The World of Joan Perucho: The Art of Closing One's Eyes
Joan Perucho spoke of the art of closing one's eyes apropos of the work of the German artist, Wols, in one of his articles in La cultura y el mundo visual [Culture and the Visual World] (1968). In this piece, Perucho synthesises two essential concerns of the painter's work throughout the 1950s and 1960s. First, he attributes to Wols the desire to return to one's origins, to the physical roots of land and landscape. He writes, "Wols marvels as he contemplates the earth slipping through his fingers, an insect, a drop of water". Again, he says, "As Wols himself wrote, Une petite feuille peut contenir le monde". According to Perucho, Wols was seeking the prehistory of what is visible, going to the root of events, to the eternity contained in all the things in the world. As in the cases of Antoni Gaudí and Joan Miró, the departure point is to be found in observation of nature. All three artists explore a primordial universe going back to ancestral origins and childhood. Starting out from a specific, figurative reference, they invent abstract forms that contain, latent, the mystery of life.
However, in Wols' case, this is just a first step. In Perucho's eyes, his delicate, evanescent watercolours are transformed into something abominable, into wounds and viscera. Evil, death, destruction and remorse become customary themes in the midst of abstract forms. "All this is monstrous", writes Perucho. "Everything that is too alive is pure monstrosity and culture has always been an attempt to veil the heightened monstrosity of what is alive". Later, he comes back to the theme with equal vehemence: "Wols' disenchantment has a metaphysical character and thus he resorts to magma, pantheism, chaos and booze. His art, like his life, tends to destruction."
Wols' art, then, is split. On the one hand it goes back to everyday wonder, to the paradise of childhood, to an out-of-time space to be contemplated in broad daylight. Behind this luminous world there is a bottomless sea of suffering, anxiety and the destruction to which things are subjected by time. The same duality is present in Perucho's early books. In contrast with the existentialism of Sota la sang [Under the Blood] (1947), Aurora per vosaltres [Dawn for You] (1951) is a song of timid hope. In contrast with the biographical evocation of Diana i la mar Morta [Diana and the Dead Sea] (1953) is the occultist crepitation, the esotericism of El mèdium [The Medium] (1954).
The two books that seem to have most influenced Perucho in taking the step from poetry to prose also represent these two features: Helena y el mar del verano [Helena and the Summer Sea] by Julián Ayesta (with its clear imprint on Diana i la mar Morta, even in the title), and La couleur tombée du ciel [The Colour out of Space] by H. P. Lovecraft, which inspired his first short story, Amb la tècnica de Lovecraft [With the Technique of Lovecraft] (1956). Ayesta's book, written with great sensitivity, deals with the end of childhood and loss of innocence, while Lovecraft's is an allegory on a sidereal presence, a colour coming down from the sky, a curse that turns the earth barren.
As an art critic, Perucho is interested in artists who, starting out from the organic, create a solar universe (Gaudí, Miró, Moisès Villèlia). "If there is any one name that is closely linked with the physical root of a land or a landscape it is unquestionably that of Joan Miró", he states at the beginning of his essay Joan Miró i Catalunya [Joan Miró and Catalonia] (1968). He then goes on to identify Miró's creative process with an awareness of the pre-rational and the biological, alluding once again to the monstrosity of that which is too alive: "Miró strives reflexively to get to the bottom of what is ancestral and lost in the nebula of time", so that his art calls up the powers of things created, of death, and sex, "the instinct darkly flailing about since the world began". Continue reading...