The chaos of nature’s gray forces in Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, which overwhelms visitors who venture into the Tate Gallery in London, could be the source of Agustín Pontesta’s rampant interest in landscapes. This Basque artist, vastly influenced by the philosophy of the sublime which left its mark on the work of William Turner, has succeeded in creating a style of his own that endows nature with astonishing power when compared with the human being.
Pontesta’s infinite landscapes feature horizons that appear to be absent and masses of people who blend in and are confused with extreme terrain. Some of his pieces have an apocalyptic tone; in others, the textures and relief work emulate the heavens or hint towards rocks that remind viewers of the bottom of the sea. Like a Greek god in training, he creates worlds, universes, planets… and also life – life brought on by the artist himself with every stroke of his brush.
In the privacy of his studio, he makes his own paints with pigments and binders, mixing them with different materials. Many of his creations are done on stands made of fragmented pieces of wood that he puts back together – an allusion to creation from destruction. The cracks and the holes that arise in his paintings are voids that take on a special role. Although he often employs a myriad of techniques such as drip painting, expressionism, and collage, in the last phase of every piece he turns to precise and delicate brush strokes to give his work a “unified” feel.
Like the work of the English landscapist, his is based on observation and contact with nature; but not with the green fields that surround the Thames – instead, his work is based on observation of and contact with remote places like the Amazon jungle, the Andes, the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Thar Desert in India, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, as well as the vast expanses of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and the Himalayas, among others.
Pontesta’s creations also feature a certain “dormant spirituality” influenced by the Zen philosophy which he has practiced throughout his life by participating in seminars and intensive retreats. Likewise, this artist is familiar with, and has also practiced, Tibetan Buddhism and has been in attendance at conventions by the Dalai Lama himself. His love of oriental paintings has brought him to study the Sumi-e technique for monochrome art and Japanese calligraphy. His multiple interests have put him in touch with realities that have changed his way of being, adopting alternative ways to go about a conventional social system. Both his life path and his introspective outlook which is, at the same time, open to the world, help to reinforce the strength of his artistic work. Pontesta has made the words of Turner his own –”my job is to paint what I see, not what I know”– and has taken them to the spiritual realm.
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