Baltazar Torres_I, Baltazar Torres, Between You and the World_02 /04/17_04/17/17_Dossier
I, Baltazar Torres, Between You and the World, is the title of the first solo exhibition of Portuguese artist Baltazar Torres at the Galería Ángeles Baños, in Badajoz, Spain. Torres (Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, 1961) is one of the most significant Portuguese artists in today’s international contemporary scene, and his work has been a constant presence in Spain, either in solo and group exhibitions in private galleries or in art fairs and institutional shows.
Throughout his career, critics have approached his work from two different angles:
First, as a lucid awareness and subtle criticism of many of the conflicting aspects of the relationship between the Western individual and his or her respective context, both the natural and the cultural: the unsustainable growth of our economic and productive system; the environmental costs of a human activity that is broadly understood as an exploitation of its environment; needless consumption that does not answer the imperative of fulfilling our actual needs; the speculative drift of the citizens’ fundamental rights, such as a living wage, individual safety, or a fertile ground where to develop our collective lives; etc.
On the other hand, the second approach to his work focuses on the figure of the subject as the center of this awareness, with the peculiarity that Baltazar Torres uses his own image as a recurrent theme in his work. Transforming the artist into the protagonist of the most diverse scenes, the small sculptures that appear everywhere in his pieces are faithful and recognizable reproductions of his own physiognomy and garb. These scenes can depict ceaseless deforestation, construction sites or landfills. In other scenes, his miniature alter-egos engage in inexplicable activities that can range from the quizzical or self-absorbed, to the playful or nonsensical. In any case, his pieces always seem to warn us about how difficult it is to build – and seize for ourselves- spaces conducive to personal or collective growth.
Unstable grounds, those upon which dwell these enigmatic figures that refer to the artist as the center and consciousness of what is announced by his project. Sceneries and characters juxtapose in a succinct but eloquent proposal. The warning of imminent disaster, of the absurdity of our excessive consumption of material commodities, combined and condensed in the figure that presents itself to the viewer as the example, by antonomasia, of vainglory, presumption, and sufficiency -this means, of stupidity- is, since the Baroque, a theme with its own genre: the Vanitas. It is through this lens that I invite you to look upon the work by Baltazar Torres. Between you (the reader, the spectator, the one looking at and thinking about the artist’s work) and the world (this common ground to him, to us, or to you whenever you are alone), the artist renounces all grandiloquent gestures, much less explicit in moral or political terms, to remind us that art, in this uplifting and thaumaturgical space, reaches excellence while it is still a question, rather than an answer.
Besides the Vanitas, the other conceptual axis that guided my special collaboration with Baltazar refers to another aspect which is also very present in his poetics, to the point of fusing with his identity: the miniature. In truth, it is a textual strategy: miniaturization; this diminution in size and presence of the beings that populate his work, and of the sceneries where they reside, was the focus of special attention, to the point that the artist will present for the first time the explanation of the some of his own pieces, approaching them from the perspective of the modification of scale.
This effect of making things smaller, of creating a distance, gives the spectators an almost immediate feeling of false security, a sense of dominion over what is being represented. It opens their field of view, their perspective so that it includes the whole scene and positions them outside of it. All that is a “landscape,” a disaster seen by an unaffected observer… But this simulated distance that implicitly allows the play for greatness, for the godlike condition of an omniscient and critical condition, also inevitably separates the ones who look and those who are watched, risking the loss of all possible empathy between the ones who suffer and the ones who watch them suffer. Once again, the artist is between you and the world…
Óscar Alonso Molina [Naz de Abaixo, Lugo-Madrid, January 2017]