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Realism and Fog /  Felipe Sabatini Downey

Realism in our lives has been a virtue that is often skimped for so many and diverse reasons that it finally becomes a special moment, accessed from amidst the fog, like that night when we drove up to Cajón del Maipo to a high and remote road that we had to stop on because the mist totally enveloped us. We got out and there was nothing to be seen except the beams of the car's headlights. Suddenly we distinguish in pieces the figures of cows that pierced the rays of light, creating with their phantasmagorical presence a fantastic and threatening reality. Alone in the middle of the night and the dense fog we were part of a wonderful intensely realistic painting of the world, which was reduced to our most immediate physical environment in which cows emerged as divine or supernatural beings.


From a young age I felt a mixture of admiration and absurdity regarding the idea of painting a still life, an admirable task of emulating Mother Nature, but, at the same time, impossible to discipline creative inspiration in terms of still life at the same time. that I did not feel inclined. When you told me about your realistic conviction in painting, I thought of it as a valuable option without a doubt, but esoteric, like that of someone who joins a mysterious brotherhood. Over time I understood that painting beyond a copy was a recreation of essential reality, which told me much more than abstract paintings, which I began to see as esoteric now. My own pastel paintings, which I enjoyed making so much, abstract from so much being an extreme subjectivism of reality recreated with affective strokes in the lapse of a few minutes. There was no realistic intention in them, they were just expressionist exercises that were consumed in the now of the present.


In the field of literature over the years, the maturation of the perception of artistic creation has evolved, in a particular way, in the manner of a broken path or perhaps a circular one through the empire of historical facts. I did not experience this impact of history on my perception of art with regard to painting, as I did in the field of letters. A strong preference for the social value of literary creation in the years of democracy, gives way to an obsessive look at the style and formal aspects of the text, such as who is looking for a secret and esoteric figure to explain creation, in the times of military dictatorship, which later ceased to predominate together with the de facto regime, and gave way to the progressive and constant preference again for the valuation of literature as a special social art.


On the other hand, in the course of the twentieth century, the perception of literature was captured by the successive developments of naturalism, impressionism, expressionism and surrealism brought by the avant-gardes, which although on the one hand enriched with new nuances the representation of reality, alternatively incorporating new dimensions of it, on the other hand emptied it of content, because they circumscribed it to the subjective. In this way, in literature realism was spared, paradoxically, since it wielded the need to represent reality as it is presented in the immediacy of the present to writers and their characters.


Finally, just as I was able to understand it after my pastel painting exercises, I also understood it with respect to literature: in the immediacy, thought becomes abstract and is partly consumed on the surface of contemporary perception. The reality of life is represented in a surrealist vision as a game in which the objective dimension and the dimensions of dreams, the subconscious and chance are correlated, for example, in the novel Hopscotch by Cortázar. Or, realism becomes magical when it becomes impregnated with the suggestive pre-modern sensibility of the American peoples in the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by García Márquez. Or, realism becomes a challenge to acculturation and option for a reality represented from the point of view of the American indigenous worldview in the writing of the newspaper and novel El zorro de arriba y el zorro de bajo by José María Arguedas.


Today I can, beyond the influences of contemporary sensibilities, value realism in art, as a virtuous effort to represent "the immediacy of life, but as a surface embodied in life in all its essential determinations" (Lukács), not only as a subjectively perceived element, but as a totality that is permanent in time. This art that manages to capture a categorical, resounding, absolute image of life in time, shocking, as was that night in the Cajón del Maipo the image of the cows that emerged divine and absolute from nowhere in the dense fog.

Felipe Sabatini Downey

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