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Review of Francisco de Corcuera:The Impossible Existence of a Mathematician at Rosenfeld Porcini, London

Entitled The Impossible Existence of a Mathematician, Rosenfeld Porcini’s latest exhibition presents a selection of recent works by the Chilean artist Francisco de Corcuera. At just over life-size, the imposing works command the visitors’ attention and induce a contemplative mood. Throughout the works on display de Corcuera, who comes from a strong Catholic background, may be seen to explore the seemingly irreconcilable duality between the spiritual and dogmatic aspects of religious life.

The paintings are built up through a heavy impasto technique, which renders bright areas of colour in strong contrast to their backgrounds. A geometrical network of graphs and figurative theorems is then inscribed over this surface. Illusionistic trompe l’oeil palette scrapings give the paintings a sense of three-dimensional depth, and the effect is so realistic that one can only uncover the artist’s deception by observing the paintings from the side of the canvas. From this vantage point, one will also notice that the peeling strips of tape are, in fact,  another optical illusion also.

From a distance, the cloud-like areas of colour give the works an abstract dimension, which, for the artist, represent his own thoughts on the possibility (or- as the exhibition’s titles would have it- impossibility) of living one’s life confined to the fixed tenets of conventional religion. More to the point, de Corcuera posits the unpredictability of life itself as the primary obstacle that prevents one from doing so and, up close, the hard lines of graphs and theorems symbolise the doctrinal principles with which organised religion endeavours to overcome life’s uncertainties.

The works- spread out over two light-filled floors- are organised so as to expand on the artist’s own inner monologue on this subject. In the selection of works on display on the gallery’s upper level, the expansive and opaque somber backgrounds in paintings such as Untitled XVII engulf the lighter fields of colour. Against this background, the inscribed lines and figurative algorithms echo the exhibition’s title, suggesting the artist- like the vanishing patches of colour- has been consumed by the difficulty of asserting himself in accordance with religious principle.

On the gallery’s lower level a more diverse range of works suggests a spiritual breakthrough on the part of the artist, and this is articulated by a more spontaneous approach seen in the style of the paintings.  In works such as Untitled II, the viewer can visibly discern a more expressive handling of colour and texture. In works where this approach is accompanied by the trompe l’oeil effect of built up areas of thick paint, the visual templates representing the rigid structures of religion seem to evaporate and the works embody a sense of release.

Establishing a relationship between abstract art and contemporary life is a challenging endeavour at the best of times. Yet, through its organisation- including the wall text, which focused the exhibition and provided the works with context- The Impossible Existence of a Mathematician, fuses the two with force.

Róisín Lacey-McCormac

Francisco de Corcuera: The Impossible Existence of a Mathematician, 8 May until 27 June, Rosenfeld Porcini, 37 Rathbone Street, London, W1T 1NZ. rosenfeldporcini.com

Credits:

1. Francisco de Corcuera, Untitled VI, 2012. Courtesy Rosenfeld Porcini
2. Francisco de Corcuera, Untitled II, 2009-2012. Courtesy Rosenfeld Porcini
3. Francisco de Corcuera, Untitled I, 2012. Courtesy Rosenfeld Porcini

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