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the water

The island. A hat for the ocean, a magnet for the eyes. The island is small when illuminated by a single ray of the sun, but for the journeying iguana and the red crab it stretches out, enormous, its curved summit insinuating eternity. 

The beach. On the sand they gather and cavort, and the island looks down at them, waiting for answers. They move in silence, crawl haphazardly up the shore, disappear again into water, search for their reflections in covered, hidden places.

The water. Fish and nets, boats and bottles, whales, turtles, trees and swimmers all disturb its surface, but the water diligently tries to swallow the island. When clouds interfere or the sun dips down, the colors of water fracture and send their confusion up into the sky. 

 

Glistening Huachinango, bodies ankle-deep, a heron, a Chac Mool in shadow. With ludic precision, and the provocative placement of figures in or on a landscape, in relation to, or oblivious of their animate and inanimate companions, Roberto Gil de Montes recuperates the poetic moment. The moment, dream-like, in which perception briefly overcomes simultaneity, abstraction and disorder to embody material forms who move and take shape before they dissolve again. 

The island is often present even when not visibly represented, a mirror for anyone who observes it, the measure of a person’s embodiment and their existence. Shells, here, are protective, ornamental features that evoke transformation and emergence. Rocks, like the island, are immobile and enduring elements that interpose themselves against the vigour and transient temporality of fleshly bodies and their changing positions. 

The beach is a site of incipience and also of denouement, a place where false starts and stumbles encounter the inevitable winding down towards a stillness that is never completely at rest. On the beach, in front of the island, there is metamorphic communication between the lapidary, the carnal, the aquatic and the avian, a proliferation of forms and habitats. It is a playground for movement and exploration, the mixings and transfigurations that see creatures crawl out of shells, lose and acquire limbs, reveal or conceal themselves, writhe about and also stay still. 

In these paintings the water absorbs while also bestowing treasures; its surface at once reflects and confounds the depth beneath opaque, variegated surfaces. Bodies, partially obscured or losing their specificity, are submerged, upturned, carried, or hidden by the water or the edge of the canvas, dipping into and out of visibility. 

Roberto Gil de Montes tests and challenges perceptions of background and foreground, an enveloping blue and green landscape that invites us to see the successive layers of narrative overlaid on a single, idiosyncratic setting. The sea engulfs but also delivers and surrenders its fish and its stories for the extraction of the figures that populate this landscape in a visual idiom of color, receptivity and interaction. With the translucent layering of elements across surfaces and across figures – the veil, the moving shoreline, the water itself – the artist reinstates an equivocation to the oneiric lucidity of some of the scenes, adhering with characteristic fidelity to a reverence for that which remains indeterminate, spontaneous, partial or unspoken. Is a rescue just another form of capture? And in embracing visible forms of ambiguity - wearing a mask, standing in water, hanging upside down or posing behind a veil - do we, in fact, offer up the most explicit renditions of ourselves?  

Lucy Foster—

 

Selected Works

Selected Works Thumbnails

roberto gil de montes, rescue, 2021

oil on canvas, 30.25 x 30.25 cm

roberto gil de montes, el soltero, 2021

oil on canvas, 42 x 50 cm

roberto gil de montes, los poetas en el mar, 2021

oil on linen, 120 x 250 cm

roberto gil de montes, huachinangos, 2021

oil on canvas 23 x 32 cm 

roberto gil de montes, dorado, 2021

oil on canvas, 37 x 45 cm

roberto gil de montes, rescue, 2021

oil on canvas, 30.25 x 30.25 cm

roberto gil de montes, el soltero, 2021

oil on canvas, 42 x 50 cm

roberto gil de montes, los poetas en el mar, 2021

oil on linen, 120 x 250 cm

roberto gil de montes, huachinangos, 2021

oil on canvas 23 x 32 cm 

roberto gil de montes, dorado, 2021

oil on canvas, 37 x 45 cm