There are hardly any boundaries between painting and writing in Severo Sarduy’s (Camagüey, Cuba, 1937 - Paris, 1993) pieces. His work is defined as "manuscript paintings" as they are paintings that are mostly done on paper that, as in the East, assumes calligraphy as the extension of poetic writing. In the seventy-six pieces that make up the exhibition of Sarduy at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía we can see that the artist also uses other materials such as coffee, saffron, cork and even his own blood. From these he extracts effects of dissolution, emptiness, fragmentation and transience, in such a way that it seems he understands painting as experimentation.
Thanks to a scholarship to study Fine Arts, Sarduy moves to Paris in 1960 and makes the French capital the centre of his poetic, artistic and travel experiences. Parisian intellectual life and the friendship and influence of authors such as Roland Barthes, fit in perfectly with his artistic interests, the discovery of Mark Rothko’s work and his admiration for Josef Albers. His artistic landmark is the Denise René gallery and it is also the time when he starts his activity as an author of numerous prologues and catalogue texts on contemporary artists and integrates into artistic life.
Rothko and his red colour fields are an aesthetic and emotional need for Sarduy, he himself becomes "a painter prey for colour", as noted by his publisher and friend François Wahl. He also has present artists such as Cy Twombly and especially Luis Feito, who he admits has an influence on his work. Abstract painting and the inheritance of Informalism come through in aesthetics, but awareness from experience of the history of painting from artists such as Giorgione, Titian Vecellio, Johannes Vermeer or Pierre Bonnard, represents a turning point in his painting style, because of the assertion of bare colour rather than a submission to primary structures. In this way, the essence of the landscapes that he realises in the late sixties in Saint Léonard are still seen in the seascape series Les étangs de la Reigne Blanche (1983).
Oblivious to the conceptualist manifestations, Sarduy publishes the essay Barroco (1974), which defines this category as a language whose household use is based on pleasure and notes that the role of artist –in baroque society- is "to communicate what escapes from an artificial structuring, of a reality constructed by man to dominate the surrounding environment, the contradiction of those newly discovered values (the ellipse, parabola, mirror) are returned to us." François Wahl recognises a second moment in Sarduy’s painting, when he turns to Buddhism and Eastern philosophy as an aesthetic example. Wahl recalls: "Severus found in Buddhism a conception of detached serenity, gentleness and compassion that was in his interest, regarding the rest, he never subscribed to anything." His landscapes from 1990, which owe so much to Chinese calligraphy, have their counterpart in the series Les sceaux de lacre (1991). In this series Sarduy generates the ritual of modulation and repetition as a positive value, an aspect that he will maintain throughout his career.
Palacio Municipal de Exposiciones Kiosco Alfonso, La Coruña (17 abril - 17 mayo, 1998); Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (30 junio - 30 agosto, 1998); Centro Cultural Español de Cooperación Iberoamericana, Miami; Museo José Luis Cuevas, México D.F.