Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Hernan Miranda, the Illusion of Realism

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Hernan Miranda, the Illusion of Realism

Article excerpt

Born in Concepcion, Paraguay 48 years ago, Hernan Miranda moved with his family to Asuncion at the age of seven, and it was there that he attended some drawing workshops. The rest of his training he accomplished on his own, by studying the great masters of universal painting. Each one of them taught him something important that he incorporated into his work: Caravaggio (Italy, 1571-1610) taught him how to use light to make figures stand out; Sanchez Cotan (Spain, 1560-1627) taught him to establish a balance between color and form; Giorgio Morandi (Italy, 1907-1964) taught him about the general structure of a piece with objects placed horizontally in a line and how to capture a fleeting essence in profile. Others, like Rembrandt (Holland, 1606-1669), Vermeer (Holland, 1632-1675), and Antonio Lopez (Spain, 1936-), led Miranda to explore more deeply what he calls the "illusionist aspect of images."

With these teachers and this kind of training, it is not surprising that Miranda's compositions are still lifes. But they are conceived with the eye of a modern-day artist who is constantly looking for ways to reinterpret the things around him in his own world. His simple, almost humble, interiors are rendered with a luxurious technique kept strictly within realism. His work isn't filled with the vegetables and meats of olden-day inns, but rather with luminous fruit, kerosene lamps, baskets, gourds, jugs, candies, and coffee grinders. This artist hasn't copied his old teachers or depicted their worlds. He has adapted their language to his own experiences.

Miranda's training in drawing helped him become a great observer of detail and gave him a deep understanding of chiaroscuro, which was reinforced later by his "teachers" when he began to paint. Miranda is not trying to reproduce Tenebrism, but he did have to dominate the technique to be able to apply the concept--that of creating a sharp contrast between the lighted and unlit parts of the work. "In my paintings," Miranda tells us, "the primary protagonist is light. I don't try to create a specific atmosphere with it; I create contrast, saturating the high tones and the low tones to the greatest extent possible. What I am really looking for is for each object, each part of my painting, to have its own light--even the backgrounds, because empty spaces are very important for me."

Miranda makes use of what he calls an "explosion" of light, when objects are made to look shiny and they stand out clearly in front of a very dark background, and an "implosion," in which every object has the same tonal value against a background that also has the same value.

In some ways, the "atmosphere" that he says he is not trying to achieve is created on its own by the backgrounds and empty spaces that contrast with the objects. He is careful to establish these spaces in both the upper and lower parts of the canvas. They are what create the contrast between the light and the shadow, but they are also the great "silences" that express a lot visually in the overall work.

Miranda's realism draws you in immediately, perhaps because it reminds us of the things we use every day without paying much attention to them, things that have never produced any emotions in us. It is clear that his goal as an artist is to achieve both an "emotional effect" and a "visual effect." To do this, he looks for and explores the "illusionist aspect of the images." Miranda depicts scenes that are familiar to all of us and speak to us of a simple life, without luxuries, where an unsought order reigns; an order in which everything has its own place. This sense of peace and tranquility is not hampered by the fact that each scene suggests some easily imaginable implicit movement, which, in turn, creates a mystery that is never completely clarified. Someone began to peel an orange; someone cut a slice of watermelon; a letter has just arrived and was anxiously opened before being put back inside the torn envelope. …

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