by Anne Leith
Forethought: Last Paintings of Nature, is the title of Saul Acevedo Gomez’s recent installation at Swivel Saugerties. The title references Magritte’s painting ‘Forethought’, depicting a tree branching out with a curious group of diverse flower varieties, and like Magritte, Gomez’s work is a layered puzzle of ideas and images, including what Magritte called ‘language games’. Gomez’s subject matter is nature, but not depicted in a naturalistic way – he creates drawings of rooms with artwork and text, such as canvases leaning face towards the walls, childlike depictions of trees and flowers on strips of paper, personal notes, references to other artists and writers, and cryptic commentary. These drawings reflect on how we are failing in our attempts to keep the planet healthy – and to the anxiety that provokes – perhaps due to a lack of forethought?
Forethought: Last Paintings of Nature was situated in a small bank vault room, ‘The Safe’. The installation included tiled floors that match those in the drawings, which enhanced the effect of entering into a claustrophobic diorama of ideas. The enclosed space of The Safe, with its echo chamber of sound was the perfect setting for creating a deliberate sense of unease, with the implication that ‘nature’ is now a precious commodity that is locked away in a man-made vault for safe keeping.
Each drawing is an exploration of ideas, deliberately hidden and ambiguous, with canvases leaning against the walls, the front side unseen. The interiors walls of these ‘rooms’ are layered with repeated childlike drawings of trees and flowers and hand-drawn wood grain, creating an attractive decorative space then subverted by scrawled dystopic messages. Text and titles such as Don’t Worry We Got Art, How To Be At Peace With Nature, and Sit and Meditate The Fire Is Coming pointedly undermines any sense of comfort or simple pleasure in the images. One example is Find Me If You Are Feeling Anxious, which includes a drawn computer link to search for How To Enjoy this Moment and the back of a canvas roughly drawn with the text I Hope You Start Panicking Today.
Gomez creates a matrix of illusion in these poetic works, connecting art, nature, and the internet – complex yet refreshingly clear with well-thought-out ideas. His drawn link motif to internet searches such as How Can I Experience Nature emphasizes the non-experiential way we interact today with the nature around us – as do the canvases leaning against the wall – another level of separation from truly seeing what is going on.
This intriguing show is layered with meaning, and handsomely offers up a troubling look at one artist’s view of the state of man/nature/art and the ideas surrounding their interface today.
Saul Acevedo Gomez: Forethought: Last Paintings of Nature, Swivel Saugerties, Safe Room Project, 258 Main Street, Saugerties, NY 12477 November 12 – December 11, 2022