Jose Maria Arenzana
“Reality is not all it is made out to be”. That is what my friend Estulin says.
Daniel Estulin, the grandson of a KGB colonel and son of a scientist who suffered reprisals at the hands of the USSR, pertained to the Soviet military counterespionage and describes in the following way, the underworld that is hidden behind the curtain: “The world of espionage is a reality of smoke and mirrors”.
And what does a spy have to do with all of this if I have come to speak to you about the work of a painter of exceptional sensitivity called Francisco Cayetano Naranjo Jurado? Before I explain allow me to interpolate or digress. I have always doubted the capacity of words (consider they are my sole tool) to meddle in the other Arts: Painting, Music, Sculpture, Architecture, Cinematography…Whereas other disciplines can bathe and go into depth in Literature, I mistrust the potential of words to apprehend or contribute anything to the other Arts. I have seldom felt that while talking about a pictorial or cinematography work, words would be making it greater. I sense, on the other hand, that no language achieves anything other than a buzzing around the melodies or the paintings like bothersome flies during a summer siesta.
Hence, I would prefer to hold onto words, in this case the ones of a spy, so as to speak to you, through them, about the pictorial work of Paco Naranjo: poetic and as inapprehensible as a dream; melodious and nostalgic like a fragment of memory found amidst the fresh grass; jovial and secretive like a treasure of pearls and pirates; colorful and amusing at times like a carousel at a fair; on occasions sad and beautiful like a Renaissance lady; lyrical and evocative like the loose verse of a magnificent poet. At last we speak of words.And it is said that reality is not as we are shown it to be. But most likely that is because they don’t know the work of Paco Naranjo; because Paco Naranjo paints reality. Yes, it is reality itself what we see in his paintings, only, it is colored with the emotions that go unnoticed by mortals; and I say well, mortals, because through his art Paco Naranjo has achieved what can only be achieved by great heroes: becoming immortal.
We, poor immortals, are the mortals.Paco Naranjo’s reality is, as spies say, a reality of smoke and mirrors; of a thousand discordant faces reflected to infinity; of fleeting moments that go through us, of everlasting flashes on the deepest recesses of memory; of oneiric invented scenery; of walks that are unforeseen and atomized by reminiscence; of indescribable clicks thundering our hearts; of mists and false spider webs composing splendid salons furnished with sparkles and silver dishes.
Reality as we see it is solid and as Paco Naranjo sees it is watery and flexible, like a contact lens. The same lens that he uses to move us through time and space; to situate us at the very edge of a lake located on the outskirts of the city of Utopia; to extract from us a smile or to plunge into us a stab of mystery.
Paco Naranjo draws and paints with the precision and exquisiteness of the shy, and he composes with the freshness and the talent of a being free from ties. He jokes with reality, he salts it, he marinades it, and knowing that energy is not created or destroyed, he transforms it into a game of magic worthy of Alice in Wonderland.And, what’s more, Paco narrates to us fabulous symbolic tales of princesses of old, of ceremonious looks, of kisses that got away and that wander around other lips; of lazy lights, of brilliant cities and transistorized planets: of tangos dreamed of; of children like himself, amazed at the everyday spectacle of life that passes beside us; of concealed desires; of lightning that doesn’t cease; of beautiful silent rooftops; of shadows that don’t reach; of impossible loves that perfume this sweet air that envelops everything.On a certain occasion Mario Vargas Llosa (you see, in order to refer to painting I prefer to speak about words) paid tribute to a great friend of his, the unknown Peruvian poet, Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, and quoted one of his beautiful poems in prose (“Eternal Love”), which for some strange reason unbeknown to me condenses and very much resembles the inspiration that is produced in me upon contemplating the work of Paco Naranjo (what else can be done in presence of a pictorial work? Perhaps waste time on words?) If I may, it reads like this:
“It is frightening, sometimes, to find that the road plummets and that you have to go down clinging to the rocks with your nails. In this circumstance, one can only advise that at one hundred meters from the bottom you let go.The fall is delightful: your body has become permeable; it is crossed through by flowers, aromatic leaves; brooks, algae, sea foam, threads of rain, woman’s locks, snowflakes. These, at last, solidify around you, later to explode like a pomegranate thrown with violence into the the face of the beloved woman, who appears smiling after the vertiginous trajectories of the red seeds.”
The end to words.
This Paco Naranjo has the skill of one who speaks with a paintbrush and knows how to describe a sincere, true, frank and imaginative discourse. It is not easy to do; with a paintbrush in hand there are artists who speak without making a single word understood, who leave those of us who listen the task of translating their plastic exordiums and of imagining whatever we please, often without meaning to say anything at all. Paco, on the other hand, strives to make his story fertile but sincere, powerful, technically, impeccable, and surprisingly unexpected.
A train that goes by, a bull pen door that opens, a corner that becomes an angle in our presence, a couple who dances over the sky of Seville. Everything is real but is prone to fantasy at the same time is charged with singular thought transmitted by a stroke of the wrist just as the makers of religious images sculpture God by the stroke of the gouge. I like his explosion of color, his indifference to that which is somber, the Atlantic elegance with which he traces the forms, and the magnitude almost in relief of some of his paintings.
I have the pleasure of seeing him every day, on the far wall, having painted my portrait without knowing it in the boy who watches life go by sitting at a lever crossing. The train was a woman: I was lazing away, it came by and I decided to get on. There is no better allegory than that magnificent and sovereign velocity and this contemplation of the scenery altered by the force of iron and steam. Other metaphors like this one said in oil remain here exhibited in the work of a painter who, fortunately, still has a merry-go-round somewhere in his head.
Carlos Herrera. Journalist.