First international retrospective

Cuttlas Microfilms

Tribute to the incomparable genius of Calpurnio

I do not know if it is possible to talk about a work by Calpurnio in the singular. It is true that Cuttlas’ omnipresence is total throughout his creative career, but if we study Calpurnio’s work, it seems as if this series was only the catalogue of that drive that led him to create prolifically, to seek how to express himself in all forms of art. On Cuttlas’ pages, we find all his obsessions, reflected with that minimalistic stroke that asserted the narrative as the essence of the comic strip, that played with composition seeking new dimensions for the possibilities provided by the page, squeezing it to take it out of its canon with the ease with which he rewrote the topics of the western. He liked techno music and references to Kraftwerk appeared there repeatedly; he was a film buff and his comic strips were drawn passions for the eighth art; he was fascinated by science and Cuttlas often acts as a curious discoverer of the mysteries unraveled by physics, chemistry and mathematics. An equation could be a character in one of his comic strips, while a subatomic particle could share the stage with complex polyhedrons. But if we take a step back as we look at how the Cuttlas series was built, we will be surprised to see that this page was only one of the faces of a tesseract in continuous rotation, in eternal expansion driven by infinite curiosity. And in that perpetual motion, we will discover that those drawings with apparently childish strokes were multidimensional projections of his creative avidity. For on those early pages of the cowboy already, we see the illustrations he made for Heraldo de Aragón in the 90s – comic strips that were first cousins, or signs, of the wall paintings he soon began to make with those mathematical motifs that would pervade his entire work in the future.

In the meantime, Cuttlas rode on, not only through the deserts of the American west but through increasingly strange universes and worlds that were, however, surprisingly close and recognisable. He was starting to move across other cinema genres and his cartoons were objects under four-dimensional tension that cried to leave the page to expand across time, to make up a film that could simply be the combination of a pile of drawings, of five dozen sheets of paper that were set to become stills from a home movie in Super 8 but eventually turned, via Prague, into microfilms that managed to bring to the screen something readers already imagined: Cuttlas moved across panels naturally. Small films that condensed the spirit of constant exploration while remaining true to graphic minimalism but without giving up the panoptical ambition of reality: El enigma poligonal (The Polygonal Enigma) resorted unapologetically to the mathematics of reality to find a form of escape in hypnotic patterns. But always without giving up that organic plasticity of handmade drawings that connected the paper with the acetate of the film, or maybe simply with our past: it is only logical that Cuttlas films should also have their own versions for Cine NIC projectors eventually, which linked them to the eternal work of Escobar, the great genius of Bruguera.

But his need to discover took him to electronics and computing: the extraterrestrial characters of the cowboy series (as there were a few, of course – and in close search of the meaning of existence, mind you, verging on 42) already anticipated, with their screen-shaped heads, that screens had to be part of his creative experience. He found in video a space for experimentation with textures, which emerged through the panels of Proyecto X (Project X) in the form of collages that updated the work of Max Ernst with the white noise that was set to contaminate the 21st century. He connected it with music, thus becoming a video DJ who drew the lines to other worlds that were, again, projected on Cuttlas’ pages – always paying attention to the constant transformation of his creator, finding out that collage could break the aesthetic of the printed page to become pure dynamics in constant transgression.

It is only logical that, after so much to-and-fro through music, cinema and comics, he should find a space of his own in the image of the Tui Play-Doc Festival, as a sort of perfect intersection where his interests blended into a unique image. Maybe this city in the province of Pontevedra would be the perfect place for Don Cenizo to set up Hilbert’s Grand Hotel, which allowed him to have enough doors at which he could deposit his creative interests. Mundo Plasma (Plasma World) was more than a comic – it was a fold in space-time that made it possible to contain all that explosion of imagination that this small tridimensional world could hardly house.

But what was most fascinating about it was that the whole of Calpurnio’s work is interconnected: that four-dimensional cube that had led us to suspect that his entire work is wired together is only another projection of a work that moves in endless directions. The wall painting that inhabits a café at the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) is connected to an illustration of the Odyssey, which in turn leaves a trace that emerges through a seemingly advertising poster whose characters, however, are in dialogue with the characters on one of Cuttlas’ pages, in the same panel in which a fly flits from El Flayer to alight, in the real world, on the tridimensional James I the Conqueror that was exhibited on the streets of his adopted Valencia – while electronic music breaks the silence and draws strange textures in the sky that, as it turns out, come from a VJ session, and draws infinity on the same page on which extraterrestrial 37 proclaims his love.

Suddenly, we become aware of how limited our perception is – that it is impossible to assimilate the greatness of creativity the size of a universe, of Calpurnio’s unfathomable world.

Álvaro Pons