It’s easy to lose yourself in Ignacio de Lucca’s lush watercolors, writhing with flora and fauna. Like a memory of your first experience in the depths of a forest, they blur reality and fantasy. Now on view at New York’s Praxis Gallery, the Argentine painter’s arcadian visions float in the luminous space, like apparitions of lost paradises where animals and plants of every sort coexist on the same plane. Poignantly, there is not a human figure amongst them.
“At some point, it was a decision not to represent humans in my paintings,” explains de Lucca, from his Buenos Aires studio, perched above a bustling avenue. “I wanted the human element to be the eyes, the one who looks, the observer, the one who depicts and is out of the scene.” The artist has been observing nature since his youth, surrounded by the thriving landscape of Misiones, an Argentine province located on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. There, he spent his days between his mother’s atelier (she was an artist, too) and the small town of Apóstoles, where nature seeped into its streets. “For almost a decade, my work has referred to the fauna and flora of this region,” explains de Lucca. “Although lately, there is a wider field of references to what we can call ‘natural phenomenon,’ with a level of abstraction that interacts with the tradition of art history.”
The exhibition at Praxis, de Lucca’s first major solo outing in the U.S., is aptly titled “Emotional Landscapes.” The watercolors on view indeed eschew the trappings of traditional landscape painting—a horizon line, a realistically rendered tree—in favor of fluid, allover compositions where diaphanous areas of color flow into tangles of plant life, smatterings of pebbles, soaring birds, and stampeding bison. In a lesser hand, the diverse assembly could resolve as a chaotic Noah’s Ark. But through de Lucca’s skilled brush, these sundry creatures blend calmly and rhythmically. Whales and birds, waves and berries are rendered on the same scale—and sometimes become one.
The artist refers to his shapeshifting, all-inclusive vision of the natural world as “open biomorphosis.” It’s an approach that blends recognizable content with a level of abstraction that allows room for imagination and emotion—whether it comes from artist or viewer. “I believe that, in my paintings, there is an encounter with idyllic paradises of childhood experiences,” he explains. “Beyond the memory and remembrance of those landscapes, it is the emotion that motivates me as a source of inspiration.” As a viewer, gazing into de Lucca’s abundant landscapes, it’s hard not to experience a flood of emotion. In a world where nature’s future seems to be hanging in the balance, de Lucca’s paintings feel like portals into increasingly endangered paradises.