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Gustavo Maestre. Shamanism and nomadic painting  
Giuseppe Carrubba
ISSN 1127-4883     BTA - Telematic Bulletin of Art, September 15th 2008, n. 505

Gustavo Maestre introduces himself as an artist with a pictorial practice marked by a great expressive value. His work draws on a colour-based pictorialism with origins linked to his cultural roots and Latin-American art.
The artist uses the ancient languages of drawing, painting and sculpture, developed together with influences from contemporary realities, as well as imagined elements related to the conscience of a project which isn't meant to have only retinal, artificial or narrative results; a project that tries to create a reflection on the present and the future, through forms and references that are personal, social and cultural at the same time.

The constitutive reasons of Maestre's practice reveal an "inner work", expressed by the concept of labyrinth as a path of search, and the substance of a painting that's manifesting its own pleasure in the accumulation and overlap of signs: the work becomes kind of nomadic map of progressive moves. His creative practice is based on a formal result of opulence, with the work's development related to its inner movements and on the artist's possession of his own limits, as the limits are overcome.

This opulence is also affirmed by the conception of art as the production of a catastrophe, through the poetics of discontinuity and precarious equilibrium, paired with a cultural system dominated by the "principle of linguistic homologation".

According to Gustavo Maestre, through the process of deconstruction and the need for catastrophes, the artwork takes on symbolic and shamanic power, in relation to the divisions and equilibriums of the ideological, political and religious system, establishing a metaphysical relationship and a value with reality.
The artist is kind of a shaman who detaches from the profane the order of existence, getting in touch with the sphere of the symbolic and sacred, entering a relationship with other realities and forcing art itself to assume a tautological power, magical and liberating. He makes a place, in this way, for the exercise and technique of ecstasy, and loans out his own work to those who are in need of it.

This vocation, that implies particular faculties and feminine characteristics - proper to the artist's condition, as the artist is able to reach the Gods - is born from expressive intuition, drawing from the depths and providing art with an aesthetic immediacy and concrete painting, infused with a sensual mysticism.

In Gustavo Maestre's work, the aesthetics of fragments and the pictorial nomadism carries along various references, from the private sphere to the social one, becoming signs of symbolic sedimentation. Nomadism has to be intended here as a particular condition that the artist assumes regarding the ethics meant to be privileged, since he is devoted to following paths that are not already planned, relying on a mental and material trial of freedom and instantaneity.

The artist's pictorial and nomadic project starts from an extension of both individual and collective imagery. These different imageries give value and intensity to the work itself.
From the inside, the artist sets up the inner metaphysics that preside over the work with a demiurgic power. The work substantiates and declares its own appearance: subject and form, painting and sign, establish the grammar of its visibility.

This practice, that can also be defined as a symbolic and cultural crossing, represents a way to consider the Ego and to push it towards other perspectives and expressive possibilities, accepting and enclosing the local realities inside a dialectical relationship, not homologizing towards globalized realities. Against the idea of unity, standardization and globalization in contemporary culture, here Maestre embarks on the research of identity that strengthens individuality and the political and cultural concept of geographical origins and ethnic groups.

Since the eighties, in comparison to the evolutionary theory of the avant-garde art based on the ideological concept of language, the new-avant-garde has been affirming a new workability, renewing itself through history and culture and experimenting with an inner coherence towards simple external reality. In this perspective, art is no longer progressivist, idealist or ideologized, but progressive, in relationship with its own making, and to its real search.
The poetics are multiplied, the languages and the expressive halves are mixed inside a space by the multiform, globalized reality.

«Our early third millennium time is crossed over by the double extremism of globalization and tribalization, homologation and individualization» 1.
The very value of art also dwells in Maestre's work, both in individuality and plurality of subjectivity, being part of a poetics based on anthropological research that shatters languages, fronting all those systems that are overshadowed by totalitarian ideologies. His painting is meant to be a shipwreck of forms and signs, containing personal, social and cultural references where the ethnic character of quotations and objects leads to an antinomies-based aesthetics and to kind of a remains-based poetics. A visionary and labyrinthine painting with a strong metaphorical power, reached through a taste for mixture, heterodoxy and kitsch.

Artistic experience is a secular experience that reveals its precarious equilibriums, the conflict and breaking, the irreducibility of the fragment produced by reality itself. The root of this run finds its points of poetic and stylistic reference in abstract expressionism, New Realism and street culture in relationship to the graphic experience of mural paintings and urban graffiti. The concept is of an art dealing with signs and objects in order to establish mobile relationships among them, with the purpose of transfiguring them into another reality in which so-called "high" and "low" culture are mixed and melted together. The artist uses the pictorial practice as a tool, as a means and not as an end. This practice is affirmed through a process of assemblage with different elements: figurative and abstract, mental and organic.

The pictorial and extra-pictorial subject is combined on the picture's surface, answering to those internal energies that regulate the picture's composition. The brushstroke, the dribble of colour, the liberty of taking elements away from any naturalistic reference affirm the idea of an art that sticks to its own time. This leads to a practice intended as repetition and movement, portraying the image of a microcosm where there is no stasis, but a continuous dynamic of relationships. So Maestre's production is qualified by an almost Baroque formality of exquisitely Dada new taste, where mixtures of sign and calligraphies coexist with brushstrokes of vivacious colour in tune with the energy and gesture of action-painting. Visual and tactile qualities are found inside works where the physical presence of objects, collage, painting, subject and texts define the poetic meaning and the critical purpose. The art is revelation, emergency, difficult and restless, in the uneasy time we live in today. Its understanding depends on our predisposition to an intellectual, perceptive and even emotional experience. In the creation of his symbolic universe the artist references history, channelling them for artistic and alternative uses, in order to elaborate, metamorphosize and sublimate the anger and the anguish of the past and present caused by the passivity of the Western World.

The idea of art as a protest has deep roots in the Expressionists' gestures. The most immediate effect, for example, of Abstract Expressionism was its tendency for self-containment, inside this structure the artists abandoned surrealist associations in order to embrace the brushstroke's potential on the canvas for a unique experience and a personal point of view. All of this gives rise to a series of individual solutions in order to force us to see the reality with new eyes. How can the real thing be expressed in different ways ? Another particular moment that helps us to understand Maestre's artistic formation is Neorealism, and the poetics of the object. This language takes all of its vocabulary from contemporary social realism. Banal and everyday objects, through quantity, repetition and accumulation, become expressive and communicative means, fascinating as they point back to social exchange, to the dynamic aspects of our civilization, to industry and public relationships. The history of objects and real images, the so-called "collecting" of Pop, interested different artists through the 20th century, such as Picasso and Braque who mixed objects and text, Schwitters with his dada-esque operations, and finally Dine and Rauschenberg. Maestre uses in his pictures those objects and serigraphs that become another skin of the painting, sometimes they amalgamate together and serve as kind of a prolongation of the subject, other times they come back to the surface establishing a relationship between painting and sign. Both painting and sign then purchase a new life, in the integration of form and colour, revealing in the painting meanings apart from every existential presence in order to affirm their value in the visual power of the image.

The art of Gustavo Maestre seems suspended among shreds of images inside a circular and endless creativity, open to the pleasure of painting that absorbs everything through the abstract gesture, the breath of the subject, the game of pleasure of an internal pulsing that reveals so many possibilities. A subjectivity expressed by its own anthropological value: the affirmation of the instantaneousness of the gesture and of the work as vision.

The critical essay Gustavo Maestre. Shamanism and nomadic painting is taken from the forthcoming exhibition catalogue (Confartigianato, Prato, October 2008).

Translated from Italian to English by Luca Andriolo.


1 Achille Bonito Oliva, Le Tribù dell'Arte, Geneva, Milan, Skira, 2001, p. 11.


Gustavo Maestre was born in Barcelona, Venezuela. Painter, sculptor and graphic designer, graduated at Escuela Artes Plasticas A. Reveron in his hometown; in 1979 he got a degree in Engraving and Serigraphy at Tres Rayas Institute in Madrid and in 1985 in Ceramic Forming Techniques at State Institute of Art in Sesto Fiorentino, Florence.
He lives and works in Prato and Florence.
He had solo exhibitions, nationally and internationally, in the following cities: Havana (Cuba), Madrid, Modena, Montemurlo, Milan, Paris, Toulouse, Vernio, and several times in Florence, Prato, Puerto la Cruz (Venezuela).
His works are included in several Italian and international collections.


2007 Gustavo Maestre, Spazio espositivo Over, Prato, Italy.

2006 Gustavo Maestre, Sede espositiva Saliola, Rome, Italy.


  • ARTOU-RO, Hotel Michelangelo, Florence, Italy.
  • Gustavo Maestre, Galleria del Palazzo, Florence, Italy.


  • Gustavo Maestre, Rassegna d'arte dei due mondi, L'Aquila-Sulmona
  • Montecatini Terme, Rome, Italy.

2003 Curanto, Atelier Giardino Colgante, Prato, Italy.

2002 Gustavo Maestre, Salon Artisanal d'Art, Toulose, France.

2001 Gustavo Maestre, Gallerie L'oeil du huit, Paris, France.

2000 Gustavo Maestre, Galeria  Albaquercus, Madrid, Spain.

1999 Spathiphyllum, Associazione culturale Cabloco, Prato, Italy.

1998 Gustavo Maestre, Galleria Rosso Cinabro, Florence, Italy.


  • Mirando, Associazione culturale Cabloco, Prato, Italy.
  • Mirando, Banca Popolare di Milano, Florence, Italy.

1996 El desaliendo y el fulgor, Galerie Municipal, Puerto de La Cruz, Venezuela.

1995 El silenzio del suono, Palazzo Comunale, Vernio, Prato, Italy.

1994 Gustavo Maestre, Palazzo Pretorio, Prato, Italy.


  • Luces de Fuego, Galleria d'Arte La Spirale, Prato, Italy.
  • Yla vos Ilego con tu nombre, Comune di Montemurlo, Prato, Italy.


  • La illusion del Espacio, Puerto de La Cruz, Venezuela.
  • No a los 500 anos de la Conquista, Cinema Terminale Movies, Prato, Italy.
  • V Centenario del Descubrimiento, IV Bienal de la Habana, Cuba.


  • Gustavo Maestre, Centro d'Arte Alfredo Sheglitis, Modena, Italy.
  • Gustavo Maestre, Galleria Nuovo Aleph, Milan, Italy.


  • Gustavo Maestre, Galleria La Spiga, Florence, Italy.
  • Curupira, Studio d'Arte Il Moro, Florence, Italy.
  • Gustavo Maestre, Chiesa di san Jacopo, Prato, Italy.


Gustavo Maestre

Confartigianato IMPRESE PRATO

Bibliografia di Gustavo Maestre - Exibart.Com

Galleria del Palazzo - Firenze

Zabi Kostra

Fig. 1
Zabi Kostra, 2002
mixed media on canvas; diameter 39,37 inches

Pesadilla dentro la oscuridad ... de ti

Fig. 2
Pesadilla dentro la oscuridad ... de ti, 2006
mixed media on plaster; 15,75 x 35,43 inches

Juntos en el espacio

Fig. 3
Juntos en el espacio, 2007
mixed media on wood; 39,37 x 34,25 inches

El estraňo mundo de los buscadores

Fig. 4
El estraňo mundo de los buscadores, 2007
mixed media on wood; 32,7 x 36,6 inches

Cantar en la oscuridad

Fig. 5
Cantar en la oscuridad, 2008
mixed media on wood; 27, 6 x 19,7 inches

El arte de las guerras

Fig. 6
El arte de las guerras, 2008
mixed media on wood; 13 x 36,6 inches

Hipócritas, sumisos e infelices

Fig. 7
Hipócritas, sumisos e infelices, 2008
mixed media on wood; 7,9 x 35,4 inches

Foto courtesy by Gustavo Maestre



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