Manolo Vellojín – The spiritual side of geometry
Friday November 14, 2014
VELLOJÍN OR THE TRANSFIGURATION OF EMOTIONS
by Álvaro Medina
On the occasion of his 1978 exhibition in Bogotá, Manolo Vellojín wrote the introduction to the catalog to explain that his intent with his geometric paintings was to “transfigure emotions.”1 And since a good portion of his production identifies itself with titles that have obvious spiritual connotations linked to the realm of the religious—although without any liturgical intentions—the notions of transfiguration and emotions that he mentioned acquire a special transcendence when it comes to analyzing his legacy.
Expressing poetic emotions, whether through music, the written word or visual images, is a habitual practice that does not surprise. But in some instances, the type of emotions that the artist may bring on at will may cause surprise. What emotions did Vellojín, who passed away in 2013, express in his best pieces? With admirable sophistication and obstinate persistence, Vellojín would express emotions linked to the grief resulting from the permanent absence of a loved one. In this sense, the titles of the works assembled for this first solo exhibition in the United States are eloquent: Sudario, Responso, Viacrucis, Cruzada, Ofrendas, Vanitas, Beato and Templo. This repertoire of references so precise has been summarized in the general title of the exhibition: El lado espiritual de la geometría [The Spiritual Side of Geometry].
Are we in the presence of a body of work of a painter who is prone to sacrifice, contemplation and beatitude? Far from it. Vellojín knew how to penetrate the raison-de-être of the unique geometric abstraction used in heraldry, but also the rich inferences, or references, or connotations of the ornamentation present in the apsides, adoratories, altars, crypts, capes, chasubles, stoles, etc., characteristic of Catholic rituals. Accepting these inferences, or references, or connotations as factors in an equation, the artist added, subtracted, multiplied and divided, depending on the case, when deciding to forge a style capable of proposing, in his own way, visual alternatives different from those tried out by geometric painters and sculptors that were his contemporaries. In proceeding in this manner he did not withhold his sources—rather, he extolled them in the clearly designated titles of themes assumed under independent and autonomous criteria with the aim of expressing his feelings. Having said this, let us not forget that emotions, according to Vellojín’s aforementioned statement, is the key to these paintings.