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Drawing as nature

27 April - 24 June 2023

The work of José María Lillo, professor of painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cuenca, not only highlights the intelligence that drawing requires, but also the primacy it enjoys among the plastic arts. His last two exhibitions, "Thinking of a tree", at the Botanical Garden of Madrid, and "Opus Nigrum", at the Resende Foundation in Porto, in addition to being a master class in large-format drawing, constitute the brilliant exhibition of an idea . It is, for him, drawing life.

Lillo's drawings of trees are not the notebooks of a naturalist, in the manner of Humboldt's or Charles Darwin's sketchbooks. They are neither notes nor are they executed in the open air, in direct contemplation of their object. On the contrary, they are large-format drawings, executed over many sessions, in the solitude of the studio. Although the generation of life in its expansion and growth is observed in them, they are not an instrument at the service of biology or botany, but, in some way, portraits of living beings.

Here it seems that the old relationship between art and nature is reversed. Well, here the drawing, which is delivered to a meticulous observation of nature, appears to us rather as the creation of a life of its own. that's why for


Lillo it is very important to pay attention to two aspects of the drawing. First, the scale and format. Its trees seem to aspire to natural size. Hence the enormous dimensions of his drawings that would like to grow and expand as much as the very trees to which they refer. But secondly, the artist delays recreating his drawings, aware that he needs time to get hold of them. In this way, the long growth time of the trees, the hundred, three or five hundred years of their life, are honored and recreated on paper in some way with the one hundred, three or five hundred hours of work.

It is, therefore, about capturing the movement, but approaching its own growth rate. Like in dance. Regarding dance and drawing, Valéry writes: “in this genre of movement, Space is nothing more than the place of the acts: it does not contain its object. It is now Time that plays the main role.

Lillo's drawings lovingly expand in space and take all his time for execution. Like those old trees that he portrays, or like the vital force that barely appears in the form of small notes of color, in the midst of the vegetal growth of his drawing.


Miguel Cereceda

© ON Art Space by Tila Barrena

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