Why is it, for no apparent reason, that cast bronze sculptures or paintings full of stick figures and freehand shapes make us feel uncomfortable? How can it be that we extol the lack of perfection in that which is the basis of our culture? Perhaps Javier Zabala and his illustrations will allow us to bridge this gap...
«Art isn’t art until someone says it is». This is one of the sentences that Julia Roberts’ character tries to refute in this clip from Mona Lisa Smile. In it, the teacher tries to make her students appreciate what we understand art to be for themselves, ignoring what leaders think and express.
Our society has decided that it doesn’t understand modern art, that shapes that present a distorted reality cannot be considered artistic because it looks like the artist hasn’t worked hard or made an effort. It’s art that we, as ordinary people, would never be able to create. That is where the artist’s charm lies, and people don’t stop to think about it as much as they should.
The difference between the artist and an ordinary person doesn’t lie in their ability to create supposed works of art, but in the fact that they are capable of reflecting on what they want to convey and thinking about how to capture it; the artist is different from most of us not because they can do, but because they stop to think. Vincent van Gogh used a bird as a metaphor for this situation, a bird that wanted to be free but was locked in a cage.
And that is why art is any expression of people’s concerns with a physical presence, whether it be on paper, marble or canvas, among other methods.
The works of Javier Zabala represent the epitome of the modern artist. His drawings, with uneven strokes, soft colors, similar in style to the surrealism of Paul Klee, schematics reminiscent of the work of Joan Miró, albeit with less expressiveness for one reason: Zabala illustrates the works of the most essential literary artists of our time.
If Árboles (Trees) is Mario Benedetti’s reflection on man’s impact on nature, on turning it into a picture book, then Zabala reminds us of how insignificant man is in an ancient environment.
Zabala reshapes a literary text by serving as a vehicle for its expression, thus giving it multiple layers of meaning. This is the artist’s achievement: to enhance the original works until he betters them. Additionally, viewing Zabala’s works gives us the chance to reflect on the dramatic shift required in our society’s attitude towards art.