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Introduction by Ignacio Gómez de Liaño

Vernissage of Guadalupe Luceño's exhibition Visions at the Casiun. Arab-Syrian Cultural Centre in Madrid, September 18th, 2006.

(There's no written original support of following presentation held by Mr. Gómez de Liaño in Spanish. It was registered on September 18th, at the ASCC, and later on transcribed and translated into English by Guadalupe Luceño who assumes any possible transcription and/or translation errors. Following transcription/translation is being hereunder reproduced with permission of his author.)


Ambassador, Director, Guadalupe, Luis, ladies and gentlemen.

Well, the reason for being here is due to a strange confluence. Some years ago I received at the University a letter from Guadalupe stating that the artistic phase she was in at that time, developing a kind of mandalic or diagrammatic structures —like those we see on this side—, had been somehow inspired by some of my books that had been published on 1998 —The Circle of Wisdom— as a result of a long research around a matter I would like to briefly expose, inasmuch as it establishes the basis —from an idiological point of view— for the compositions surrounding us. And, furthermore, the mentioned research that met with such a fortunate, and, on the other hand, free and spontaneous pictorial echo in Guadalupe Luceño also leads us to Syria. As a matter of fact, I performed two trips to Syria in order to deepen my research. Though this research —it might be suitable to say, otherwise we wouldn't quite understand what we are talking about— has to do with the use of such diagrams, such geometric structures, mainly with those inspired by zodiacal cosmological diagrams, with the use of diagrams aiming to potentialize memory, in order to organize thinking, even as life itinerary. In fact, this vision comes from the classical art of memory invented in the 5th century BC by a Greec poet, master of the sophists, Simonides of Ceos, who discovered the ability places have to raise memories. A question supported by contemporary researches, though, if we remember, it's the hippocampus —a small area in the middle of the brain— where anything related with places is being processed. If this area, responsible for storing places, suffers any harm, memory will be damaged. This is the first rule: for a better reminder you have to organize a system of places, putting on each place images which also have to respond to certain rules, such as to be remarkable for a better fixing in memory.

In the 1st century BC there was a wise Greec at the service of King Mithridates VI of Pontus, whose empire was an enemy of Rome, opposing no less than Pompeius. Mithridates knew more than thirty languages, those that were spoken across his empire which extended from Turkey to the Caucasus and Armenia, and reached Syria, directly or through his son in law, Tigran. Mithridates' advisor, Metrodorus of Scepsis —town located near Istanbul, in what we know today as Turkey—, caused a revolution in the art of memory. Instead of using locations like houses, he decided to draw on zodiac diagrams, that is to say, on the twelve main locations of the zodiac with their corresponding mathematic divisions of the 360-degree circle. This kind of diagrams has a long history. I've had the honor, if you allow this immodesty —otherwise I would miss the truth—, to reconstruct the historical path of such diagrams after Metrodorus, within gnostic groups, that is, within groups arisen in the region of Antioch, Damascus, Alexandria, and Samaria, at the same time as Christianism did, though they adopted certain mythical figures that Christianism didn't, such as Sophia, Sophia Prouniko, also adduced to by Guadalupe, and an important zodiacal/astrological astronomical component.

Fortunately, during the last forty years some archeological and papyrological findings —actually codicological ones, though they refere to very important codices— have been made, especially in Egypt, in the region of Nag Hammadi, the famous library near the ancient Pachomian monastery at Chenoboskion. There the 4th century codex has been found, which has enabled me, together with some others, to reconstruct the Barbelognostic diagram —the Setian-barbelognostic one of early 2nd century AC—, as well as the Valentinian one of middle 2nd century, and others not completely due to insufficient documentation. These diagrams make a sort of spiritual use of mnemotechnical principles, a spiritual implementation —somehow like the Via Crucis or the Interior Castle (“Moradas”) of St. Teresa of Avila— which, besides, is also present in the later Sufism, as well as in the Cabala. All these spiritualist inventions —with a plastic, mainly geometric component— were adopted by Manichaeism. I was lucky enough, or honoured —or maybe it just came up as a result of work— to reconstruct the two Manichaeist diagrams. This was the contents of the first volume of El círculo de la sabiduría [“The Circle of Wisdom”], 600 big format pages, followed by a second one of over 500 additional pages, where I show that the background of Buddhist Tantric mandalas —the only ones out of all these spiritual artifacts that have reached our days through India, Tibet and China— has to be found there, obviously with a Buddhist patina. I sometimes compare it with a refrigerator as an artifact that may contain different things. I mean, it must not necessarely contain a Gnostic, or Manichaeist, or Buddhist ideology.

So, it seems quite clear now what all these researches impressing Guadalupe and converging in her work were about. I must admit that I was thrilled by the fact that a painter —whose work was bringing in, as far as I could see, so much freshness, and, on the other hand, connected with Syria— took on this mindset. I would like to mention that ten years ago I went to Syria to visit the precedents, and also to Lebanon, to Baalbek —those roofs with geometric structures in one of Baalbek's temples—, and also admired the wonderful geometric mosaics in Syrian museums like in Damascus, Apamea, and others. It's especially in that region where this kind of, let's say, artifacs appeared. I must say that travelling through Syria was highly enriching to me. I feel very indebted with Greco-Roman roots which become so impressively manifest in Syria... In Syria there still are, let's say, protochristian groups. Besides, thanks to the former Spanish Embassador —Mr. Gil Armangué, unfortunately deceased— I even had the chance to meet the Patriarch of Antioch and Damascus, on the occasion of an anniversary, where I had the opportunity to also meet many representatives of the different Churches in Syria. Syria is a museum not only for most lively ruins, but also for a most lively spirituality. Even the Aramean language is still being used in Chaldean rites.

That is, the Syrian component in Guadalupe's oeuvre also arouse my interest. But I must say that there was another reason, too. Besides this particular genealogy joining us, there is another, let's say, wider one in art history, that is the vindication of geometric structuralism in 20th Century's art. There are two fundamental poles in art history since the most remotest antiquity: one, the best known in the Occident, is the figurative art aiming to reproduce phenomenal reality in a most possible illusionistic way. So that, standing in front of “The Meninas”, one believes that he's really is in the Alcázar's dwelling together with the painter itself, the infanta, the kings reflected in the mirror, etc. This trend may already be observed in the bisons of Altamira. But, there is another trend, another pole, where the artist's interest rests on playing with geometric structures. And this art just appears developed first in the Syrian-Phoenician region. If you visit the great archeological museums, including the Syrian ones, but also the Louvre or Metropolitan, you'll see a long series of Syrian-Phoenician gold works, bowls, mirrors, decorated with geometric structures as well as with some animal depictions, usually related with an astrological kind of diagramms. So, this kind of art emerging arround the 10th century BC in the Syrian-Phoenician region would influence greek ceramics. Later on classic art would give preference to figurative depiction of human being, of what it represents, of the landscape, etc. But a great lot of such structures would also appear in mosaics. I enjoyed very much watching them in Damascus, not only in the inner courtyard of the Great Mosque, where you find some wonderfull genuinely Greco-Roman mosaics. Also in other buildings there are arabesques, lattice-work of the Omeyade period, where you can just observe the transition from Roman geometric painting —mainly found in mosaics, especially in that region— to what we know by arabesques, whose magnific representations we may find in Spain in the Mosque of Cordoba and all over the Alhambra in Granada. In that sense Syria, and Damascus in particular, is a bridge over this geometric art genealogy.

The geometric art I'm referring to, with the mentioned precedents, had always been cultivated in western art, in Europe, although obviously mainly in an ornamental context. Only by the Fifteens and Twenties of the 20th century, with groups like suprematists, neoplasticists, etc., some artists began to refuse reproducing the phenomenal reality and decided to play with purely geometric structures. For them reality in painting was not the representation of reality, but the geometric composition itself. That is, reality is the painting itself, not what it represents. I've been very close to this art stream in the Sixties, with artists like Oteiza, Palazuelo, Elena Asíns, Eusebio Sempere, Lugán... to mention only some of the most relevant names in Spanish geometric art during the Fifties and Sixties. Therefore I was delighted to see that Guadalupe, being in the general stream of contemporary aesthetic, had shown interest in taking let's say the more spiritual facet of this stream, that is, the utilization of such structures, not for the simply aesthetic play's sake, not for the sake of ornamenting, of decorating, but as a depicting of her own spiritual structuring process. This I had not seen in other geometric artists, where maybe the pure mechanicist, tecnological element, the purely aesthetic element or the avant-garde rupture prevailed. Whereas in the case of Guadalupe Luceño I really saw this other side which for me was especially interesting during my historical studies of ideas. And I think you may see that through her own way of manifesting herself. Now, how she spiritually uses all these diagrams I wouldn't dare, of course, to say. I don't know if the artist herself would like to reveal those secrets which usually are jealously hidden, though they belong, so to say, to intimate life. At the end of the day, that's what an artist exposes: his or her intimate life all of the sudden becomes public. Therefore, I must admit that it has been a very pleasure to be here —and for the first time—, in this heartwarming room.

I cannot say that much of poet Luis Luna, since I know less his work, but I may say that reading the three parts constituting his Syrian Suite [Sorry!, Spanish version only] —besides, congratulations, Luis— I've observed the very well achieved aim to reflect his vision of this paintings. I have written down some strophes, for instance, the first one out of “Souk”, where he says: Drawing / lines in the air. / Studying the architecture / of solitude. I think this is a very good poetic reflection. Or also: Suddenly the light / narrates a history / in a geometric way. / In multiple fragments / laying out harmony. And the last eight ones, though he should be actually reading them... but I have chosen them because I think they are especially relevant regarding Guadalupe Luceño's work. They state: Drawing / on the sand / words / so that only the wind / may pronounce them. / They say water / flows beneath the desert. / Like myself / beneath myself.

Thank you very much.

© Ignacio Gómez de Liaño
(Reproduced with permission of the author)
Translation: Guadalupe Luceño