In a way, painting hinges on a stroke of luck. In a small drawing from 1979, the artist Gaëtan wrote “Drawn with a knife, this can be a mortal stroke.” Even more than drawing, to paint is to always be on the wire, locked in an inner struggle, but also tussling with external circumstances, and with painting itself. “Stroke after stroke means decision after decision, and you can’t be afraid of what is going to happen next”. This gamble of choices evoked by Secundino Hernández in a conversation with Martin Coomer metonymically inscribes the act of painting — the artistic exercise — in the field of life. It’s a vital practice. There is no separation between the working hours spent in the studio and what’s lived outside that space of experimentation. The studio space does not imply a limit, a line separating fiction from reality. The substantial difference is that the studio works as a chamber that intensifies the experience of life. Every gesture, every inflection, every choice — physical, intuitive, instinctive, meditated, reflective — and every pause, expand exponentially. The studio space is a particle accelerator: forces combine and circulate, energy is created and, sometimes, unexpected things happen — things that are beyond the control of the artist.
Secundino never tires of asserting the importance of the process in his work, and of the role of chance in that
process. There is an evident performative dimension to it, a daily ritual that functions as a strange and yet familiar
circularity: making — unmaking — making again [to create always on the threshold of destruction]. In this sense,
he owes to the pictorial tradition of the Far East: preparation is a slow process of clearing the self, a process that
is best learned by doing. The hard part of the work is preparing, getting in, getting in shape; only then, suddenly,
through action, through gesture, does inspiration arrive. It is a permanent exercise in humility, in which one learns
to empty one’s ego. Painting is an embodiment of the world, often without distance or retreat, rather than a formal
or aesthetic exercise.
When, I saw the paintings being hanged on the gallery walls at Nuno Centeno’s, I was teleported to the Orangerie in Paris, and in my mind I was facing one of the most moving works in the history of Painting: Claude Monet’s Nymphéas [Water Lilies], an ambient-painting on an architectural scale, a work that submerges the viewer and summons them into a relationship that goes beyond the modes of visibility or visuality, a physical relationship, properly corporeal.
A certain liquid quality of Painting is not strange to this approximation, even if only perceptible as a memory or trace. The so-called “washed paintings” are one of the most important series of paintings by Secundino Hernández. In them, the process (the application of pressurized water on the canvas painted in several layers and later scraped off) is also a semantic (painting afore or past the image), and, even more, a temporalitas — it configures, perhaps, a vision of the world as contingency and fragility.
The pastel drawings on sewn paper also seem to speak of fragility — wide and delicate recomposed or reconstructed surfaces on which informal gestures are combined in subtle chromatic combinations. Saying no implies using many words, drawing is also an act of reparation.
Text by Nuno Faria