It was almost closing time for the tri-level Museos del Banco when HL and I left the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. The second, or middle, level was reserved for temporary exhibitions. The staircase was situated so that we could peer into the gallery as we ascended to the street level. A series of paintings covered the walls. All of them were the works of the Costa Rican artist Rolando Faba. The title of the assemblage was Salto al Vacío, A Leap into the Void. If ever a phrase were designed to intrigue me, that was it. Obviously, the paintings merited at least a cursory inspection.
Often, I find the commentary in a gallery intrusive. In the case of Faba's Leap, it seemed integral to the exhibit.
Faba, it transpired, was as much a conceptual artist as a painter. Five series of Faba's recent works represented visual responses to philosophical queries. Faba's explorations of form, technique and meaning made the Costa Rican artist seem a worthy heir to the 20th Century avant garde. His intellectual and spiritual quests had led him to explore many Eastern as well as Western traditions. This range of influences was apparent in such titles as Serie Brahmanda, the Brahmanda Series, with its Hindu name, and La Farmacía Celestial, The Celestial Pharmacy, a term from European alchemy.
Faba's paintings were varied: some dense abstractions, some geometric, and others spare and reminiscent of Asian calligraphy. A number of compositions incorporated animal and floral forms. The color palette ran the gamut from garish vermillion, turquoise and metallic gold to brooding monochromes. I had to admire the way that the differences in form, hue and texture revealed, rather than disguised, the artist's singular style.
Though he has lived in Barcelona for the past two decades, Rolando Faba is most famous in Costa Rica. I had not heard of him until HL and I stopped to satisfy our curiosity about the display. I admit to being unfamiliar with the works of many contemporary artists, so I was pleased to discover Faba on my first day in his native land.