About Grand Tour image
Hamlet Fernández
Comment for Noticiero Cultural de Cuba.
November 27, 2017

In the Galiano Gallery painting has invaded walls and ceilings, but not because of the large dimensions of the pieces, or because it has been painted on the surfaces. The young artist Marlon Portales has produced hundreds of small canvases, inspired by his travels in several countries, and by what he left behind in his retina, in his camera and in his memory.
"Grand tour", the exhibition I am telling you about, functions as the pictorial record of the artist's cultural experience. But it is not merely a documentary record, a mechanical transfer of photographic images to the medium of painting. More complex processes mediate this creative exercise. Between the photographic references that Marlon may have used, and the small-format oils that constitute the final result, the emotional energy of memory seems to have intervened as a filter.
The first thing that impacts our sight when entering the Galiano Gallery, besides the museum display, is the rich diversity of chromatic tonalities, a spill of color and dissimilar effects that extends throughout the gallery. The curatorship, in charge of Gladys Garrote, configured sets that create effects similar to those of large grid screens with a flow of small images.
But the general visuality and morphologies that these sets create are only the large planes that we receive at a certain distance. At the beginning of the tour we must approach the works, and with them to the individual influx of rural landscapes, seascapes, views of cities, streets, bridges, buildings; a great variety of environments, each resolved with a different pictorial solution.
This is precisely one of the most enjoyable aspects of the exhibition, and one of the artist's greatest achievements. Because the display of imaginative ingenuity that gives a specific poetic tone to each view, and the technical capacity to construct them pictorially, are really meritorious.
The seasons of the year are an atmospheric conditioner that marks differences between the series. More intense and colorful, rich in textures are spring and summer in New York, Italy and California; and paler and diffuse are fall and winter in Germany and New York.
However, I think it's more emotional than atmospheric. Each of these landscapes could be a correlate of the emotional photography that was engraved in the artist's mind at the moment he enjoyed each place with his own eyes. It is as if the state of mind that generates an intense aesthetic experience ends up modelling in the imagination the visuality of the perceptual stimulus that triggered the original experience.
That is why the miniature landscapes of Marlon Portales have nothing to do with the realistic, reliable documentation of the place where one was. On the contrary, they seem to be emotional constructs of memory, which the artist knows how to crystallize into pictorial beauty of great evocative power.
The color is protagonist, intense, varied, unfolded in infinity of shades. The figuration is generally diffuse, in some cases more iconic, in others gravitating almost towards abstraction. And there are so many windows to those peculiar universes, that it seems impossible to disembark with the sight in each port, and to remain there, in the pure contemplation.

Commentary for Cultural News of Cuba.
Issued November 27, 2017