| [GALLERIES] ELIGERE
2023. 6. 2 – 6. 22
Lucas Pertile was born in Chaco, Argentina. He lives and works in Buenos Aires where he studied Visual Arts and Graphic Design at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. In many of his works, the artist combines different techniques on canvas and paper, creating a layered and transparent effect on the surface of the support. Influenced by the nature of the Argentine jungle and modernist painting, he often links the traditions of regional folk and magical realism. He defines his work as a result of memories from a savage childhood in which the unconscious plays an important role.
“Nature, mostly. I find inspiration in nature’s veil, in the unknown. Everything which human beings cannot explain or put into words, and try to capture this mystery and reveal it in my paintings through different techniques. My work process respects the three logical times: to see, to understand, and to conclude. This last step is the one that takes me to the canvas. With a basic idea of what I want to do, without a previous sketch, I turn to the blank canvas. The unconscious then starts to dictate, in a playful way, the new piece that will come out through stains and brush strokes.”
The noise is deafening. An intense roar, somewhere between rumbling and a howl, the string section of the crickets, the screech of the monkeys and the bird chorus of infinite tones. The jungles of Northeast Argentina contain three thousand species of plant, five hundred bird species, one of the biggest and most powerful waterfalls in the world, swelter in a damp heat, and boast an insect chorus that can be frankly scary at night. It is inhabited by creatures from this and other dimensions: living, breathing myths. Here, the magical realism people describe in Latin American literature is simply reality: the luz mala, or evil light, is tangible and something to be feared, the Pombero sprite whistles to warn you of danger and beings sing to us from the other world.
Lucas Pertile grew up on the shores of a dark river, the Río Negro, with a swampy bottom and a nauseating smell, inhabited by tough fish with sharp scales that moan when caught. Prehistoric animals. He had to cut his way through thick undergrowth with a machete. From the age of five, he would swim in the murky water flowing past his house. At that same age, he crossed the river on a trunk recently cut down by his brother. He ate water hyacinths. He raised a monkey. When he was ten, he would go fishing with his friends and sleep under the stars or in shelters improvised from bark and branches to protect him from the tropical night.
It was also during his early childhood that his grandfather first let him slip into his painting studio, a sacred, forbidden space that Lucas never wanted to leave. He gave him pencils and had him copy his own paintings. He was a gruff man who found his vocation as an artist early in his life. The art school in Resistencia, Chaco, bears his name: Alfredo Pertile. Lucas’s grandmother grew orchids and he is still fascinated by the mysteries of flowers.
This is the jungle painted by Lucas Pertile: the paintings’ colour and density reflect those of its sounds. The colour ripples with effervescent stillness, full of presence. It is and is not contained within the plane. Pertile has it engraved in his memory, which is why he doesn’t have to think when he paints, he simply lets it out. It’s an inner jungle, both primitive and fantastical, like the one that was home to the child who grew up swimming in open rivers and climbing trees.
The brushstrokes are free, liberated, precise and spattered, dragged and superimposed, with blotches and impastos… as though several different painters had worked on the same canvas. The exuberant greens, oranges and blues create voluptuous plants and flowers one imagines to be carnivorous, or able to speak. It’s as though the vegetation belonged to a hyper-sensory reality, or a video game. From a different universe or perhaps a dream that fades with the dawn. A stormy morning, or a glowing evening, a night, or an eclipse during the torrid siesta hour. They’re outside of time.
The artist occupies the scene, changing perspectives and hiding places in the face of an imminent catastrophe or the emergence of some jungle beast. Jaguars, monkeys, people on canoes and ghosts all feature.
In the place where he tends to go to paint, in the middle of the Misiones jungle, the plants and ants are outrageously abundant. Beetles are supercharged. Tarantulas fall to the ground with a bone-like crunch. The chirping of the insects can be so insistent you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for spirits. Once, he couldn’t stand it any more and sought refuge in his cabin. He was stung by a scorpion and sat down to experience the sensation of his limbs going to sleep. Surviving was his challenge to the natural world. Which is why he can paint it now. He has earned the power to capture it on canvas.
María Paula Zacharías, independent art critic
The Art of Lucas Pertile
The concept of artists intoxicating themselves in search of inspiration is hardly novel, quite the reverse in fact. However, Lucas Pertile is the first I’ve come across to draw inspiration from the poison of a scorpion sting, let alone to make the experience one of the cornerstones of his oeuvre. And yet the idea of sitting alone in a cabin in the jungle, waiting to see whether you’re going to live or die while all around the jungle taunts you with its choral roar and impossibly rich colours seems an excellent description of the atmosphere one might expect at one of Pertile’s exhibitions.
Hallucination, dreamscape, vision… Pertile says his process is driven by the subconscious, a voyage to another dimension with the resulting art generated by what he has been able to bring back with him, and psychoanalysis is certainly an important factor in his work, but one suspects that it also very much depends on close observation of the world around him. Strange as that might sound when presented with images of magical flora and fauna often rendered in psychedelic colours, it becomes less so when one thinks of the jungle environment where he does much of his work, the truly otherworldly landscape of the Misiones rainforest, as well as the landscapes from his childhood in Chaco, Argentina, where the scrubland isn’t nearly so lush but is just as inhospitable, if not more so. Then there is the key role played by memory; Pertile has called the recurring monkey figure that appears in much of his work a kind of self-portrait, but it is also based on his memories of a monkey that would follow him around when he was a child playing by the river near his home. Combined with a keen awareness of art history; there are clear echoes of Fauvism and Primitivism as well as the Latin American branches of the Neo Figurative and New Image movements, one gets a sense of the depth and tangible realities to be found in Pertile’s painting. This firm academic grounding is perhaps only to be expected from the grandson of one of Chaco’s most famous artists, Alfredo Pertile, whose studio introduced the young Lucas to a whole new form of adventure in which one wields a brush rather than a machete.
Underlying this vivacious combination of inner, outer and fantastical worlds is another key element: death. Described by the artist as, along with the unconscious, ‘The only truth that we all share’, mortality is sometimes explicitly foregrounded with skeletal figures, ghosts and skulls, but it also lurks in the background in dark brushstrokes that serve to underline and enhance the colour and raw movement of the other elements of the composition. A universal reality, death seeps into Pertile’s world, filling in the gaps between the bright shapes and sensuous forms, always there even if we’d rather not admit it, dazzled as we are by the gorgeous flowers and fantastical figures.
This seems to me to be an overarching theme of Pertile’s art: the tug of war between life and death, the light and the dark. Often, when taking in the most vibrant and colourful of his pieces, images that radiate a pure, sensuous joy, the viewer finds their eye drawn to a dark spot in the corner; a patch of shadow, or the hollow of a tree trunk, reminding them that all these wonderful things are transient, destined to disappear. Inversely, in the gloomier compositions, there always seem to be one or more sources of light or colour arranged in such a way that one feels the promise of more to come: beacons of hope for characters and viewers alike.
To experience Pertile’s art is to engage with an artist forever transporting us back to that cabin where, skin throbbing, under siege from a natural world that has just revealed its most vicious side, we sit and wait for the visions to come, unaware, and perhaps uncaring, whether they are harbingers of the end or a new dawn.
Kit Maude, Journalist
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