Rómulo Mació, La Boca's elf.

by César Magrini

Antique, short, uninhabited buildings surround us and even a pair of rails protected by their metallic shield yawn behind our backs (our guest assures that at six, on the dot, a train with a cow on board shall cross those rails and - japaneesely - the prophecy is fulfilled). Silence grows thicker around us. The light hurts with its purity, the light that hurts profiles, hardens them and is calling the silence for help, to establish its limits. A few trees, a harsh green thicket festoons the rails.

Rómulo Masció’s house-studio is, like him, one story, solid, light, poetic, decided. Three blue symmetric doors give it access to the sidewalk, and through them we enter the large white studio where his paintings reverberate. One of them ‘Trevi’s fountain’, delays me for quite a long time. And I, unable to help myself, start the conversation with a theory I consider intelligent. I only consider it. I tell him:

-In spite of the fast developments of technology and of the search of some artistic manifestations; that of painting in the first place, it is possible that precisely in this change of millenium painting is the only manifestation that anticipates change, the future. What do you think about it?
- With my usual fatalism I thought everything was over and that we had reached the end of painting. But I also believe that art and painting do not progress but are like an eternity inlaid into another eternity.

-That is to say that, in a way, everything has already been said...
-Painting was created by individuals and it’s highly improbable for it to become massive like other visual expressions displayed in public places, cinematography for example. Painting has no time and allows contemplative reflection. There are lots of people who go to exhibitions and museums but do not know if they go because of the influence of publicity. I think that wherever there is a man he will express himself by means of his hands, painting anywhere. We may see the Altamira’s paintings again, but painting will never end. I didn’t give the matter much thought, because I feel carried by intuition. There is a phrase I took out of some readings that I particularly like: ‘ The artist is incapable of not doing’. There is something that moves him to paint and as long as that will exists there will always be painting. Which does not mean that painting progresses, like many other things, because the truth is that it does not have a definite purpose.

-But let’s talk about the other purposes, the abstract purposes, like joy and aesthetic pleasure!
-And the pleasure of seeing fulfilled what I call the ‘soul’s vomit’! As far as I am concerned it is to take out what you have kept inside. My art is not based on conjectures or formulas; it is something I am moved to do, and I do it.

-I go through your work and I want to ask you if within creation you have any special feelings for the vegetal reign…
-In general I am an urban guy. However I have painted some earth or water landscapes. There is a picture that is not particularly positive about the city, since it is about the Rivulet completely polluted. Another one is a burnt tree, the tragedy I see in the forests, the forests totally burnt down. But I do not quite understand what you mean, do you think that painting will be rescued as a vital support to nature?

-Yes and no. Nature is a part of everything. Painting too. I think one is so locked in oneself, that one is the landscape and another, indistinctively, is painting.
-Earth, water, fire, landscapes, nature, plants, the human being and the vegetal reign are the topics. Of course everything is there. And I never thought about the aesthetic value. The Apollonian and the Dionysian have to assemble and conjugate. It is not possible to make a cold and well-calculated aesthetic, only for visual pleasure’s sake. I think that there has to exist something deeply passionate, that is the Dionysian.

-But that is exactly what I meant when I spoke about the tree.
-Yes, I was telling you that there has to be something Dionysian. That is why, according to the topic, I look for the language to represent it. In every picture you will find my personality, but the temper varies. Creating a pure aesthetic leads to uniformity and repetition of a pictorial finding. Suddenly you reach a stage in which the artist resigns himself and just produces variations of the same picture. In my opinion, it is a misconstruction of what style must be. Style is not uniformity, but it must be like personality. Everybody is born with a personality, although life gives you a modifiable character. Style is something inside every picture of an artist that relates them, although they all look different. Rational aesthetic must be conjugated with irrationality and passion. Like Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel: passion and reason.

-Why is there so much ‘Rome’ in your painting?
-Because it is my favorite city. Rome is mean, mysterious and histrionic, like Fellini so brilliantly described. Art is everywhere, and it is Greece and all our tradition because the Greco-Roman currents of Italian painting go trough Spain and come to our Argentina. It is our art, our tradition; it is the painters in La Boca. That is why every time I go to Europe I pay Rome a visit. Not a tourist’s but a lover’s visit.

-Is the quality of our light related to all that?
-I travel a lot, because I am a pilgrim and I relate things. I am not an illuminator; I intend to mean something else: I look for what I like and I feel the light inside of me. It is so difficult for me to speak about painting! I always say that to speak about painting is like painting with words. Painting is meant to be shown and if it is shown it is not spoken. Painting is a mute craft, is an occult science. It is a mystery because it is not based; at least as far as I am concerned, on formulas or conjunctures and because it did not exist until it was created. It is what you are able to do or what you manage to do. It is going out to the arena like a bullfighter.

-With so much love for Italy your living in La Boca does not look like a mere coincidence…
-I have always been attracted to this neighborhood. It gets more decrepit every time, but I like it. I like this place. There is a village atmosphere in the streets, in spite of being seven minutes away from Plaza de Mayo. Dogs bark at night and howl when there is a full moon.

-Is there any correspondence between your bands of urban, tight music and the ‘landscapist’ expression of your pictures?
I never thought I would be able to perform urban music with confidence because everything is contained there. Thus I say, I look for the language according with the topic I want to represent. I considered tango a contained, syncopated thing something more indented, more ruptured.

-The ‘sonic content’ of the picture is always present, ‘what is not heard but can be seen’, quoting Leonardo.
-If I painted an opera I would be more lyric and epic, but tango is grotesque, melodramatic, a mask, a nonsense. When I decided to paint Buenos Aires, the topics were the water through which immigrants came and its music, which was tango. Because I was not painting Argentina, but the De la Plata River. And in Montevideo as well as in Buenos Aires there is tango, whose image is a band image. It is funny, deep down; I am a performer of what I see, like a musician. I am a performer of the music that lays in reality… 
We fall silent. We are already in the street, minute, slender, folded on itself. And behind our backs, the fatal clattering of the six o’clock train, the promised train, with its lonely cow that complains like the Changall cows must do. So quiet. Macció stays on the sidewalk, his half-waving hand, cutout against a spectral and theatrical light that seems called by him and which pre announces the close but still translucent dawn. In the distance, water glimmers. ‘I am a performer of the music that lays in reality’ Impossible to give a better definition of himself. And there he stays, against the light…