He paints quickly, as if to make sure he captures the thought, the insight while it is still fresh. The very elision of the brushwork shivers with movement, if not urgency, at least a swiftness of purpose. And confidence.
On a winter afternoon the light pools down around the floor of the huge, empty room where the figures appear to be assembled. A thickening of texture, sfumato, permeates the upper reaches of the room. The chandeliers are no longer lit, only a few windows allow some illumination to pierce the cavernous interior.
The child’s pale halo of hair arrests our gaze. For this one frozen moment it has captured what light there is in the room.
But something else is going on as well. Velasquez has caught the decline, the darkening fortunes of this house of Hapsburg. The king and queen are now seen, glimpsed actually, as indistinct, hazy reflections in a small mirror at the back of the room. They are in fact reflections of reflections, since the entire painting itself is an image captured in a huge mirror – the mirror that must presumably stand in front of the figures we see, as they see themselves.
Yet it is our gaze that is required to complete this picture. What Velasquez is painting is us looking at the figures reflected in the mirror. We see him painting – his hand is blurred with movement, the paint fresh and puddled on his palette. He looks up to check that we are paying attention.
This painting captures us, our gaze, the viewer – and once we begin to enter the space of the painting, it closes behind us. We are within it. Inside. Our gaze completes it. Velasquez has not only painted himself-painting-this-painting. He has painted our complicity with the act. He has painted us reflecting upon, and reflected within, the moment that he is making the painting. The process either never ends — in which case the moment of the painting is eternal— or it is one which has become a world, a perpetual Now. It is an aesthetic act of self-referentiality in which the artist painting has become simultaneously the object painted, as well as witness to the witnesses of both act and outcome.
La Vista Totale: a partial view
Just as in the uncanny event of Velasquez’ Las Meninas, the 20-year oeuvre of painter Frank Galuszka invites us to sample a point of view in which our viewing is already anticipated by the image. Each painting of his on-going self-referential series, La Vista Totale: a partial view, is dialectically linked —by a subliminally embedded iconography—to every other. Much as two mirrors, placed just so, provide a dizzying sequence of curved reflections that seem to continue on into infinity — or into a world that is suggested and yet not fully visible — inhabitants of Galuszka’s LVT network (over 45 paintings so far) refract and reflect each other, yet from possible (or impossible) fictional futures (and pasts).
His interlocking network/narrative invites the viewer to complete a thought, or event just out of view. It is our presence that ignites the organism. Ours is the partial view that conspires with the totality of images. He, like Valesquez, has captured us and uses our embodied gaze to animate his cosmos-in-progress.
As with Borges’ The Garden of Forking Paths, Galuszka’s expanding series of inter-mirrored images begins not with an origin myth, but with a mystery. We are dropped into a saga that is already well underway. We are entranced even as we are perplexed. Somewhere (we suspect) there is a missing explanation about which (we eventually realize) we are co-creators. What Galuszka’s richly-wrought enigmas intend is up to us, to our own desires and inquiry. And in asking about la vista totale, we are ensnared in its multiplicity of perspectives. It reveals to us as much about ourselves as it does the painter’s mercurial skill.