Daniel Orson Ybarra


The Tranquil Labyrinth
About Daniel Orson Ybarra
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The Tranquil Labyrinth

“What was and what will be, the things that I have had and the things that I will have, all of this is waiting for us in this tranquil labyrinth.”

– Jorge Luis Borges

“Collage … is the most extraordinary event in the world.”

– J. Paulhan

Germinaciones, Semilleros, Chaosmos: The latest works by Daniel Orson Ybarra straight away reference nature and that which is dynamic about it: the process of growth, of engenderment, of inflorescence, which go from a withheld intensity (withheld from its potential, from the future), to a dilated, relaxed and spatialized expression in its form, liquids, fruits, flowers or leaves. These paintings, or rather these collages and collections are inscribed in the logic of the preceding paintings: plays on coloured shadows, on iridescent light across foliage that digital photography restores with a light blurriness upon which paint will be laid, as if to soften the naturalist reference and move it, slowly and attentively, within the realm of abstraction. Here is the beginning of a counter process that has just opposed itself to the natural model and deviated from its linear logic and opened itself to the transformative act which is art itself. The metaphor takes the place of the metamorphosis; the leaves on the tree which served as a point of departure for paintings become, in Germinaciones, wind-blown in the strictest sense of the word, a stack of transparent plastic films; each stratum is marked by an intervention, painting or drawing, on a part of its surface, in such a way that all of it together, once finished, lets the forms appear in a skilful game of hide and seek, within the context of restrained depth. The appeal of the infinite bottom, i.e. the bottomlessness of the depth, the crossing of planes which transparency allows, is accentuated and temporized by the different layers formed by the strata; the latter are at once moments in which the eye stops (each stratum has its form) and is redistributed: certain elements of each stratum enter into contact with the elements of the other strata situated above and below, indifferently. This is not a derelict indifference, rather a radical conversion of the art of painting which is without a doubt the greatest invention of the 20th century: the introduction, in the mode of production of the form, of devices for which the collage is the model, and which impose their own objective logic onto the subjective logic of the painter (...) Closer to dream-like images, the Germinaciones are contractions of that which is possible, of mixtures of affect, of the movement of the eye, determined by what little certainty and support the vertigo of depth offers and reassembles as it pleases. Germinaciones creates a metaphor out of natural metamorphosis, Semilleros shifts it to another place where we can qualify it, by seeking to employ figures of speech, synecdoche, the part for the whole (...)

As for the Semilleros, they seem to present themselves as the desire to take this moving labyrinth into their own hands, to travel around it, to punctuate it, to dilate it. The painted elements are individualized, cut out and distributed like so many independent touches are one to another. Then the drawing pins fix these pieces of painting onto the support, through overlapping in general, sometimes by juxtaposition. The temporary character of the drawing pin (one pins something in order to see, then affixes) gives at first a character of uncertainty to the whole thing, a playful and unfinished aspect. But we know from Picasso’s pushpin collages suspended in space from the workshop beams, that this relates to the “greatest invention” in painting: to move from technique, device and material conditions to the form; readymade is neither more nor less than this, rather it is this; for readymade is but a moment in painting, passage, the pure and radical place where what serves to expose is in fact exposed, then immediately reversed in as much in the movement of the process as in its formation. Here, Daniel continues and deepens this gesture, he continues it from the past which is the Germinaciones to open it to the present, which is the Semilleros.

If transparency is maintained, it is now in the thrall of the pushpin, it has become itself an element, and no longer the condition of the distribution of the elements. This being the case, the condensed, withheld intensity, a condition of all of the possible layouts, and which represent that which is a painting, substitute an expanse which demands doing away with the frame, something which turns rather towards installation which is also one of the facets of Daniel’s work.

Heads AND tails.

Text by Christian Bonnefoi

About Daniel Orson Ybarra

I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1957, then an agreeable and hospitable country. It was a well appreciated destination by immigrants seeking refuge from famine and the war in Europe. My maternal grandparents arrived there from Moscow and Odessa and, on my father’s side, the family hailed from Bilbao and St Jean-de-Luz in the Basque country.

My childhood rolled by in a calm and harmonious environment, surrounded by my maternal grandfather’s numerous spouses and ex-wives. Among them, it was grandmother Anastasia who made an everlasting impression on me, teaching me to read, cook, draw and paint from my early years onward. It is to her that I owe thanks for infusing, in a playful manner, my love for books and the arts.

Years later, as a boarder at a Salesian College, I recall having signed up for a correspondence course in drawing from Mexico with a schoolmate and covering the fees. I was 12 years old. Two years later, to my surprise and delight, my then-history teacher organized my first exhibition; and a collection of my works of ancient Greek and Egyptian figures in pencil lead and willow wood on 100 cm by 70 cm Bristol paper was proudly on show at Montevideo’s 32nd High School.

The Bristol paper I used was leftover from my grandfather’s old artificial flower factory. It was the raw material from which the paper-and-wax flowers that enchanted my childhood were made. To this day, I hold fond memories of the smell of hot paraffin floating through the large and endless corridors of the factory and of the soft texture of the supple and strange-feeling warm wax as I worked it with my fingers.

Perhaps the origins of my family, the numerous stories I had heard or even my own curiosity led me to decide at the age of 18 to travel the world. When asked the purpose of this trip, I would respond that, since I am part of [the world], I should at least get to know it. No one dared contradict me. Although my priorities lay in studying philosophy and psychology followed by literature and the fine arts, I was still unsure of my final choice of studies. The one thing I was sure of was that each passing day in the then-unbreathable atmosphere engulfing the area made life seem uncertain and unbearable. Freedom suffered greatly throughout the continent and that only reinforced my decision to pack my bags.

My travels began in South America, but what was meant to be a one-year sabbatical turned into an eight-year adventure that took me through South America, the US, all of Europe and Scandinavia, North Africa, the Middle East and … lots of islands.

While I was preparing and dreaming of my trip, I hung a world map on the bedroom wall and indicated my ports-of-call using red and green drawing pins. Red-coded destinations were those I really wanted to visit and spend some time in, while the green ones indicated a passing curiosity, a place to skim through. Geneva was coded in green.

Knocking about around the globe for many years makes sedentary life difficult to readjust to, and that is what attracted me to Geneva, a place I felt one could transit through, where one does not take roots, a place you can easily escape from. And yet I have been living here since 1984 and am father of 3. I spend my time between Geneva and Barcelona, where I collaborate with architects on projects that deal with the study of space and its relationship with light, and have collaborated with the EAAS Group (European Architecture & Art Studio) on projects since 1991. These involve exterior and interior spaces as well as public, private urban and natural spaces.

The components of my reflections on the plastic arts are linked to all type of organic forms, as well the mineral or the vegetal life. Furthering my study into formal and plastic analysis, I call upon concepts such as the stratification of images, accumulations and repetition.

In late 2001, health issues made walking uncomfortable for a few years and, during this time, my garden became my own art studio.

The latest works are a process of pictorial experimentation within this segment of the landscape.

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