Digital Tenebrism

I was around 12 years old when I had the chance of visiting Madrid and El Prado Museum for the first time.

Amongst the many Masters and numerous ways of approaching the creation of an image, the works by the so called Tenebrist artists left in me a mark difficult to be forgotten.
Those dark images, sometimes sinister, were full of an emptiness that only at some point in certain areas of the painting was filled with light through the human forms, emerging from the near-absolute black.

With years, as it commonly happens, my vision of Tenebrism gained in nuances.
That darkness was no longer grim and sinister to me, becoming a sort of intimate space, almost spiritual. A space full of silence and retreat. A space for meditation and reflection. A space of loneliness but with completely different connotations.

I think that from that moment on, I was able to connect in a better way with the spirit of that moment.
The one that made the rise of an artistic movement to happen under the wing of artists like the Italian Caravaggio, along with the Spanish Ribera or Zurbaran, or the French painter Georges de La Tour.

I would summarize my interests for Tenebrism in two main basic aspects.

On the one hand, there is that kind of fascination about its unquestionable visual power, that atmosphere that I have tried to describe in some of the previous paragraphs. That contrasting relationship between light and darkness. That clever building of the image which is never a mere virtuosity but a clear knowledge about space and visual rhythm.

On the other hand, there is the emptiness and what it tells. That open field to the viewer´s imagination, precisely because we are not able to see, so we must imagine.
It is there when that perceptual aspect of our brain comes into play, filling out the image so that it may understand the whole scene. We are even able to see details in completely dark areas of the painting.
In fact, we just see a head, a back, a fragment of a hand or a leg, and our brain can complete the idea of a full proportionate body, sat at a table, and even what it is on and underneath that table, the inner space of the room, the air, and its density.

My series Digital Tenebrism is, above all, a tribute, and a proof of my admiration for this pictorial movement and its representatives.
Additionally, it is an attempt to bring it to our times in an aim to talk about the timeless nature of theses scenes. Naturally there are some changes, the figures, their clothing and their general presence are clearly contemporary.

The light source illuminating the scene is no longer a small window, a candle, or an oil lamp, but a mobile device being checked by the characters in the darkness of their domestic space.

With exception of those small details providing the clearly recognizable present nature of images, their spirit of retreat and mystery remains immutable over centuries.
Something like an attempt for focusing on the immutable nature of Human Condition beyond the historical episodes or technological developments.

Rómulo Celdrán