Printmaker Branches Out to Canvas

August 13, 2010

Sala Ocho, upstairs at the National Gallery, is bathed in a resplendent silvery glow this month, with six, large-scale acrylic canvases by Alvaro Gómez Ulloa. A printmaker by training – he studied art at the University of Costa Rica and later taught printmaking there – the Cartago-born artist has recently branched out into oil and acrylic paints.

The paintings in this exhibit all have the same theme: a repeated wildflower with soft, droopy petals. Gómez uses a very different color palette for each, but he infuses them all with a silvery sheen that glimmers through the many paint layers.

Crouching down to get close to a painting and pointing to small bursts of color, Gómez explains that he starts with a lot of colors spread across his blank canvas. He then layers on paint, in effect “growing” the painting, in a process he describes as “organic.”

The resulting depth of color and textures draw in the viewer, especially the closer you get to the painting.

Three smaller works are again in a floral vein, but using quite a different technique – a combination of monotype and screen printing, in many alternating layers, to achieve texture and color that end up looking like painting.

Flowers symbolize a subject close to Gómez’s heart, namely nature, and in particular the disappearing rain forest. In keeping with his natural inclination, Gómez is an artist in residence at Monte Azul, spending about two weeks each month at the 125-acre private nature preserve in the ChirripóRiver valley, near San Gerardo de Rivas in the Southern Zone.

Conceived by co-founders Carlos Rojas and Randall Langendorfer as a way to promote the production of contemporary fine art and design in harmony with nature, using environmentally sustainable methods, Monte Azul is a complex of studio and living spaces for artists, along with an exquisite hotel and restaurant where guests can be surrounded by art within, and connect with nature without (TT, Feb. 8, 2008).

Monte Azul Contemporary Art, which mounted Gómez’s show, collects and promotes the work of artists here in Costa Rica and abroad, in its San Francisco and New York City galleries in the United States.

As well as being an artist in residence, Gómez is director of Monte Azul Press, a printmaking studio at Monte Azul where local and visiting artists can create limite dedition original works, under his expert supervision as master printmaker.

Gómez acknowledges his first love is still printmaking. “I always come back to paper,” he says fondly.

This show includes six black-on-white, abstract monoprints, each made from a single woodcut.

“I wanted to include them to show my transition from abstract to color and nature,” Gómez explains.

The show runs through Aug. 29 on thesecond floor of the National Gallery in San

José’s Children’s Museum. For more information

on the artist and Monte Azul, visit www.monteazulcr.com.

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