(The) past is full of hints that can unveil the present… I have always thought that subjects and themes remain the same over centuries, and that human pursuits, aspirations and chimeras are cyclical.
In his first exhibition at Robischon Gallery, Spanish artist Paco Pomet transforms his subjects into eerie tableaux, creating, as he calls it, “a parallel universe in which conventionality staggers.” Pomet begins with vintage, black-and-white photographs, often found by chance at flea markets and estate sales. The artist then re-scales, re-composes, and re-interprets the images into paintings on canvas. The source photographs are vital to the artist as he believes that photography has “power beyond its own medium.” Pomet sees photography as able to “hold completely unseen fragments of the world,” and that “its enormous popularization has turned it into the container of a visual heritage that is practically infinite.” The artist pursues a dialogue between photography and painting, engaging each medium to expand upon the territory of the other.
Pomet is drawn to the realism that photography offers, while he pushes the boundary of what could be considered realistic. The artist truthfully interprets his once camera-ready subjects through his remarkably rich and adept brushstroke - as he inventively substitutes or injects potent, illogical, or fantastic disruptions. Unnatural sources of light, intrusions of vivid color, and inclusions of improbable or anachronistic objects all serve as juxtapositions, which jar the viewer’s understanding of the picture and tease the surreal from the mundane. Pomet says that he employs “color in a symbolic way, not as a describing tool.” His use of charged blues, acid yellows, and vibrant oranges in paintings that are otherwise muted in color, dramatically pull the eye to a specific place. The vivid colors undermine the normalcy of a conventional or traditional painting, awakening the viewer into a new reality. In El Puente for example, Pomet faithfully describes a river-scape: hills, trees, rustic cabins, and an early suspension bridge. The water, however, is an acerbic, glowing yellow, casting its own golden light onto the underside of the bridge. The landscape is no longer predictable or particularly familiar; rather, it presents itself as transformed, otherworldly. Pomet’s disruptions, according to the artist, compel his audience to “go across the subject of a painting, and make their own decisions in ways to experience it. I think a good painting can sometimes work as a mirror and possesses the ability to return the viewer to the reflection of his own fears and desires.”
In many of Pomet’s paintings, the unexpected is delivered through humor. In The Duelists, two men in old-fashioned clothing pose straight-faced at the viewer as if to convey that nothing is out of the ordinary. The canvas is grayscale, save for the objects the men brandish - no longer lumberjacks holding axes, but rather, Star Wars invaders brandishing lightsabers. The red and blue glowing “swords” are striking not only because of their colors, but because of their anachronism. Lightsabers are weapons of the fantastic future, not the striking tool of the axe used by these men of the past. A similar merging of eras and conflating of time is a technique often used by the Magic Realists of the 1930s. Indeed, Pomet’s paintings are not traditionally Surrealist, but like the Magic Realists, he is able to pull the uncanny from direct representation.
Eclipse, a nearly monochrome, large-scale painting of saturated cornflower and deep twilight blues, speaks to the magical nature of Pomet’s work. The unique color and the scale of the canvas work together to bewitch the viewer, allowing the painting’s strange peculiarities to reveal themselves slowly. The deftly painted large traditional wood beam cabin is disrupted by a seemingly earthbound moon - anthropomorphized with cartoonish hands and feet - opening the cabin door, revealing the bright yellow light of the sun. The sun here is a proper light source, reflected truthfully on the surface of the moon and its surrounds. Pomet’s cosmological, cartoonish imagery blasts apart the quotidien source material - the very terrestrial log cabin - in a way that is both delightful and bizarre.
Cartoon imagery finds its way into two other canvases in Pomet’s exhibition: Pastoral and Seaters. Both these paintings are nearly monochrome as well, faithful representations of an antique period landscape and portrait. This time, Pomet breaks apart that traditional imagery with cartoon thought bubbles: in Pastoral, the cows are engaged in a kind of dialogue, and in Seaters, one man’s thought appears in a bubble above his head. Again, Pomet has merged contemporary visual rhetoric - the speech balloon - with imagery from the past.
In creating his own visual language which ranges from the hauntingly beautiful to the extremely amusing, Paco Pomet allows the audience to experience an uncanny convergence of past and present, and a rare glimpse into the magic of the mundane.
Paco Pomet received a Fine Arts Degree from the University of Granada, and later attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Pomet has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States and was included in Bansky’s anti-theme park, Dismaland, in 2015. Pomet’s works are in the permanent collections of the Colecciōn Solo, Madrid; L’Ecole d’Art Aix en Provance; the Fine Arts Museum the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Madrid; the Santander Museum of Fine Arts; the Spanish Academy in Rome; and the Valencia Institute of Modern Art, among others, as well as many private collections. He lives and works in Grenada, Spain.