Bolivia | Painting | Marcelo Suáznabar

The real world in his inverse composition

From the unmentionable, from that which only seems to work on an imaginary plane or that doesn’t exist, but it does. Marcelo Suaznabar directs unconscious dialogues, whispers that we wish not to hear but that swamp our environment in evidence of that which we cannot escape. He suggests stories told the other way around, that are charged with that which we can experience even without realizing.

In a biased interpretation we may think that the autodidactism lacks rules or is missing theoretical justifications that protect the decisions for a line. However, art is kind enough to protect, of those ideas, the images that go beyond the rules. The results of the personal quest by this Bolivian artist born in Oruro prove that learning artistic techniques is accompanied by keen observation of the environment in which we live.

Marcelo shared and took big moments of his childhood with his uncle, a photographer who left him with the basic teachings and tools to get started as an artist. “When I was a kid, he told me that painters had to constantly work, perhaps every day, in order to get better. Once he gave me a box of oil paints that he had bought in Belgium and he told me that I would surely use them whenever I was ready. I think that his greatest teaching was helping me to see that which surrounded me and not being afraid to transfer that which I seen to paper. He made it clear to me that perseverance and discipline were important tools to grow,” remembers Marcelo regarding his first lessons in the family setting.

In an overview of his work, the level of imagination contained in his messages is surprising as well as the relationships that he establishes between nature and human beings. In a broad interpretation, we can see a continuous line of dialogue between known thoughts and unknown forms. Marcelo’s drawings sketch lines in unconventional places and amuse the gaze seeking a logic that seems to not exist. The surrealism, that is evident in his work, disorients and resettles in a new way of seeing. It invites us to rummage through every detail in order to interpret a message that is both distant and obvious. “Surrealism works as a pretext to set thoughts free and bring them to life through art. It is like a language produced to create irrational and unreal scenes. I don’t paint what I dream, art may derive in oneiric forms simply due to random imagination,” explains the artist.

We could say that art comes from nature and it, in its perfect imperfection, is also art. From the great masters throughout history to beginning art students, we have been able to gather the most exotic and beautiful images of the natural ecosystem. Marcelo Suaznabar’s beginnings shed innumerable memories decorated with insects, plants and earth tones. It is impossible to force the path taken and separate it from our identity. Marcelo’s color palette brings experience with it that burst out and moves forward: “My father is an agricultural engineer. Ever since we were kids, he took my brothers and I to Pasto Grande, a house in the country he had 30 km outside of the city. We spent entire summers there playing football, riding bicycles and taking in the pure air of nature. Over the years I realized that the environment had changed. Many animals were gradually wiped out and it was an experience that made me think long and hard about the fleetingness of time and the decline of nature.”

Those childhood life lessons gave way to a strong deliberateness in the message of his work. Although the focus hones in on different themes according to the series. Marcelo Suaznabar’s work spans the complexity of the human being from its naturally complicated thoughts to its evolution as a species on Earth. In Apocalipsis, for example, he portrays a certain contemporary pessimism and links it to the destruction of the environment. In Altiplano Mágico, in turn, he dreams of the ideal world with no intention of harming nature and where, without prejudice or complications, tolerance and empathy prevail.

Oruro and all its aspects have accompanied Marcelo since childhood. Later, in the transformation from leisure activity to professional career, he was inspired by Colonial Baroque art. He admired artists like Jonas Burgert (Germany), Salvador Dalí (Spain), Frida Kahlo (Mexico) or Hieronymus Bosch (Holland) and in them he found something that he now defines as: “a delicacy of symbolic language. A journey through the human maze and its thousands of possibilities that make us imagine crazy worlds made by illuminated minds. Their subliminal messages are still valid in today’s reality. There are now new conflicts that could easily make up part of a Bosch canvas. There is a surrealist outlook that is present but we don’t want to see it.”

Marcelo uses nature’s full availability to narrate something beyond what is visible. In his drawings he is able to form new realities. Because of this, this artist transcends speculations of the mind, plays with them and dares to challenge the clear view. “There are recurrences in my paintings that narrate frequent mixtures of contemporaneity. The flat and barren surfaces which remind me of my origins in the Bolivian altiplano, and the abstract backgrounds or the invented shapes that could be interpreted as mutations. Transformed animals, watches, cubes or eggs with barcodes. All of them want to convey something to the subconscious,” he explains regarding Autorretrato, the painting of a skull with a QR code on the cranium. “We are living in a time that is imbued with technology and where every product or individual has a code, a number that identifies them. That tells us, symbolically, in a digital era that we can’t go back. In order to read a QR code we need a smart phone and that already tells us a lot,” he adds.

Freedom of lines, indirect and complicated directions, and an openhearted expressiveness is what this artist from Oruro offers who speaks with pure surrealism. When we imagine that they deal with fun and outlandish drawings, we hone in on the focus and are able to see a proposal of a challenge bigger than altering the shapes. Marcelo Suaznabar’s art serves as a call to attention, a social outcry in the body of beings that seem nonexistent but involve realistic materiality that speaks on how we are human beings. The playful irony of his work is placidly disorienting and invites us to carefully observe each detail of his drawings.

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