Rafael Ruiz Balerdi (1934-92)
Homenaje a tarzan (1970)
Duration: 4 min, 28 sec

After visiting the Gure Artea show last Friday I went to Galería Carreras Mugica to see an exhibition entitled: Balerdi. Homage to Tarzan, chapter 1: the unwitting hunter, curated by one of the artists selected for the Gure Artea prize, Asier Mendizabal. On show are works by the Basque artist Rafael Ruiz Balerdi 1934-1992. Balerdi is an extraordinary painter (unfortunately, little known outside Spain) and here I had the privilege of seeing an experimental film completed in 1969, which is the central piece in this exhibition. The film is a 16mm copy from the collection of the Filmoteca Española. Balerdi selected parts of a Tarzan film and traced them by hand, frame by frame directly onto celluloid. The result is a kind of dynamic animated drawing in black, white and grey in a fluid state of continual mutation and transformation. Through the specific and evident materiality of the medium of film itself, there is a constant shifting between representation and abstraction. The original Tarzan soundtrack is also maintained and lends a trance like rhythm to the images. Balerdi drew compulsively and this experimental film was an extension of this activity; taking gesture and repetition into a new realm. In the front space of the gallery a selection of wonderful drawings complements the film. There are few artists who embody so well the idea of FLOW developed by the French thinker Gilles Deleuze and although his interest in aspects of transcendental mysticism might seem unpalatable or even naïve for contemporary sensibilities it led him, indirectly, to bypass certain other concerns among his contemporaries and work with much greater liberty and directness. As a painter I feel a definite connection to his work. Credit to Asier Mendizabal for organizing this exhibition which shows that Balerdi is totally relevant today and absolutely contemporary. -- Patrick Fitzgerald