Nacho Martín Silva and the representation models. Carlos Delgado-Mayordomo



Nacho Martín Silva (Madrid, 1977) understands painting as form and investigation, that is, as perception and concept. This union of a traditionally irreconcilable couple is the starting point for the questioning of other codes, established by the hegemonic history of art that has determined the territories of exclusion from which painting has been banned. One of these territories is the idea of the process, aspect that Nacho Martín Silva has worked brilliantly in his project The big studio, in which he invites the spectator to submit images on-line that are later to be used by the artist for a large size painting.

This dislocation of the traditional stand points of the agents who intervene in the production and reception of an art work partially links it to the strategies of participative art 1, and we say partially because the final result – and, with it, the spectator’s aesthetical experimentation – is determined by the artist’s decisions. This way, Nacho Martín Silva articulates a complex dialogue between opposites: the spectator as an active element (creator of the iconography of the work) and as primary receptor (observer of a fixed composition); the artist as medium (receptor and conduit of an external archive) and as demiurge (creator of a the sensorial proposal); and finally, the work of art as an open and interactive structure and, on the other hand, as a defined and objectual structure.

The poetics of the fragment is present, with substantial variations, in great part of Nacho Martín Silva’s work. For example, his work 1937 is comprised by 73 portraits that actually form a great group portrait in which the collective identity is determined by the fact that it is about the painters included in the exhibition Entartete Kunstrealizada in the Haus der Kunst in Munich. As the forty-eight portraits (1971-72) by Gerhard Richter or the feminine copy of Forty-eight portraits (1991) by Gottfried Helnwein, this piece is understood as a whole, whose threads are a determined concept; but, at the same time, Nacho Martín Silva uses as a chromatic reference for each portrait the very pictorial work of the portrayed, which makes each piece formally independent. Now, the game of opposites works as a tool to analyse identity as an ongoing dialogical process that keeps old imaginaries and new strategies of representation.

His work Unbekanntes Bild (Unknown portrait) extends this reflection: the cultural context of Nazi Germany is once again present, and the reflection on the portrait as the home for a versatile identity, while the documentary aspect is being subordinated to the act of painting and, more than ever, to the poetics of the fragment. The artwork uses as a starting point an image found on the Internet of Hitler’s office at the Führerbau in Munich, where a portrait appears and whose identification can only be solved on the basis of partial assumptions. The investigation process regarding the identity of the portrayed gives way to an open narrative, a dislocated story, which finally turns the blurry image of Hitler’s office into a foot note in a creative process that goes beyond the original motive. At some point during the investigation, the identification gives way to the mechanisms involved in the search for representation models and the creation of a possible Other from the rhetoric use of the synecdoche. Because, though some specific details might remind us of Bismarck or Frederick the Great, what the work as a whole generates is a short-circuit in the representation, a feeling of fragility and eventuality in opposition to the security given by the hierarchic order of the Self.

Once the idea of the concrete subject and its being in the world is disintegrated, the original figure looses its identitary roots. This way, the artist seems to define the image as the process of creation of an idea that, on the one hand, replaces reality and, on the other hand, accepts the ruinous vestiges of time and memory, that is, the cognitive functioning of the human mind that can not store and forgets a great part of the referential information. This undermining of the petrified contemplation of the subject, the disruption of the escopic satisfaction implies to a great extent taking away from the eye what it uses for seeing. But, as Miguel A. Hernández Navarro stated, what this anti visual strategy achieves is exactly the contrary: «When you take away from the eye what it uses for seeing, in no way is it killed but on the contrary, it is activated (…) The escopic dimension is not cancelled, but on the contrary it is emphasised, why one could say that the visual art is more visual the more anti-visual it is» 2


1 ARDENNE, Paul. Un arte contextual. Creación artística en el medio urbano, de situación, de interacción, de participación. Murcia. Cendeac, Centro de Documentación y Estudios Avanzados de Arte Contemporáneo. 2006.


2 HERNÁNDEZ NAVARRO, Miguel Á. La so(m)bra de lo real: El arte como vomitorio. Valencia, Institució Alfons el Magnànim, Diputación de Valencia, 2006, p. 61.