© José Carlos Naranjo
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“The foot off the brake” 
I open the Google image search on my phone, type in three words: José Carlos Naranjo, and tap the magnifying glass icon. What appears on the screen is a young man with an athletic build and a cheerful face, awake, as if with a grace that goes beyond his appearance and reflects a state of the soul. He is seen in the studio, squatting in espadrilles, feeling a large paper artwork with the palm of his hand. Right next to that photograph, he also appears with the same artwork, but this time in a suit, showing Queen Sofía some details of a piece very similar to what his hand was touching in the forementioned photo. Surrounding these images of his person, and creating a rectangular mosaic, what Google offers for those three words, José Carlos Naranjo, is a large number of paintings characterized by a nocturnal chromatic palette, including at least two masterpieces of Spanish figurative art from the last century. There you have "Brujos en el aire” (Witches in flight) and " El Camino” (The path); exuding the force of what is created in a state of grace, speaking to us now and forever.

A decade has passed from those works to José Carlos Naranjo's fifth solo exhibition at the Birimbao Gallery. During this period, the artist, far from becoming complacent in the arms of grace, continued to seek new discoveries, immersing himself in various formats and techniques in pursuit of a spirit of movement that extends beyond the artistic realm and resonates in his life's journey. Because life and art, when approached with vigour and honesty, form an indivisible conglomerate. This spirit of movement is clearly reflected in his work, infused with a variety of techniques ranging from oil on paper to other supports like aluminium or canvas, and even collage. This dynamic spirit also aligns with the artist's personal and intimate process, with his recent creations evolving during his various stays in London, Cádiz, the Casa de Velázquez, or Villamartín. In the case of his work, it deserves special attention to analyse the meaning of this movement.

While artists often establish a linear timeline for their work, there are occasions when an artist follows a non-linear path in their creative endeavours. In the former case, it's easy to trace the evolution of their works and series on a chronological line where language usually transforms from the concrete to the suggestive, from figurative to abstract, representing a logical progression of their gaze, gaining subtleties, and shedding the practical and functional viewing habits of daily life. Because painting is, above all, an exercise in perception, something that shapes our relationship with images, leading us on an adventure, a quest, and perhaps a pursuit of beauty, universality, an electroshock of consciousness, or who knows what else.

In the latter case, the non-linear approach, movement occurs within a three-dimensional space, initially appearing less logical but rather adhering to a different logic. This is where Picasso belongs, as it would be impossible to blindly order the complete body of his work once his first two stages, the realist and post-impressionist, are surpassed.

José Carlos Naranjo also adheres to this second type of movement logic, where his paintings move not along a clear linear path forward, driven by a process of stripping and suggestion, but in a multidirectional dynamism that establishes connections between points that play with creating a time beyond time. These points converge in the creative moment, linking the past, present, and future without any complexes, without hesitation in looking back to recover resources or forward to incorporate new techniques. These points are not arranged along a flat chronological line but within a three-dimensional volume, where elements move in a manner similar to electrons and protons composing an atom.

This uninhibited dynamism frames the new exhibition that José Carlos Naranjo presents at the Birimbao Gallery. Following his previous exhibition at the same gallery, "Subir el coche a pulso” (Lifting the Car by Hand), this show returns to a more explicit figuration, adding the ingredient of colour. New tones are explored and incorporated into his palette, creating a contrast that may be the novelty of this exhibition. Naranjo's palette is undoubtedly the most European palette in the young Andalusian school, with chromatic references that lie between Caspar Friedrich, Anselm Kiefer, or Michaël Borremans, occasionally influenced by colours with a more open Southern or Mediterranean feel.

Finally, beyond tones and techniques, we must consider the double miracle encapsulated in the paintings exhibited in this gallery. It's a miracle that an individual on our planet devotes themselves to painting, but it's an added miracle that this individual pursuing painting didn't come into the world with privileges or the support of a family sustaining their whim. Neither of these two scenarios applies to José Carlos Naranjo, hence the double miracle. For him, it's all a matter of study, technique, faith, hours upon hours, and grace. Always grace.

The themes he explores, which never abandons its essence, is populated by urban landscapes, suburbs, characters in flight or strange locations, engaging in a conversation with painting classics like Goya or Velázquez. These contrasts tell us about the intimate genealogy of the artist, his memory, and the miraculous encounter with beauty, the electroshock to consciousness through painting or whatever it may be.

Housekeys with a keychain from an auto body shop. Pedal to the metal in a car cruising the roads of space, shining in the high night of the universe, moving multidirectionally, like cement spinning inside a concrete mixer. The zinc bar at Bar Cañada that also shines like the silver in this world.

Look at the stars in the night, my dear. They have not been born with a spoon in their mouths either.

Never stop

Constantino Molina