THE TRUE METHOD OF PAINTING
Joaquim Rodrigo was a very special man and artist.
He was a forestry engineer by profession, having been one of the people responsible for the construction of the Monsanto park in Lisbon, and this little-known fact is important for an understanding of the system of his painting through its intense connection to the nature to which it contributes.
His painting derived from a system, therefore. The colour was codified, and the forms composed a linguistic system. This was all shown by Joaquim Rodrigo in the book O complementarismo em pintura, written in 1976 and published six years later, in which he sets out his theory of “painting right”. Rodrigo starts from an extremely personal view of the history of humanity, art and the image, and believed that colour was linked to the four types of fertile soil that exist. For this reason painting should only use the four colours that they produce, which maintain a deep link to the earth – and his thought, which was very close to the pre-Socratics, rejected any kind of metaphysics, because it wished to be previous to it.
The system of his painting was the support for the construction of narratives starting from figurations, signs that were intimately linked to his own life, to the journeys he had been on, and the places he had visited. In his house there was a panel on the living-room wall with the proof of his having visited those places: restaurant bills, notes, memories. So all of his painting was a mnemonic, whether in the strict sense or more deeply, like a dive into an older past, before aesthetics, before philosophy.
This system and this method – which imposed great strictness in the process of constructing each painting – would “always” allow one to come to a result that was “right”; that is, a result that confirmed the possibility of his theoretical framework.
When we look at Joaquim Rodrigo’s paintings today we see a clear connection to the Chokwe art of Angola, probably his form of immersion in that previous condition that seemed most real to him.
His painting wasn’t always like this: it was born out of an abstractionism close to Mondrian, and developed a simple and geometricised figuration. But it is after his discovery of the true method of painting that Joaquim Rodrigo found an exact expression for his painting in the absolute idiosyncrasy of his procedure, in the radical limitation of his palette and in the simplicity of his grammar.
Looking at his paintings we may even believe that he found a true method for painting. For his, without doubt.