Gustavo Velez’s Tridimensional Poetry
Gustavo Vélez’s sculpture is a unique weaving of sweet risings, of blazing shapes that, in subtle silences, approaches those millenary Gods who have left a mark on the artist’s culture and personality, as well as the existential traces left behind by his childhood experiences at his father’s workshop, where he learned to respect and master craft practice. His works are as swings that seem to move with the wind and in profound rest lean on the ground. Ground that is it itself. They are marbles, bronzes, and steels that in fertile perceptive possibilities offer remembrances. It is a Proud and serene sculpture of amazing fascination whose formal and conceptual precepts do not deviate the orchestration of its volumetric character or the dynamic geometry that dominates its configuration.
If Gustavo Vélez was ever a figurative sculpture, this was in a now distant past. In this year 2016, he declares, “Twenty years ago my search was to achieve an aesthetic identity. I began with a small abstract 48-centimeter piece; in it I wanted to dissolve the cube and convert it into movement, gyrate on an axis. Geometry, inside Geometry”. As a creation wish accomplished, he has “dissolved” the cube, a geometric shape that he interprets plastically, in abstract metamorphosis. Hypercubicos is the title of the series on which he is currently working, as it also is the concept he formulates as a formal argument by making the square block, unfolded from its inside with visual “elasticity”, project itself toward its inside and outside in an action of centrifugal and centripetal simultaneity.
With firm steps, tuned in to his age, and in a Mondrian process of figuration, Velez gyrates towards abstraction. Little by little the figurative line became an abstract and infinite line. Starting from the freedom that the careful analysis of figurative profiles offers him, he purifies and reduces the shape to an absolute and essentially conceptualist expression. To travel to Italy in pursuit of his dreams–the dream of becoming a sculptor whose work would be considered contemporary– was an important decision. He was not and is not alone. The circumstance of locating himself in a place where tridimensional axes and coordinates confabulate in the life of international artists gave him the opportunity of developing the skill, which is very rare in many sculptures, of extracting the natural inner essence of a material liberating its plastic energy. For him, the noble Carrara marble the first.
In practice, his formative years are located outside the comfort zone that his native Colombia meant for him. Two Italian cities, Florence and Carrara opened for him a road to perpetuate his talent for works made with the hands, soul and heart. Starting from preliminary sketches, which notwithstanding are drawing which are self-sufficient art works, and according to the material, he carves marble while he designs and models other materials; he makes sculptures which express a plastic language that is more curvilinear than architectural, biomorphic and blazing in its sensitive configuration, as the artist himself declares “in harmonic lines, in transparencies”. Each work establishes and intimate dialogue with the physical space where it is anchoraged, or with the viewer who looks at it and perceives it when displacing around it. Here, he rises to a higher spiritual plane and moving towards an open infinity, he is able to project the poetic gift that his Creator has granted him.
In Velez’s work the effectism of abstract art does not appear as an artistic adventure. The judgment and analysis of that which interests him lead him to an operation of sensitive geometry, not to one of hard and static abstraction but to that of the dynamic space that generates ideas; this was very important for the sculptors of certain historical vanguards such as Antoine Pevner, Naun Gabo, Kasimir Malevich the always influential Constantin Brancusi. Although this Colombian artist’s sculpture is abstract in its plastic-formal configuration, it could be considered expressionist in the treatment of the continuous “skin” with its textures and exquisite gloss. It is the continuous “skin” that is modeled in sinuous and illusionistic angles. His works are works that possess figurational ins and outs, and without topical descriptions; visually they suggest figures extracted from nature, a bird, a sprig of wheat, a flower, a leaf. In this way, a piece is appreciated as “beautiful” According to its expressiveness in regard to its virtual and actual undolations, that paradoxically corresponds to the vital expansion of its apparent staticness and fragility; good examples are Astrazione (black marble from Belgium, 2013), Silencio (Carrara white statuary marbel, 2016) and Illusion (steel, 2016).
The spatial relationships between tension and shapes in Velez’s sculpture are given by a reciprocal communication between the tridimensional volumetric configurations, the surfaces involved and the sun light that influences them. In other words, the solidity of the volume as a structure-shape of abstract character is instrinsic to the dialogue between the polished surfaces and those textured; for example, Hexahedro or Cyclus (both in steel, 2016). It is important to mention the sculptures that belong to the series that the sculptor proposes, which logically, are versions of the same shape; however the importance lies in the fact that the material does not define its formal structure; it is the artist who, as the creative craftsman of his own work, makes it obey his creative decisions; for example the series Cubos (Carrara white statuary marble, 2016). As Brancusi did, Velez seeks and is interested in the inner essence of the sculpture, even when the current development reality of art has stimulated tridimensional nature and metaphoric content.
According to the concept and idea that is volumetric proposal generates, in the privacy of his workshop, Velez devotes himself to each material with a sense of belonging and creative caress. in this sense, his testimony is important, “I make many sketches but I seek harmony in the lines so that the hardness and heaviness of materials may have a touch of delicacy and transparence. I believe that the challenge is delicacy, to have the sculpture become light and achieve floating in space as a provocation of infinity.” Velez talks about sketches that, as we already mentioned, are drawings around an idea in whose inspiring action lies part of the impact that the work generates in the viewer, because it is not aboout a conventional academic “recipe”. In the course of the work, the sculptor is seen physically and spiritually linked to the piece that he is “constructing” in a second instance as a model. The creation process is associated to the material he selects, to the ideas that originate it, and to his own aesthetics refined throughout its development. So with own plastic codes to which he has arrived thanks to a rigorous academic training, he transforms the material into a tridimensional expression with the academic plastic characteristics that belong to a sculpture, as an art work, that is developed in space without dogmatic loads or preconceived proposal. He is aware of what his sculpture is and should be. The most important thing for this artist is the predictable knowledge of its final outcome. Lightness, softness and simplicity are a complex part of his aesthetic proposal, possibly governed by Brancusi’s axiom who, in other words, proposes that “simplicity is complex in itself” and that the artist must feed on its essence to understand its value. Sculptor Velez has understood this value. Velez undertakes the work on the marble, steel, or bronze surfaces because of their beautiful brightness or their filigree texture, as plastic proposals in the making of a sculpture filled with profound sensuality, almost erotic, that incites us to caress and embrace it. Its intense expressive force liberates the metaphoric value that is its own. Each work connotes its identity according to the material and technique, even though ir may have passed from a small format to another of larger dimension. For example, the sculpture Cubo 1 has its model, and both versions have the contexture of a monumental work that vacates and occupies the space, it has volume in itself but not mass, surfaces and borders, as well as regular and irregular shapes. Furthermore, in the series Silencio, the differences of its surface-skin are enriched by the contrast between that which texture and that which is smooth, that which is dull and that which is bright. According to these characteristics, it is necessary to make an analysis from aesthetic plane and not from the strictly formalist plane; because as Brancusi would say “Beauty is the harmony of opposites”. Velez, definitely, does not work with flat shapes; in his metaphoric plastic wealth, volumetry is a constant where the artist’s talent combines both intimate and poetic aspects or his work at any scale.
This sculptor’s condition at the present times is to work with a minimalist orientation, without accessories or additional elements. He divests matter of that which is unnecessary in a plurifying process in order to show its natural potential and convert it into a tridimensional entity that is self-sufficient as a privileged art work. His is sculptural language is focused on a simultaneous relationship of shape, space and time where the element of light plays an important role. The work rises or displaces itself virtually toward its exterior and mutates when it offers itself in the diverse angles of the unique shape that Velez has created, an operation the repeats itself even in the series that involve two or more works. The source os light is important. Depending on the luminous angle that is incidence on the surfaces, different shades and gradients of chiaroscuro are visualized. It is as if he used a cubist code by offering different points of view in the same work. Consequently, when the viewers gyrate around it, they perceive differences in an external configuration that offers different versions of itself inside a new identity. This is, then, a multidimensional proposal of volumetry and a phenomenological space-time relationship with the environment and the viewer.
Gustavo Velez, without contradictions, explores the language of abstract shape and multiplies it in its plastic variants in order to make each time a new sculpture within the same aesthetic order. The sculptor always require space where to put to fly the outcome of his artistc devotions. There, his work is gravitating in the ambiance of his poetic silences in order to show itself clad in the formidable splendor of its beauty.
– Bélgica Rodríguez