Symphonies of color
From color to form, from form to plane, from plane to line, from line to oval and so on. That is the constant rhythm that create Mario Vélez’s paintings, a Colombian painter who, despite his formal simplicity, devotes great strength in color to his pieces.
Seeing the work of Carlos Mario Vélez means referring to the essential basics of painting: foundation of planes of colors, textures, simple geometry where the elliptical figure, lines and strokes take precedence. They are honest, simple forms that don’t conceal a meaning higher than that of which we can see and appreciate directly. For the same reason, compositions are poetry in themselves. The subtlety of the movement and continuous flow that the shapes form between each other, are like a dance to the rhythm of color; a dance where everything is connected and comes back full circle. Between the repeated elements inside of these chromatic environments, ellipses or ovals prevail, which in Vélez’s paintings look like a type of seed or organic egg in a state of germination. Also, his pieces give a certain feeling of blooming and nascent energy thanks to the oval figure and the color combinations.
For Mario, painting is: “an ongoing project that requires courage and intuition. It should be the manifestation of something intellectually, spiritually and artistically powerful. The act of painting makes me feel like enclosed, in a sanctuary that begs me to stay and devote strength and vitality (…). Painting implies an exclusive artist-work relationship; solitude is linked to painting, it helps to be more aware of what you are doing. It is essential to the creation of my artistic project.” His pictorial influence was created while studying art in Germany in the 90’s, where he was affected by German expressionism. There he studied with the painter Karl Hörst Hödicke, one of the fathers of neo-expressionism, who connected him to abstract art from New York. In turn, the artist Manuel Hernández is another of his abstract references among the Colombian arts circle.
Through this, Vélez’s artistic work is mainly influenced by three languages and/or movements: the forms of the pre-Colombian cultures, the language of abstraction and color of expressionism. However, his paintings are a far cry from the unrefined style that tends to be associated with said styles. The energy and skill of expressionism is replaced in the Colombian artist’s work by extremely accurate and careful strokes that define and separate each chromatic space, each form and contour. The suggested movement is rather delicate, thus creating harmony and balance within the compositions. Blemishes never appear, and the brush-strokes are reduced to the space belonging to the figures or background. Although brush-strokes aren’t explicitly left in his pieces, we can at least see the quality of the visual textures, which are strengthened by the layers of color.
Mario Vélez is undoubtedly a colorist. His numerous pieces are riddled with the energy of the shade in its different moods and temperatures. While some are pastels and light colors, others maintain the strength of saturation or contrast. It is the same with cool or warm works, always creating an atmosphere that insinuates some season. That is the case in the Eterna primavera series made in 2011. In it, the artist expresses that nascent strength of color in his energetic and vibrant state. The seeds intertwine with one another while floating towards the interior of the background with a quite ludic and cheerful temperament.
Among his latest pieces we find Canto rodado (2014). The series, in large format, repeats the previously mentioned elements. This time, though, the seed-form becomes an egg, thus forming pseudo bunches that run, expand and contracting all directions. Canto rodado somewhat abandons that hint of playfulness that existed in previous series in order to take on a geometric and spatial air –referring to universal space; This fact is made clear by some of the titles: Onda cósmica continua, Formas solares fragmentándose, Planetario, Vacíos astrales, Silencios estelares, Convivencia de universos, Agujero negro, among others. On the other hand, the colors become slightly more opaque and the geometric forms take on great importance: the circle, the quadrants and triangles set up the weights, directions and movements of what happens on a compositional level among the images represented in these “cosmic eggs”. Which in their coming and going, they express universal events. All the elements are perfectly balanced, just like the universe that Vélez poses to us: full of constantly shifting balance and harmony.
Cuadrantes is another series that was made during 2012. It was created for an event that paid homage to musician John Cage. In this project, Mario established relationships between musical instruments and colored rubber bands that made up the piece. The project had the distinctive feature of being a chance to look into three-dimensionality and escape from his prior bi-dimensional pictorial style, essentially characterized by the large surfaces of color. Nonetheless, Cuadrantes also keeps the graphic structure of the drawing that is seen in other pieces, but through a different technique and material, which gives the series a more rigid and less organic feel than the rest of his work which seems to be in a constant state of flux.
Currently the artist is working on a new project titled Cronotopo, whose goal is, according to Vélez: “to take the elements from the plane such as color, forms and strokes, to a habitable reality. The goal is to surround the viewers with an enclosure-painting that can be walked on, touched and inhabited.” Through that, he transcends the margins of painting in order to get closer to installation as such; it is an interesting challenge within his artistic career, since it holds on to the essential concepts of his pieces that are closely linked to three-dimensional space and a relational aesthetic with its viewer.