An unsettling but captivating ambiguity. The intermediate reality of Hugo Alonso

by Ludovica Cadario

White and black, and shades of gray. Evanescent images that are desolate landscapes, or female figures as the only protagonists of indefinite places. The scenes seem out of focus, stills taken from the American horror movies of the sixties and seventies, one of the main sources of inspiration for the artist. The viewer in front of the works of Hugo Alonso can only be caught by a sense of insecurity, generated by the ambiguity of their form, aesthetics and content.

Hugo Alonso BOOK HOUSE 170x130cm

Hugo Alonso, through the wise use of the airbrush on paper, freezes moments and creates images that at first glance look like black and white photographs. The form is therefore deceptive, but also the beauty portrayed is only apparent. The harmony of the posing women – which never show their face – is erotic and seducing, but it is also confusing. Where are these figures? Who am I? Are they from this world or are they otherworldly? That’s something that can be said also for the manner in which Hugo Alonso depicts his landscapes. They may seem like the places mentioned by nineteenth-century romantics, but they have nothing to do with them: they are images extracted from the initial or final scenes of horror films, digitally reworked and then transposed in figures. As the artist says, his subjects are “in an indefinite place between the fiction of cinema and reality”. Hugo Alonso captures frames and takes them to other contexts. This allows him to concentrate his artistic research in exploring those intermediate spaces that are halfway between reality and dream, between fiction and truth, bringing anonymous identities between real and imaginary places: “I explore recurring motifs in the history of painting such as the landscape, the house, the room or the figure, they tend to play a leading role, as if my work were a cinematographic plan that goes from the general to the particular”.

Hugo Alonso NOVEMBER 07 acryonpaper 170x130cm

Each apparently normal image contains some enigmas, some unstable elements, they are images similar to what is conventional, apparently familiar but unknown. This is how the ambiguous becomes protagonist. As in a dream everything seems to be possible and therefore restless. The artist shows a calm and a beauty that is however different as if something is about to happen. Hugo Alonso says: “I make cinema by painting”. This sentence perfectly defines how he manages to generate in his works that sense of suspended reality. He occupies interstitial spaces that open up new semantic scenarios. The artist leaves the field open to the viewer, who, for example, can identify himself or be estranged by them. The observer can imagine what is going to happen by making that moment his own, or he can shy away from it.

Hugo Alonso studio sept 2017

To achieve this, Hugo Alonso feeds on various sources. The use of the light as in the black and white cinema of the sixties, the aesthetic decadence of that of the seventies, but also the atmospheres evoked by electronic music or images, places and people that belong to his everyday life. Speaking of the work he has been carrying out in recent years, Hugo Alonso says: “I explore the relationship between cinematographic reality and everyday reality, but also the possible analogies between the history of painting and cinema”. And he adds: “Cinema is my source of visual and conceptual resources”. Given its fictitious nature, cinema opens up possibilities for the artist that would otherwise be unreachable: “The content of cinema allows me to face issues that are not possible within the social codes that order reality”.

Hugo Alonso UNTITLED 27 acryliconpaper 170x130cm 2019

In recent years Hugo Alonso has started experimenting with other media outside of painting and develops heterogeneous exhibition projects by exploring other fields such as video, sound or installation. This allows him to go further, and to capture the viewer in a more direct way, exploiting the power of sound and moving images, time and space. Precisely following this direction, the artist is preparing his next individual exhibition Undone which will open this spring at the Da2 in Salamanca. The exhibition space will be converted into an indefinite place, made of audiovisual stimuli, in which the spectator will be able to decide what are the physical limits of the exhibition, which is characterized by an ambiguous semantic and an aesthetic element with reverberations from dreamlike films, with an atmosphere between an amusement park and a classic gallery.

Hugo Alonso UNTITLED 28 acryliconpaper 152x120cm 2019

Hugo Alonso was born in Soria, a city between Madrid and Zaragoza in 1981, he studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Salamanca and Rome. He has exhibited in Barcelona, Salamanca, Madrid, Montreal, Istanbul, Berlin and Dresden. His work was presented in international contemporary art fairs such as Arco (Spain), Zona Maco (Mexico), Volta (Switzerland), Seattle Art Fair (United States), Art Toronto (Canada), Art Paris (France), Papier (Canada), Art Miami (United States), Art MAdrid (Spain), Circa (Puerto Rico), Art Fair (Germany), Art Elysees (France), For Real (Holland), Context (United States), Arte Santander (Spain), Texas Contemporary (United States), Art on Paper (United States) or Crossroasds (United Kingdom). His works are included in important public and private collections such as: MUSAC (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León), DA2 (Domus Artium 2002), Colección Pilar Citoler, Colección Rucandio, Colección Bassat, CAB (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Burgos), Fundación BMW, Diputación de Salamanca, CEART (Centro de Arte Tomás y Valiente), Fundación Gaceta or Obra Social Caja España. He created the cover of the New York Times Magazine as an invited artist (October 2017).

Ludovica Cadario