. Framing is set up in the interstices of the stone blocks, testing the equilibrium between the different forms.
6 – In the sacristy a set of medium-size paintings show scenes from the life of St. Jerome. My gaze alights on one in which jagged mountains and scattered clouds stand out in the background.
7 – On the stairs leading to the upper choir, a twin window with two stone benches defines a halfway halt. I sit down and look out. Several planes are superimposed, silhouetted one against another, until the eye comes to rest on the outer walls of the cloister.
8 – On the stairs leading to the upper cloister there are Windows on one side only. They define rectangles whose dimensions I note down, seeking to discern a proportional relationship.
9 – I decide to take photographs. On several occassions I find myself in Jerónimos just to collect images that could provide a basis for drawings. I decided not to draw from life but to work with the photographs on the computer.
10 – I begin to lay down coloured backgrounds with drawings made from the views I have recorded. The results multiply and from the 50 drawings selected I move to as many possibilities for paintings.
11 – I arrange the grid of aluminium panels, giving the surfaces the dimensions of the Windows of the site where my work will be installed.
12 – I fine tune the dimensions of the panels and the background colour using projections on site. The two thicknesses of the elements of this huge painting will reveal themselves when I move in relation to the panel.
13 – The viewer’s gaze will thus be engaged in various ways by the frontal and lateral observation that is inevitably involved in walking up and down the stairs on the site. The field of vision also changes as the eye moves towards and away from the surface of the painting as the viewer walks past.
14 – Now I can start work. Shut away in the studio I try out colour mixes. One colour for the background. Another for the line that defines the design that reveals views in the cloister. Another colour for the thick superimposed line.
15 – “Undisclosed Ornament”: a painting made up of 24 aluminium panels, painted with acrylic, arranged in an irregular grid, 5 cm apart, measuring 80 x 80 x 6 cm (4 panels), 80 x 150 x 6 cm (10 panels) and 80 x 150 x 10 cm (10 panels), the overall dimensions being 505 x 545 cm. This painting was completed in March 2002.
Pedro Calapez, April 2002