DDaniel Berdala, a place to receive the absence.

What touches all real paintings is absence.
John Berger

The experience of man, his existential restlessness, is a mental plot that brushes the visible in order to extract what is invisible, and Daniel Berdala, through his paintings, expresses the evolution of life ,of a life that cannot be attained without being tied to the experience of its own body, without being a clear reference to this constant flow that connects memory with emotion and movement.

Metaphors for pain, death, forgetting, hope…Fragilities that progressively reveal the horizon of loss until becoming a true metaphor for the intimate space that sinks the horizon ”in an infinite distance” as Diderot would say.

In fact, the landscapes of Berdala, like the romantics makes me think of Friedrich and some oneiric images-or the abstractions of a Rothko, exist by way of an experience that has been lived. They are fictitious landscapes that arise as a metaphor between the author and his emotional surroundings, perceptions that-as happens with painted horizons-tend to suppress borders, limits that can separate fiction from reality, the natural from the artificial. Although the painter finds reasons that can order the work, the force of a painting is in its implied contents, although this might be nothing more than absence. Berger alludes to this absence: ”If it weren’t for painting we would not be aware. And that is what we would lose”.

For Berdala there is no imperative to create. It is only necessary to have that “room of my own” that Virginia Woolf demanded, the solitude and the silence necessary to empty oneself. The fact that he worked in the study ,that mountains were part of his landscape, is just an everyday factor that is interiorised day by day, as happened with the accumulative effect of his journeys(Nepal, Brazil, Chile, Mexico…).He never paints outside of his study, that “room of his own”-to add to this he fills exercise books with notes from his stays in other places; because the work is mental and fruit of the act of humanity that mere living represents. There is a collaboration with the surroundings , a context that is universal in contact with emotions and makes him his own company; because his images are born, made, acquire shape and colour, when everything has disappeared from his look. the only thing of importance to him is knowing that he can dedicate himself to an intimate work, that which he wants, without establishing objectives that make his work a mere propagandist escape. Only when will the artist be honest with himself and know how to cut himself off from deception, from the ease with which it is possible to build a business model. For him, the only satisfaction lies in this honesty that provokes emotions in the spectator.

Listening to the painting

Art never expresses anything but itself.
It has its own life, the same as thought,
And only progresses along its own lines.
Oscar Wilde

We move along restless sands plagued with indifference, distance, cruelty…in a world where only lies make headway, constant manipulation that articulates our lives, where everything is grossly inhuman, where indifference cruelly lives; and the value of constructing day by day your own path in the solitude of the workshop, moving tied to the slack cord of emotions, is almost an act of temerity. But it is also true that the fragility of all things that surround us opens anonymous horizons in the artist and brightens the purity of his feelings in an inverse process to that of our world, a process in which uncertainty and fear have been substituted by this real need for calm that goes from darkness to light instead of sterile debate but “moving from the art of a period to the period itself is the great error that all historians commit”, as Wilde stated, in the same way that “All bad art comes from returning to nature and reconstructing it as an ideal” because “Life and nature can at times comprise the raw material of art,…(…) When art abdicates from its imaginative medium it abdicates from everything”. Wilde was not wrong, and his convention-demolishing irony already told us that the artist must avoid “the modernity of the shape and the modernity of the subject”.

Wilde said that art expressed his own being, and we should understand him in the margins of any chronology, in the same way that Berger, in our time , writes a book with “A feeling of urgency” to gather together in a “resistance group” cave painters, Rembrandt, a Romanian peasant, the ancient Egyptians, an expert in the solitude of certain hotel rooms, some dogs in the half light of twilight, a radio presenter”…The basics that unites this dialogue has a bridge to the spectator so that realises that “what is going on in the world today is perverse, and the explanations we are given are a pile of lies”. With the conviction they represent Berdala would undoubtedly be part of this “resistance group”.

Before I spoke of absence, of the way Berger has of analysing the process of a work, just in the state that brings on “disappearance”, because the author has become the intermediary between the mood that expresses his pain, fear, hope, tranquillity, peace, transience, lightness, weightlessness…, and the connection established with surroundings. As literature has told us so many times, especially at the XIX century and beginnings of the XX, pain can be soothed in contact with nature and thus emotional balance can be restored. In our case, we must invest, interiorise, see how Berdala´s external emotions attain balance via an imagined order that comes from his mind and becomes a landscape. Nature is no longer an external observation but an internal necessity that enables him to express himself in climatic terms.

Berdala´s paintings reflect his mood. It isn’t that his titles are necessary, but each one of them constructs a poetic image that, added to the pictorial image, enables us to understand an attitude towards life and make-depending on our perception- an open reading. Is its clear that the emotions are his, but they integrate this universal and anonymous content that makes us complicit, collaborators, provoking other emotions. This transient component is what gives a work validity.
Among his works we can find links, common elements that unite them, that –in progression- advance towards the most absolute synthesis and treatment. It might be, depending on the moment, the earth and/or the sea, but a constant is the sky, blue, and the energy that it gives off. The earth does appear in a part of his paintings, maybe to give form to this desire to escape outwards in search of air; light and lightness mark the way. If the earth, the mountains of those initials works, could be the ghosts of the subconscious, in their development it seems as if everything has been erased after an internal cleansing, as if the desire for calm and balance had attained a Zen philosophy. The earth disappears slowly to become a narrow stain that breaks the line of the horizon and its hardness, like that of colour or the clouds of so many other works, also lightens to give way to a need for peace. The link here is not the physical reference but the silence produced by the skies, the solitude of these transparent blues, the naked sound of the music that Glenn Gould played on his piano once all levels of silence had been pierced, all the screens that stood in the way of this need for communication that we all wish to achieve. Berdala managed this absence, this disappearance, and everything is flattened in limitless horizons, in dissolved plains that and cancel out concrete references to give way to the haze of an absence that rises in his own mind.

Initial romanticism stands naked in this dissolution of fields of perception that move towards pure white. We are left with the basic characteristics, alchemy, a metaphor than dilutes elements … it is us that we build at each step and everything finishes so we can start again. That which emerged is dissolved in time and space with our emotions, feelings, pains, with the distance that flattens and calms that uncertainty which debates what is and isn’t. All Berdala´s landscapes are a metaphor for the human condition and devour us until we disappear, fragile like our emotions, because he never lets a look hang on what has already been created and escapes from any determinant that clouds it.

Landscapes that are skin, voices that come from the unconscious, temperatures that give birth to atmospheres, densities that rise until they disappear, transparencies that perforate emotion…The artist sets his limit, like this stain, stroke, that for him represents a window. But the work lies behind, extends and is not fenced in: merely laughs at limits, like his mind from this workshop that has become “a room of his own” to exercise his own freedom and let his subjective experience out. Just the human fear of freedom causes the need to build a fence, to enclose oneself, as often happens with thoughts, emotions…, forgetting the clear lucidity of Wilde when he says that “ the conscious goal of life is finding expression, and art offers beautiful ways through which this energy can become a reality” or that of Shitao when he declared that “the paintbrush acts to save things from chaos, because art is always the result of a borderless dialogue(neither time, nor shapes, nor styles…)where, as Berger said, “the painting will talk, if we stop to listen”.

Glòria Bosch,
Art historian and Art Director
Fundació Vilacasas