I search for the American man and landscape where they most differ from the rest. I try to recognize their fundamental elements and their most characteristic features, those which demonstrate that they are American and ONLY American. To achieve this, one must know that which is not American.
Speculations of "Art for Art's sake" do not interest me, for here life and people and their landscape assault us on all sides. I try to capture a fraction of their contemporary reality. I try to crystallize the manifestations of their lives where they are most representative of the American modality.
I think that "how" something is painted does not have to rest its importance on the "what" that is painted. What interests us is not that new techniques or plastic concepts are created, but rather that we must look and feel in a different way, that we must discover new angles of vision outside of all visual routine. Technique should never have primacy over the content of a canvas. This should impose itself not only upon the eyes, but also upon the mind and spirit, and work upon us. A canvas should disquiet us and make us think.
Faced with a certain type of American landscape we are in environments of "discomposure." The phenomenal world here adjoins and even juxtaposes with arbitrary creation. In painting such an environment, I try to insinuate something of its physical size: the vastness, the immensity, the unusualness. Instead of filling my canvases, I empty them, leaving only that which is most significant. I hate the decorative "motive." Where I find the starkest landscapes, the pampa and the puna, I locate their most outstanding aesthetic qualities. Yves Tanguy, in his abstract representations painted, without realizing it, landscapes of this kind.
Before painting things from the American environment, I try to live them and impress them upon myself. It is important for me to arrive at their most secret root and most essential being. It is not important how long it takes me. I try to make my canvases transcend an American message of our times and our latitudes.
Gertrudis Chale; June, 1947.
- Translation from Spanish to English by Julianne Gilland