Tunnel Vision – Sperakis Cuts Through
Photo: Stalin Lopez
In the first art exhibit curated by Bogota Brilliance, world renowned – and collected – artist Nicholas Sperakis extracts the drama of humanity with an exacto blade, that scalpel-like instrument wielded by sculptors and draftsman alike. The faces he depicts in his masterful woodblock prints asks the viewer to change places, or to enter into the intricate lines and interact with the other figures depicted within the piece. Sperakis is not interested in the easy road, or the artificial prettiness that woodblock printing has devolved into. Rather, his is an aesthete built on an impression of realism – yet, one that never takes the literal road. Every line etched in the wood (usually pine, sometimes cherry) is a deliberate attempt to carve deeper into the human psyche and understand what drives us together, apart, forward, backwards – or not at all.
The extraordinary exhibition of Sperakis’ works, The Tunnel Within, now hanging at Authors Bookstore, showcases work created over two centuries (from the 1960s to early 2000s). Although the inspirations, and scenes like 42nd Street in New York City, or El Valle - Cauca, Colombia, have changed and in some ways, transmuted, the artist’s aesthetic remains constant. He first draws or paints the image upon a wooden surface, then carefully carves the image out, until he has created a relief. Then he rolls the black oil-based black ink over the image and tacks a special Thai rice paper over the block. The next step requires a delicate – yet assured – touch as he presses the paper over the block with a flat, wooden spatula, moving side-to-side with the precision of a true craftsman. The printed image is removed immediately from the block and hung to dry for a week. All of these elements distinguish Sperakis and make the pieces he creates that more interesting. Especially when considering that he is the last living practitioner of this technique (that we know of).
His is a world where superficiality is stripped away, yet never truly exposed; one where the multiple masks we create are almost removed – yet are allowed to stay hinged upon a frail base of social congeniality; a world where the viewer is invited to surrender themselves to the visage reflected through the plexiglass.
Pigments would not advance the themes or enhance the moods I try to convey in the woodcut medium.
The nature of the wood surface plays an important role in the final effect.
A face is usually a mask. It reveals what people don’t want revealed about themselves or are afraid to reveal.
My woodblocks show people caught up in circumstances which deform them.
Art must have an ideal, explicit or implicit, of how people would like to be.
I think art succeeds most effectively when it deals with the power of suggestion and when it explores various angles of accessibility.
I think the kind of work I do reaches back to our sources and also reaches forward.
The Tunnel Within
An exhibit of woodblock prints by Master Nicholas Sperakis
October 4 to October 31, 2012
Calle 70 No. 5 – 23
Beatriz Gomez: Legacy of Light
Being the daughter of a famous artist might have been daunting and wrought with extravagant drama for some, but the recollections that Beatriz Gomez shares about her father, painter Ricardo Gomez Campuzano (1891–1981), are filled with a sense of normalcy that is highlighted by warm tones and an undying admiration –for the man and his work. “He worked like the impressionists; working outside in nature with the easel –like he did in Nova Scotia.” Beatriz recalled, as if watching her father from afar, and indeed, one could almost see the painter reflected in her vibrant eyes.
When we first encountered some of Gomez Campuzano’s work at the Museo Nacional, the phrase “hyper-realism” came to our lips. The figures are at rooted in their time and surroundings, yet they appear ready to step out of the canvas, or to welcome the viewer in.
“I spent a lot of time with him. I was his model, and I painted with my father.” Recounted Beatriz as she stood by “Beatriz y las rosas,” one of the many paintings Gomez Campuzano made of her. “He liked to talk to you when he was painting –to capture your soul. This took six months to complete.” She would pose for her father every day after school, if the light was exact. He would choose the clothes that he liked and which fit the composition. “He preferred to paint wild roses, not the farmed roses that were all the same.” Beatriz explained, “Wild roses are all different shapes, lengths and colors.” The maestro’s wife and neighbors would collect the roses daily knowing it was for the painting. Gomez Campuzano actually expanded “Beatriz y las rosas” after it had been framed because, “the roses were not breathing.”
Whether the subject be roses, his wife and daughters, a fisherwoman, an afro-colombian child, the landscape, a myriad of others or himself, Gomez Campuzano’s oeuvre contains a quality and depth that was captured in the title of Beatriz’s book, Pintur de la luz, for it does appear that with his brush, Gomez Campuzano harnessed the sunlight, floral fragrance and the essence of each subject’s soul. The portraits of the scions of Colombian society are akin to the work of North American painter John Singer Sargent, but contain a radiance not present in Singer Sargent’s pieces.
Although the Asociacion Cultural Ricardo Gomez Campuzano was inaugurated in 1978 with the intent to preserve the master´s works, no concerted effort was made to actually catalogue his oeuvre which totals over one thousand pieces. The Asociation is located in the home that Gomez Campuzano had built in the 1940s and where he did a vast number of paintings. This is the house where Beatriz and her siblings were raised, and captured forever by their father´s brush. Visitors can view a good sampling of Gomez Campuzano´s work, and gain a sense of how he lived even though –much to Beatriz´s chagrin- most of the personal objects have been removed, and the home has been converted into a public library. And, according to Beatriz, many of the paintings are currently stored in a basement.
In 1987 the artist´s widow Ines Delgado Padilla created the book Ricardo Gomez Campuzano, a loving homage to her husband that is full of wonderful full page photos of the great painter´s work. When Beatriz enrolled in art classes at the University of Los Andes, under the instruction of Fernando Davila, she “was the grandmother of all the students” and Davila told her “you must do something about your father´s work.” Until then she hadn´t realized her responsibility. Inspired, Beatriz embarked upon the creation of Pintur de la luz, a masterpiece unto itself. The book, which has sold at least 1,000 copies since its launch in 2003, is at once acts a limited catalogue, a biography and an important history of Colombian art.
After the success of Pintur de la luz Beatriz realized there was a greater need to create an actual catalogue of Gomez Campuzano´s vast body of work. To accomplish this she enrolled in classes to learn database programs, access, photoshop and others. The result of her concentrated labor is perhaps one of the most comprehensive catalogues to have been made of any artist, which covers only 10% of the total numbers of paintings. Currently, Gomez Campuzano´s art can be found in museums, clubs and private collections. Beatriz contacted the buyer of record for each piece, explained what she was doing, asked permission to photograph the piece and then issued a Certificate of Authenticity, advising the owner of the catalogue number and the technical information (such as what exhibits the work appeared in). One piece, a depiction of a key scene in one of the most famous Colombian novels ever written, La Voraigne by Jose Eustacio Rivera, was originally created to show the two protagonists discovering a skeleton. The dealer who had possession of the piece decided it would not be commercially viable, and had the skeleton painted out. Thanks to modern technology, for the catalogue Beatriz returned the skeleton to its resting place with the use of photoshop.
In 1987, after her children were grown and left home, Beatriz started to paint in a serious way. Working under the name TrizGo, she found her own style and technique despite having studied her father´s work “inside and out” to learn the way that he painted and created colors. Although shadows of Gomez Campuzano can be detected in certain pieces, viewing TrizGo´s various subjects such as the surging vermilion sunset in “Arrebol en el Rio Magdalena,” the quiet intimacy of a young father holding his newborn of “Ya paso,” or a fleeting moment in a busy marketplace as captured in “Venta en Mariquita” leaves no doubt that she has indeed created her own vision, and art lovers are all the better off for it.
For more information about Gomez Campuzano visit the Museum listing section of Bogota Brilliance, and also see:
For more information about TrizGo, visit: