Giuffre' creates 'transcendent' reality

by Michael Wilkerson (*)

Ever since the first international artists began arriving at Ragdale, residents and staff have had their lives immeasurably enriched by the presence of writers, painters and sculptors from all over the world. Argentinean painter Hector Giuffré's first residency in 1989 was part of a program sponsored by the United States Information Agency Cultural Affairs Office.

This fall, much to our delight, Hector came back. Working in the new Friends' Studio, Hector painted more of his remarkable watercolors and developed a computerbased system of composition for future works. Everyone who knows him agrees he is an amazing man, the kind of person who so embraces the world that he begins many of his sentences with phrases like, "It is so interesting ..."

"When I first visited Ragdale, I arrived at the end of a tour of the United States," Hector said. "I had met all kinds of artists and had become familiar with a great many institutions. I understood immediately the way in which Ragdale is part of an entire system of people working together for art." Ragdale, Hector believes, is "based on the love for the common Iink between people who work here, the artists who come here, and those who have built and created it. It is an example of a society that has a real interest in art and literature."

By contrast, Argentina, despite its rich tradition in the literary and visual arts, has suffered terribly from dictatorships, wars, and economic collapse. "It is a sad society," Hector says. "The relationship between the people and the institutions of society remains based on sadness."

After his first visit to Ragdale, Hector attempted to found an artists' retreat in Argentina. "Big houses are available, but the will is not there."

Despite Argentina's sadness, Hector Giuffré has done remarkably well, creating a transcendental realist form of painting that is similar in intent to the great magical realist writers of Latin America. "My work explores the relationship between the 'I' as subject and the world as object," he explains. "To me, realism is found in the preoccupation of the subject about his permanence-or lack of it-in the world of objects. We will all change, even die, but the world of objects outside will remain."

Hector speaks of Giotto and Picasso as realists in the same way he defines himself. "A photograph gives you a reflection of the world, but realism is a composition of the world-it's very different. "

Many of Hector's works combine perfectly rendered landscapes or still lifes, invaded by the hand, body, or shadow of the painter as he creates. Major national museums throughout the Americas have mounted oneman exhibitions of these paintings.

In addition to his work as a painter, Hector has studied economics and philosophy, has been a graphic artist, has written many articles and manifestos, has owned a literary bookstore, and for many years has been collaborator of the 'Visual Arts' section of a major newspaper, 'Clarin; and arts editor of a highly respected semimonthly journal, Criterio.

Some of Hector's recent residency was spent developing a Macintosh based system for designing his compositions. "Artists work with different kinds of spaces and shapes," Hector said. "The space where surrealists work is different from where a minimalist or a concrete artist would work. By developing a numerically based computer system, I am trying to find a union between the different categories of space."

His new venture into technology will not make him a computer artist.' "The computer can help, but the material an artist uses is too important," he says. "Whether you use watercolors, oils, canvas, paper-it affects everything. The computer and the human hand live in different worlds."

is that the philosopher talking?
"The artist. Everything I am doing is to make better art."

Has Ragdale changed Hector Giuffré?
"Perhaps. it's hard to tell if it is changing me or if I am changing on my own while I am here. I have the time to feel isolated, but I am not alone, or lonely. it is so interesting to be here."

(*) Writer former director of Ragdale Foundation
first published on the Ragdale Foundation's newsletter.