Dialogue on Deceit

Aldo Guerra / Hugo Lugo

AG: I believe that the lie you’re speaking of in the series Notes on deceit is that of representation, which has long been taking your mind. You’ve explored almost all conventional modes that painting tradition has established as defining painting itself: landscape, portraiture, and still life. It is time now of that which is related to drawing, from notes and sketches, to any plain paper media that evokes the ephemeral nature of its content. Where does your interest in something so specific come from?

HL: Precisely because I believe that these modes of representation are generally present in people’s mind, as well as in mine of course. They are part of our memory as individuals, not just for the history of pictorial art. People are used to thinking of drawings and paintings as accessible objects. I’m interested in this immediate power they have, as well as their iconic character. Although it’s clear that all disciplines have their equivalents, there isn’t today a more immediate means of communication than TV or cinema. It’s hard to imagine life without movies, or without music, or stories… But anyway, I also believe that any search must be thorough, and for now I’m into this.

AG: Now that you mention these other things, specially storytelling: Always a tale, a story, is a representation that corresponds not to a literal reality, but to an idea in the mind of the writer which in turn corresponds to collective imagination. For example, a conception of childhood innocence threatened by the adult perversion imagining it, like the dragon that devours its own tail. It is therefore a complex phenomenon which representation helps us understand. It is often thought that the greatest achievement of an artist is to bring about a universe of possibilities that is self sustaining-not self devouring-, and you wander here in a minefield of latent disappointment: you affirm the deception to the viewer. However, I believe you go beyond that clever paradox of Escher’s hand drawing itself, and refer to a reality that is not the painting itself, as it was not for the tale a literal reality. What is that to which you point to with your work?

HL: I do not think that this conception of childhood you say that the tale represents, existed as such before the tale, because the reality is in part created by the representation, which in turn returns a content to which it can then correspond. It is a game of reciprocity, and I think that is what I can refer to my work, without any complications: representation and reality influence one another. I take these resources to explore aspects of the human condition, irony, loneliness and the absurd, to name a few. I want to create disconcerting situations that work for themselves, anticlimactic images of moments that belong to unknown stories.

AG: The Renaissance ideal posed humans as the center and measure the Universe, with the invention of a pictorial resource that fully supports this worldview: Perspective. And I mention it for the Renaissance is the clearest moment of the positivism that characterizes all of the “bourgeois millennium”, which extends into the past from present day, and we can sense today a shift towards a new paradigm. I find it then important to observe the role that the concepts of “universe” and “subject” play on your work, and how they reconcile their confrontation, for it seems to me that a certain relationship that seemed to be setting on your work is starting to change. I’m referring to a ratio of scales, as in the Gothic -and I do not force the comparison-, does not obey the laws of perspective, but a factor of significant hierarchies within the same plane. How do you explain this?

Hl: Well, surely such a comparison flatters me, but I worry a little the responsibility that this vision of things puts on artists to illustrate a change in how we view the world, I think this will always depend on a much bigger scheme of things, which involves art, as well as both science and philosophy, but above all the effective processing we all make of this information in daily life. As for what you mention about the scale factor in some of my compositions, what I really want to reaffirm is that felt difference (and I say “felt difference” because we know that in reality there isn’t one) between the universe –“things” - and us as a separate subject from those things. And things put into an undefined universe virtually absent, reduced to a feeling emotional gamut, a color. It is true that the scales are significant, but I focus more on differences, however they occur. You talked about the connotations that plain paper can have, in the case of the series Notes on Deceit, about the ephemeral nature of what is “drawn” on them, but there is a difference, since they are simulated surfaces in a media much more capable of withstanding the test of time, and by definition are not drawn but painted. There is a clear difference between explicit and implicit. Mere reflection.

AG: A reflection? Mind or mirror?

HL: Both are necessarily implied. This perceptual phenomenon of reflection is produced by physical events such as light, polished surfaces, effect on the retina, electrical impulses, and so on. But perception, as we know, is not a passive activity, we do not see with our eyes, but with our brain. I am aware of my reflection in the mirror, or my image in a portrait, to find that either I am or I am not. And that leads us to consciousness, and other yet more complex issues.

AG: I think there is something far more immediate on what you present. If there is anything that characterizes your work is that it announces itself as accessible at first glance, “eye candy” as the expression goes. And once anchored the gaze, the mind is challenged. It is not fantasy, not a surreal image either, but there is something disturbing about them. Between the constant references to nature, and to a daily reality, we see unusually sober subjects encounter improbable situations. How do you manage to create that balance between familiarity and strangeness?

HL: I think you explain it a bit in your comment. I look for a formal approach of simplicity, which can be made complicated by the associations that the figures suggest. In your words, they are familiarity and strangeness fused. It may be appropriate to make clear that in this series, as in other independent projects apart from painting, I am actually working on an idea of “nature” that can have different meanings. First, nature understood as the immediate reality, objects and things, on the other hand as the set of characteristics and behaviors that define Man (human nature): Fear, ethical dilemmas, empathy, and such. Finally, and with references to Art, as a set of elements drawn from figurative genre of painting: trees, mountains, rivers, animals, etc., in this case disjointed.

AG: Speaking of disarticulation and judging by the materials and images that surround you in your studio, such as sketches on transparent paper, tape, clippings and intervened postcards… What role do the processes of image construction play in your final products?

HL: I try to keep disarticulated elements and images in sight because it’s then easier to associate them and join them together not with glue and tape, but with the mind. Although it may sound contradictory, I visualize clear yet inaccurate results, I mean, what’s clear for me is what I want to see “happening” but I don’t know what will happen until you I start working on the canvas, there are important nuances that are defined in the process of painting it. As determinant is the product that I conceive as is the medium with which it is made.

AG: I think we share the conviction that different media are ways to facilitate different modes of thought. You cannot think the same thing with a brush and a canvas than using a digital camera and a computer.

Well, as the information processors that we are, we are not complete without the answer to the questions we yield. Should leave the rest of the analysis -that of each particular piece- to the viewers. Good luck with them, and thanks for your invitation to talk.

HL: Thanks to you, and the readers if they are still here, for the time.

Originally published in the catalog “Notes on Deceit”, 2007

Studio View
Studio View

The Evidence I
The Evidence I, 2007

The Evidence II
The Evidence II, 2007