Jorge Oramas, who gives more?

In the tone and timbre of Bonet’s text we can breathe the usual in literature about the painter from Gran Canaria: a pitiful feeling for his early death, for his orphanhood, for his poverty. Luis Palmero, in his text Jorge Oramas: a meeting between painters, in this same catalog, defines him as “the forgotten painter.” I do not believe it.

He died 86 years ago and, as is known, his production was brief. According to the art historian Josefa Alicia Jiménez Doreste, author of the first two monographs on Oramas, there are 66 canvases located by the artist, although other sources point to a handful more. Since his death, his work has been present in exhibitions and referred to in essays, encyclopedias, catalogs, articles and other types of books and texts. The examples are so numerous that it is not appropriate to name them all in a contribution of this nature. Only some. The individual postmorten: in 1937, exhibition of Oramas at the Pérez Galdós Theater; In 1956, the Lujan Pérez School organized an exhibition with 59 paintings by Oramas; in 1973, an anthology at the Casa de Colón and, in 1987, Caja Canarias and the La Regenta Art Center also organized an anthology of the painter curated by the poet Lázaro Santana. Some more: in 2011, at the Cristino de Vera Foundation, the exhibition Oramas, sower of light, commemorating the centenary of his birth was held; In 2016, the writer Alexis Ravelo and the musician Carlos Oramas, created pieces inspired by the El Toril painting and which they presented at the CAAM. I would also cite the collective Irradiaciones de Oramas, curated by Orlando Franco at the CICCA, in 2008. His name has been included in many other events related to the Luján Pérez School, where his illustrious student has never ceased to be remembered. To name a few more recent events: last year Santiago Gil was awarded the Benito Pérez Galdós International Novel Prize for Eternal Noon in which novel, worth the redundancy, the life of Oramas. It has been exhibited at the CAAM In dialogue with José Martín, an exhibition in which some of his works appear.

In 2018, Andrés Sánchez Robayna declared in an interview with this newspaper, regarding the appearance of his book Jorge Oramas or suspended time: «In the history of the plastic arts in Spain there are still little studied personalities, whose importance is generally accepted by specialists and critics, but which, due to various circumstances, are still scarcely known to the general public, one of these cases is Jorge Oramas ». If by “general public” Robayna refers to the walkers of any street, I assume that he does not know who are, for example, Luis Gordillo or Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, who have been working for decades and have been awarded the greatest. These “diverse circumstances” to which Robayna alludes are what really worries me because they are the result of a general disinterest in a certain type of culture and to which I find no signs of recovery. Perhaps its time is past.

The unhappy Jorge Oramas, a student at the Luján Pérez School, who would have become a good painter, had his life not been cut short so soon, died of pulmonary tuberculosis in the Hospital de San Martín. Despite his early death, he has left a production of some fifty or sixty little works, most of them landscapes of our island, charming for their naivety and surprising for their color. RIP

The artist Luis Palmero defines him in the exhibition catalog as “the forgotten painter.” I do not believe it


The previous paragraph is missing a very small but essential detail, a few quotation marks at the beginning and end, since it is a literal quote from the words pronounced by Domingo Doreste on September 13, 1935, a day after Oramas’s death. It is taken from the doctoral thesis of María del Carmen García Martín The aesthetic ideas of Domingo Doreste (1868-1940), on page 211. Perhaps it is a personal appreciation, but in the tone of Doreste’s words towards the figure of Jorge Oramas something like “what a shame about this boy who pointed out manners” is sensed.

It is curious that, as Juan Manuel Bonet recalls in his text for the Solar Metaphysical catalog, Domingo Doreste himself defined Oramas, in 1937, as “the Bécquer of painting” in the context of the aforementioned posthumous retrospective that was organized in the Pérez Galdós Theater in 1937. We thus verify that, in just two years, Oramas climbed several steps in the consideration of Doreste. I suppose it is because shortly after his death the legend had already begun, a word that appears in the first paragraph of Bonet’s text and that, without discussing the quality of his work, is what, I think, surrounds the figure of Oramas. Said in silver: we have invented an Oramas trajectory that never was. We have praised the greatness of his work which, we suppose, would have been greater without his early demise. We are, in short, before a case of flagrant inference: a thousand contingencies could have occurred that would take him away from this illusion of ours.

Oramas narrowly did not become part of the so-called Club de los 27, which is made up of artists who died at the age of 27 – among others, painters such as Basquiat, Schiele and Macke as well as a good number of musicians and other types of artists from different periods—, an age that seems to have no scientific or statistical explanation, but it does, again, feed a legend. In many texts about Oramas, including that of Bonet, illness is highlighted as the cause of his death as well as a life marked by poverty and orphanhood in an attempt, it seems, not to put him in the same bag as the members of that accursed club of the dead, many of them, victims of their excesses. The text of the philosopher Vicente Marrero Semblanza y arte de Jorge Oramas (published in 1956 in the magazine Punta Europa) is a clear example: “Whenever you talk about Jorge Oramas, there is no choice but to start talking about his death” —and he continues – “But do not believe that Oramas was a victim of himself, of the orgy that tempts false artists, of the wildness of ideas or of his personal ambition.”

Let’s go back to Bonet’s text, who delays the expected phrase “But let’s go to the painting of Oramas” by four pages. From that moment on, the curator writes lines in which he intersperses biographical data on the artist with quotations from the literature produced by various authors around his figure, something natural when writing a text although, on the one hand, it is somewhat tedious to place in the body of work, the publisher, the page cited, … and, on the other hand, in the case of Agustín Espinosa, whom I hold in high esteem as a writer, I think that a disproportionate space is devoted to him talking about his work, moving away from the central theme. Who knows, maybe he deserves it. In the words of José Miguel Pérez Corrales “Half an hour playing dice is – and I think it will be until the end of time – the most extraordinary conference that has ever been given in the Canary Islands.” Let no one be offended by this other case of commendable excess.

Upon finally entering to discuss the painter’s work, Bonet declares that “Oramas is not, when he works the figure, at the height of his landscapes, as he is not in his three laborious still lifes, probably school attempts”. If we discount these figure works and still lifes from the dozens of canvases by the painter, what is left? For this reason, the adjective oramasian shocks me a bit when dealing with the artist’s career since, even though it is a correct term, because it is about the life and work of Oramas, it suggests phenomena of greater magnitude in quantity and spatial dimensions and / or temporary.

In short, without ceasing to acknowledge the contributions of Juan Manuel Bonet in his text for Jorge Oramas. Solar Metaphysicist, especially about what is written about Oramas, I think that we need new approaches and approaches to the painter’s work. That is the challenge. I end with the words with which Cristina Maya ends her original and interesting text Oramas: oblique gazes (in the catalog of the exhibition Cita a ciegas con Escuela Luján Pérez, 2020): «I wonder: when did the cliffs stop producing strangeness? I do not know. And the oil rigs? I do not know too”.


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