Angel Miguel is an artist beyond the conventional meaning.
By. Angel Alonso
Metaphysics integrated into painting as a spiritual search, that internal life in which the subconscious reigns- intangible ground that the surrealists tried to personify- and the wide architectural spaces that Giorgio de Chirico has left in our visual memory, are the main references that serve as the basis for interpreting the work of Angel Miguel León Valiente.
However, this area of Art History would be insufficient to understand the world that he has created, in which we also find elements of the concept art (when approaching the document, the old and faded photo), and components of hyperrealism (due to the photographic nature of the figures).
Angel works a lot with the image of the butterfly, which I think is audacious nowadays when everything beautiful has been accused of kitsch because this insect has been as degraded in its visual representation as to the swan or the rose. But just as with the aphorism "a rose is a rose", a poem by Gertrude Stein that alludes to a verse by Shakespeare (The rose would not cease to be pink, and spread its aroma, even if it were called otherwise »), the same happens with the butterfly that does not cease to be what it is no matter how much its image is banalized.
This insect sui generis embodies the idea of rebirth, of metamorphosis; as in the tale of the ugly duckling that turns into a swan, the worm drifts into the brand-new butterfly. This symbolic wealth, the passage from one state to another so different and antagonistic, the transmutation of the ugly into the beautiful, serves the author of the work to contrast, to dramatically differentiate different states in the same image.
The artist tells us that his intention goes beyond the conventional meaning that the butterfly has in our imagination, from a particular relationship that is established with this insect when his family, during the harsh 90's, turned his grandfather’s hobby of collecting them into a means to survive. His father manufactured at that time, as souvenirs, small decorative pictures to sell at fairs. The death of the butterflies then meant the survival of the family nucleus.
That is why Angel feels that kind of debt or gratitude, and when painting them, he does not represent them as something trivially beautiful but as something run over, used, but at the same time container of another beauty, powerful, that rises from death with an undeniable forcefulness.
As in Dante Alighieri's journey in The Divine Comedy (not the only painting by Valiente that reminds me of some songs from this literary work), a canvas from the series Souvenir Of The Soul recalls the old man's boat that Virgilio and Dante saw going through hell, and the swarm of butterflies is so crowded and unbreathable like that of those desperate souls that he beat with his paddle.
Here we witness terrible and beautiful atmospheres at the same time, the controlled and virtuoso light-dark strengthens the scene in the anchorage of circumspection. The black and white image then brings a cinematic character in which the spoiled can be beautiful, as with Tarkovski's films, that filmmaker who finds the poetic in the rickety.
Gigantic plants grow between the buildings in paintings like From Filth To The Divine, show how the natural world asserts itself above the pollution and urban noise. The buildings of the Lilliputian city contrast with the immense plants, with the gigantic butterflies; when all the proportions change the meanings too - Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia knew it when they made the video for Coldplay Up and Up-, in this case the dirt is left behind and life makes its way, which is the divine.
In the piece Nudes, the image of a couple melts into light as it grows butterfly wings. As in Lost Generation, the reference to the old photo is made evident; there is a game with the past in these pieces, a visual recreation that alludes to nostalgia, but not from within but from the anthropological perspective of the one who observes. And here the observer is not passive, it is the quantum observer, the one who constructs a reality with an attentive and conscious look.
In his meditative world, the elements defy logic and the force of gravity, can levitate, suspended in a space of silence and calm, but the calm of these scenes are not to be confused with happiness. I do not see, no matter how many details the images reveal, a bucolic condition or alien to the concerns of the mind. The tranquility is apparent, a film underneath a drama, an event of unsuspected danger; the artist here attends to the complexity of the subconscious, to its density.
We are before a work that denotes dedication and consecration, we see in it a self-demanding that inspires respect, but its intensity and technical perfection is not gratuitous, nor does he pretend unwarranted gloating. Here the meticulous elaboration, far from being like a technical display, is essential and brings enormous strength to his already mature work.