my first time visiting fabian rosas beckmann‘s apartment in montreal’s plateau, we had snuck off from an after party to go look at his art — including a piece he was gifting me after i had gushed it on facebook. to say that his apartment was filled with his art would be an understatement. every surface is literally covered in paintings. and not just walls — tables, counters, tops of shelves, corners; all stacked with paintings, planks of wood, and found objects that fabian has repurposed into his own unique canvases.
a mexican-born, montreal-based artist, singer, writer, photographer, and lyricist, fabian has produced over 200 pieces of work; some measuring more than 4 meters wide. if you asked me to describe his artistic style, the first word that comes to mind is “expression.” maybe that’s the obvious answer. maybe not. his paintings are multi-layered, wildly textural, capturing movement in fingerstrokes or freepoured paint so that the whole thing feels dynamic, engaging. each painting takes on a life of its own, abstract enough that it is read differently by everyone, but grounded enough that we all feel something when we look at it. he’s the kind of artist that isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty: it might just be the secret to making his art so unsettlingly personal.
fabian and i play this game when we’re looking at his art. he asks me, “what do you see?” i always rattle off a peculiar anecdote or bizarre comparison, one that is sometimes different, sometimes identical to what fabian tells me when i ask him the same question. it’s like those children’s books — the ones with a pointillist image that when you squint at it a certain way, you see a sailboat? this hilarious but poignant conversation of “don’t you see it? right there?”
ahead of his debut solo exposition ephemere at montreal’s le saint jude tonight, we decided to recreate the game for this piece, where you’ll find five of fabian’s paintings, described by each of us. for more on fabian and his work, you can find him on instagram, or check out his expo tonight at 3988 st denis. he will also be hosting paintbending, a night of art-meets-music at lounge l’un et l’autre on october 11th, featuring sounds by swack, ana+one, zeina, daoust, M4CR0, alicia hush, and marc leveq.
what i see: this is one of my favourite techniques of fabian’s. the little organic lines that look like roots or a haunted coral reef, he creates by layering paint between two materials and peeling them back. the boldness of the colours adds to that coral reef effect that i love so much, emphasized through the textures of the dirt in the background, the raised edges of those little roots, and the energy of the paint splatters. the whole thing has an underwater feel to it.
what fabian sees: this painting was seen by the editor of VER-SE online magazine when i shared it on my FB page and asked me if she could use it for an edition called contemporary cartography. it wasn’t until then that i actually begun to see how this resembled a map. to me, this was more like an abstract painting filled with organic elements… a heart, lungs, plants, veins. it is actually painted on the back of a large ad for a local polititian. the gray in it is actually dirt, because this was on the ground when i found it.
what i see: did you ever hear about this cave that these miners came across in mexico? it’s called the cave of crystals, or cueva de los cristales, and its chambers contain giant selenite crystals, some that are up to 12 meters large. the photos of this cave are absolutely surreal — the resemblance to this painting is really uncanny, particulary in fabian’s use of dark purples, teals, and jewel tones. when i was thinking about what i saw in this painting, and started to jot down my answer, i glanced at fabian’s notes to see what he had written about it. strangely enough, the valley he describes is located in the same town as the cave of crystals, which also happens to be fabian’s native city.
what fabian sees: this is the “valley of the monks.” it reminds me of a region in my native state of chihuahua in mexico. there is a beautiful valley in the mountains with the same name, where millions of years ago this was submerged in ocean waters. erosion lead rocks to form sculpture-like stones that are incredibly tall. locals even believe that these giant stones have been placed there by superior beings from another world. this painting, like most of my paintings, was not planned. it’s the result of applying acrylic paint on laminated wood, and with my fingers, hands, and forearms i smudged the paint. to my surprise, this immediately reminded me of this place, but more like a revelation.
what i see: this one’s easy, and i can picture this so clearly in my mind’s eye… remember those licorice candies that people always had in candy bowls on their end tables when you were a kid? they were the worst flavour, but you always ate a couple anyway because the colours were so beautiful. they were soft, matte — strange for a candy. almost like they weren’t supposed to be eaten.
what fabian sees: this is and underground cavern where robots are being built, or maybe even robots are building robots in this painting that to me it evokes construction and deconstruction, an incredible amount of energy and even noise, surrounded by a few figures that come to life as characters that are active in this busy wooden panel i used as a canvas.
what i see: this is my favourite of fab’s selection. i love the lightness of the black on white — minimalism has always been my thing, i love a good stark contrast, but this painting, despite its stark colour contrast, is all organic textures and impressionistic. it makes me think of, on the one hand, oriental calligraphy in its energy, but on the other hand, a sketch, something done briskly, like a habit, like he was drawing the girl sitting across from him on the metro.
what fabian sees: this is one of my favorite ones. this is pure magic. i was using this piece of paper to clean my fingers, until i saw that i could see figurative content… kind of a man, kind of cat, kind of a bear… i proceeded to use a fine point marker and more black paint on my fingers to “complete” the half-finished characters that the painting was already revealing to me. in the end, this is a surrealist painting of a faun, a bee, two flamenco dancers, a cat and a ball of yarn, a jumping man, a frog, a water ballet sportswoman, and a bear… coming out from the branches of a tree, which at the same time is alive and has a face.
what i see: i consistently love fabian’s use of mixed media, layers of texture, and his hands-on approach to art. i love the coral-like impressions throughout, but my favourite bit is the lonely forgotten bit of text at the bottom, les couleurs repensees. fitting that reimagination is the essence of fabian’s art. the answer to this one pops out at me too: an anime type of character. she could have bunny ears (we just can’t see because the painting ends)!
what fabian sees: this painting is very special to me. just like the previous one, most of it resulted from a series of accidental paint smudging… i could clearly see an animal like figure coming out in the middle. With a few touches I was able to bring this dog-like creature in this magical world of fantasy, its friend the lamb, and a castle. almost like its all coming from the imagination of a child who is reading a tale about magic in medieval times… i am in love with this thought because it reminds me of my imagination as a child and the aftermath of bedtime stories just before falling asleep.