Secundino Hernández’s self-titled solo exhibition at Victoria Miro Gallery is visually stunning. The large scale canvases, minimal but with a bold presence, grace the walls of both floors of the Wharf Road gallery. However, it is two very different experiences that are shaped by the architecture of the converted Victorian furniture factory, that emit this interpretation of Hernández’s agile and fleeting mark making.
The ground floor culminates in a clustered and frenzied intensity that is ever present albeit sporadically in Hernández’s paintings. The works demonstrate an orchestrated process of layering and removal upon the canvas surface that disguises itself as chaos and chance.
Untitled (2014) has a lavender wash background. Upon this, violent vertical and bisectional lines of various thicknesses in coarse black are branded from the centre and weighted towards the bottom left of the canvas. Isolated strips and areas of triangulated form that have been produced as a result of these black lines are coloured in a dirty salmon and murky pale blue. On top of this, sweeping curves of black explode like manic traces of calligraphy.
Adjacent work Untitled (2014) creates an even deeper paradoxical enigma. A powder blue wash is offset by a sloping smaller rectangle encompassing the left hand-side of the canvas. In the centre of this newly defined picture face, shape and line ripple out. Scratches of a thick darker blue are intercepted by aggressively squiggled black lines. Only when one steps back and views the painting as a whole, do these initial bursts of mere line and colour blossom into traces of figures. More figures trapped inside Hernández‘s hand reveal themselves as he navigates the ground floor space. The architecture of this lower gallery is encompassing and clinical. The white walls and ceiling air an accent of confidence around the work that is echoed and personified in the artist’s brushstrokes.
On the second floor, however, the atmosphere changes. A hide and seek-like playful energy lurks throughout the work and space… but not for long. Soon this innocence manifests itself in a dark, almost romantic desperation. The paintings themselves bear the same traits as those on the ground floor yet the change in architecture, as prevalent as the flap of a butterfly’s wings, sends the work into a new chapter.
The ceiling is left almost gutted as light pours through the skylights. Just below it, the supporting beams criss-cross over the entire gallery space, and as they do the resulting silhouettes simulate a strange attention on top of the works as if holding them prisoner.
This is exemplified by Untitled (2014) displayed singularly in the centre of a lonesome wall flanked by large arched windows. It is hard to ignore the religious connotations aligned by this
strange triptych. The canvas itself is built on a layering of dark horizontal mark making upon a pale lavender background. Hernández’s hand is volatile and unrepentant as it channels the passion and freedom of Pollock and Kline, but one cannot help but see its shadowed imprisonment and the pictorial festering as metaphorical.
With such a stark and brash transition through minute environmental factors between the ground and first floor galleries, the fragile uncertainty of life and our perception of it are now questioned and tested, echoing our initial perceptions and reassessments of Hernández’s paintings.