Felipe Ortega Regalado
From December 17th, 2020 to 26th March, 2021
Light of this love that we are
Clues to understanding Felipe Ortega Regalado’s artwork
By Susana Blas
We all have a period in which we were many, a period that begins at birth and goes to roughly the age of three and a half, when we are not aware of who we are save for what we will later be told by those who saw us grow. Until that moment, we are nothing more than what each of these versions of our unconscious phase yield, namely inert or vegetable elements: a stone, a shrub, a gust of wind, a lump of sand, and so forth, the sum of which is the exact identity of a three and a half year-long desert.
Agustín Fernández Mallo, Nocilla Dream (2007)
In No soy yo quien dibuja (It is not I who draws), Felipe Ortega Regalado’s poetics have become more essential. On his journey towards a refinement corresponding to the unwritten law of Zen philosophy that places sensory, vital, and mundane experience above any predetermined judgment or theoretical reflection, he has done away with the superfluous. The stillness, the control over impulses and emotions, the beauty of silence and serenity…the whole ideology of Eastern thought could be applied to his imagery.
I would like to emphasize right from the start the value of the format chosen by the artist to share this new project: a book. He has thus opted for the type of reception that favors intimacy with the audience, a beautiful volume that encourages contemplation from a perspective of purposeful solitude.
In addition – and as an exception – the one hundred original drawings will be exhibited in the Valencian art space Gabinete de Dibujos, delicately displayed at eye level at the artist’s request in order to create a unique immersion experience in stroke and color, reminiscent of the conscious observation of a Tibetan thangka.
Oracular quality and physicality
No soy yo quien dibuja has a magnetic oracular quality, which can be seen both in its process, in the way in which the drawings spring from the artist (automatically and with minimal intervention of the abstract mind), as well as in the combinatorial quality of its constellation of parts, of archaeological remains, of small organs, which, randomly arranged, let the mysteries of the universe shine through.
The first heading found in the text should not be overlooked: “It is not I who draws, but rather our entire species, long before we even knew that we were. Long before we even knew ourselves.”
This would thus be a sacred book in the hands of someone who knows how to read; as with a tarot of encrypted rules, infinite prophetic possibilities are articulated between the folds of this collection of a hundred drawings.
I have invented nothing. A careful reading of the artist’s sentences transmits this: “The drawing spits all its silence in our faces, like a guru when asked about reality.”
In this case, the common book format preserves the precious stone of proximal material. Will I be able to hold this Bible of drawings in my hands without burning myself and receive some of the energy that created it?
There is a long tradition of artistic experiences that are connected to a spiritual path. Much of the abstract art of the 20th century was developed as a dialogue with esoteric theories. The first mediumistic drawings were not just beautiful objects, they were symbolic sermons. Two great pioneers of pictorial abstraction, Hilma af Klint and Kandinsky, both delved into theosophical realms and spoke of the inner necessity to define the pictorial urge.
The inner necessity. Felipe tells me that he even allowed his health to suffer while he was drawing: “I was drawing for a year and a half. I drew for hours every day. I even injured my neck.” The act of tracing a line, converted into a mantra and ritual – into a vibration – becomes indispensable: “I had a need. A need that continues to spring from me even now, not only in drawing but also in my day-to-day life.”
Bound and put in order – given the “body of a book” – they are drawings of a clear physicality, the same corporeality that my tarot cards express as they slip through my fingers. The whole cosmos on a few pieces of cardboard.
It is as if it were a mediumistic plotter, a flow of energy that is completed and then pieced back together, that is recycled and integrated when the rest of us assimilate the drawings: “Viewers draw when they look at a drawing. Thus, eyes run like tongues over the fruit of the first kiss, right as it happens, by chance, at the end of the first meeting.”
Observe the iconographic repertoire carefully: mineral forms, archaeological vestiges, seeds, possible body organs, particles, filaments, roots, fractals, fruits…
A renunciation of the great, of the complete, of the concrete, of the perfect; that is, if these qualities can even be adequately represented.
Felipe Ortega Regalado prefers to inhabit a territory of continuous dissemination and integration of shapes and tiny, insignificant, fragile things.
The artist has spent years investigating Vedanta philosophy. Consequently, overcoming dualism is one of the pursuits of his poetics.
His drawings nurture the idea of oneness with the universe, which eliminates the separation between the observer and the observed, an idea which various non-dualistic Eastern philosophies have so ardently defended. “When I say, ‘I am’, I do not mean a separate entity with a body as its nucleus. I mean the totality of being, the ocean of consciousness, the entire universe of all that is and knows,” wrote Sri Nisargadatta, a master of the Advaita school of philosophy. This theory turns away from dissociated experience. This non-dualistic view of reality is present in various Eastern spiritual approaches: the Hindu Advaita Vedānta school, the Mādhyamaka and Yogāchāra sects of Mahāyāna Buddhism, and various currents of Taoism.
Words and things
“Words are always born later,” Felipe writes to me. And he continues: “That’s why texts function as illustrations for drawings and not the other way around, although they feed into each other afterwards.”
A dual commitment: with words and with things. And in his approach to this reasoning, I am constantly reminded of one of my favorite poets: Francis Ponge, who devoted the energy of his verses to describing the little things along with his subtle emotions. His raison d’être was to shift his gaze to the material world, with “Taking the side of things” as his motto.
Ponge, in that fusion between poetry and the concrete, understood language as a kind of natural secretion of the body; thus, he compared the energy that a mollusk uses to enclose itself in its shell with the energy with which the living body holds onto words. According to his vision, the relationship between body and word is intuited as an ancient and stable link with a nourishing fissure in its unity. Being aware of that rift allows one to make sense of writing and, at the same time, surrender to the experience of reality.
“The mollusk is a being – almost a – quality. It doesn’t need a skeleton, just a barrier, something like color in a tube. […] A shell is a small thing, but I can magnify it by placing it back where I found it, settled on an expanse of sand.” Francis Ponge
Light and love
If I close my eyes, let my hands fly over the keyboard on their own, and think of Felipe Ortega Regalado’s work, I write two words down: light and love, terms that for me still retain their power.
I choose light, for just as telescopes and microscopes capture the light from objects in order to visualize them, however enormous or tiny, his drawings capture the light of the mystery that occurs and vibrates around us.
I choose love, for this is also a book about Love, with a capital L. Whoever reaches the end of the journey, the last pages, will discover this truth.
It is a vegetable love, of gardens and of forests:
“Today the blood of this budding love has bloomed. It is not a love for someone or something. It is just love itself. Love stripped of objective and cause. Today the blood of this burgeoning love has bloomed. It is not a love of kisses or bites, nor the love of those who embrace. It is a tiptoeing love. Love that, simple and invisible as it is, weighs less than air. Today, the blood has bloomed in the light of this love that we are.”
It is a love in which loving becomes inexplicable: “… I am sure my love’s / More ponderous than my tongue. […] I cannot heave / My heart into my mouth.” These words spring from Cordelia’s lips when her father, King Lear, asks her to quantify her love for him in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. These same words, which could well be a Zen koan, perfectly reflect the clumsiness of my own ability to express the intensity of feelings that this artwork transmits.
In No soy yo quien dibuja, we all draw this love that we are.
Madrid (Lavapiés), December 11th, 2020
Gallery pictures: Raúl Belinchón