Alberto González-Alegre
When it was generally thought that few, or not very relevant, variations could be offered by Mantecón’s works –due to the fact that they already have a definite structural model and they propose a clear model of perception and consciousness- he suddenly comes up with thirty works, on canvas and paper, whose patterns become passionate.

It can immediately be proved, through the illustrations below this short commentary, that it is not a intuitive twist or an interested game with an expiry date. Apart from a few particular cases on the opposite side, the big movement to which Mantecón’s work belongs to –the one which goes from Malevitch to Donald Judd, from van der Rohe to Frank Stella, and which can still be called the analytic option- is the one which entails the biggest degree of commitment, of militancy from the artists and it’s like that because it bases on accuracy, on the expression of freedom controlled by intelligence. This aesthetic option, as has frequently been said, brings along firm ethics which are reflected with equal firmness in the works.

Mantecón is still centred on an exclusive visual display, on the study of optical processes and on the psychological consequences of perception, and he keeps his ultra reflective working style, but what in his previous works was a cold struggle between opposites, now it shows as tempered by a bigger presence of plastic, pictorial values;

He gives up a little of his cosmic aspects and he introduces atmospheric sights, as if a part of the blurred effects and of the gestures of his paper works in pencil or charcoal imposed themselves and transferred their qualities to his works on canvas. Even so, his works are still geometrical abstraction because they have the rigour of geometry.

Another form of passion, extreme in a way, which is revealed in his last works comes from straining his previous line of research a few degrees further, so that the imbalance becomes even more disturbing and his perception even harder.

Mantecón, who had already come to the conclusion that harmony must include a part of restlessness, has gone even further.

These variations of his classical patterns, which we refer to as passionate, or others like the calligraphy of his backgrounds becoming more humane, are not to be found in all of his works. Rather, they are scattered in a controlled way, hidden under alternation, made of the same substance as those old boxes of uneasiness. These variations are a reassertion of his autonomy and commitment.

Alberto González-Alegre. Vigo 1990

Manuel Janeiro Casal
Paul Klee once said that the more terrible the world is, the more abstract Art is. He tells us to abandon this land of trenches and fear, this territory of awe, in order to get possession of the Regions of assertion, of concept, of the last of the understood senses: Abstraction.

In the Academies, in the attics, in the frustration of their rooms, a crowd of offspring desecrate easels and say, without any suffering: I will not paint, I will not introduce myself, I will not pretend... but they do pretend, their canvases stiffened up by insecure graphics. In their past, there’s a wall of paintings which stands up as a universal wall in the last years of the XIX century.

That, which is seen as if it were theirs, is not the wretched pain produced by abstraction, it’s not that special kind of knowledge. It’s just the plain, deaf, boring, ignorant misery of Bomarzo, Vasari, Bronzino or Miguel Ángel.

If he had been born in the XVI Century, he would have been transparent, like Velázquez, or Claudio de Lorena and he would have done a happy and earthly art, representing, figuring, lighting the canvas of bedroom fields and palaces. But he wasn’t born in Toledo or Florence or Seville.

He, whom we are talking about, Francisco Mantecón Rodríguez, was born in Galicia, two years before the meridian of the century, in a persecuted art system, more than in a persecuted country.

He is now the only one to be seen, he is one of the few of us who is capable of defeating the monotonous pressure of the trendy. Before so much obligation of calculated disorder, before so much show of gestures: the method of correction, of deep assumption of the formula in an unfinished painting, apparently clean, gives an impression of clarity but, above the rational, a true absolute chaos lives in it, just like life’s threat itself. The parable of this piece of work is a contemporary city and geometry. Men are said to have opened huge windows in their house walls, to have painted their walls white and to have installed the presence of light in their properties, when they were really suffering.

I know it’s not so, but Mantecón seems to paint with neon tubes, with indigo powder and with Spanish white. There’s a blue painting by Mantecón, a diptych which walks towards that kind of void that contains everything in itself. It was exhibited as an invisible painting in a Gallery in Vigo a year ago, and I beheld it as an event; I think nobody dared buy it and now it’s waiting, clandestine in the painting cellar, for its future.

Future is the word we must use to approach Mantecón’s work. Fortunately, this man hasn’t finished anything yet, he’s still the promise of a steady work which has already moved us. Quite a few are awaiting for him in that nation of acclaimed genius who sadden our eyes. For those of us who feel the fatigue of the provincial representatives of foreign art, Mantecón appears as the delicate offering of the original product, made in him, made in Galicia.

Manuel Janeiro Casal. Vigo


Ramiro Fonte
Each and every painting by Francisco Mantecón is subjected to certain set rules of composition emerging from formalized moulds to create subtle yet distinct variations. A brief look is enough to show us persistent systemization and order where material things and visual objects are reduced to their final synthesis. It is surprising how such a painter by trade, who is also gifted at drawing, should decided not to make more of a show of his talent. All the paintings by Mantecón are ruled by a need to discharge ballast, to get rid of the contents which he would describe as extras, rightly proposing a poetical synthesis. So, we have before us an artist convinced of the need to paint, not with subjects, but rather solely with colour and shape.

Each painting by Francisco Mantecón involves variations in a world subjected to these all pervaiding rules. One painting may appear to be indentical to another. But let us not be fooled, the works´ monotony is patently obvious, precisely because it is a matter of discovering a breach which always peers out of his paintings. We are already aware of the fact that each painting is a part of a pictorial whole, while at the same time, we know for certain that there is variation, as if they had all been cleaved open by an earthqueake. Imposing order on such a magmatic world is evidently one of his painter´s main creative strategies, even more so than before. This compulsion to portray plastic structures, which provide the focal point in his paintings, are their very hallmark.

Francisco Mantecón`s paintings are always recognisable, firstly, by their geometrical shape in a world and, secondly, by the formal moulds they are derived from. Stripped of all anecdote, laid bare of all recognisable elements, they appear to reflect a vacant lot, a void, a vast absence of light play. Their formalised deserts, their desperate structures, are at odds with baroque style.
In common with certain fathers of modern architecture ( I refer to Adolf Loos ), Mantecón`s paintings are diametrically opposed to ornament. These works have been created in an age of crisis in the world of painting, but in spite of that, the voice of this art form still sounds out. For some time, strange new tendencies have appeared in Mantecòn´s apparently static world. His paintings, which have always been based on a blending of different planes and strokes, now afford us a kind of atmospheric, more temperamental cosmos in colours able to convey states of mind. Vanities connecting void to void. Simple structures, like the fragments in a window or a cross, become symbolic emblems.
In my opinion, this artist´s paintings, despite their insistence and subject matter, give a lucid reading to anyone who cares to contemplate them. None of his paintings, each staunchly faithful to themselves, could be understood without a spectator. An understanding of his world depends of his play between ways of seeing and Mantecón`s paintings. The painter seems to offer the spectator a kind of discovery, the finding of a hidden key to be found both in the painting itself as well as in the different ways of seeing it. Being able to discern where the seismic movements in these static worlds can be found, may, perhaps, be the real objective.

Ramiro Fonte. Vigo 1993

Xosé María álvarez Cáccamo
De la estirpe de los clásicos, Francisco Mantecón se asignó el empeño de otorgar texturas leves y frágiles colores difusos a las materias frenéticas, que pueblan, desordenadas, el espacio. La vida, informe constelación triste, entra a reposar en las superficies difuminadas a través de puertas casi inaudible, rupturas mínimas que este pintor reflexivo practica en el territorio extenso del color para que el equilibrio afirme su condición en la sugerencia estremecedora de trágicos de derrumbamientos. Su búsqueda fundamental es la conjunción de dos contrarios proverbiales: Orden y Desequilibrio. Ninguna forma mantiene asentadas sus anclas en tierra firme. Una leve carga desplazada en el interior de las bodegas rectangulares las hace escorar sutilmente sin someterlas al peligro de naufragio.

Esta convergencia de contrarios nace del esfuerzo por procurar la expresión de un estado de serenidad que no signifique parálisis, silencio deshabilitado, inhumana arquitectura. Ni informal ni constructivista, la obra de Mantecón conjuga la espontaneidad del gesto natural con un trabajo controlado que logra contener todo exceso, todo desgarramiento, toda violencia. Pero, así interpretada, su pintura puede sugerir un proceso de creación que partiendo del caos, llegase a la armonía, a la organización estabilizadora. Yo pienso, por el contrario, que este hombre de insospechado comportamiento visceral y carácter vitalista, concibe sus significados como símbolos y realizaciones del Orden. Este debe ser su movimiento creativo más espontáneo. Pero, como todo acto de expresión artística vive sujeto siempre a un impulso de desobediencia y arrebato, los términos de las formas (cuadrados y rectángulos que significan tierra) abren hendiduras para el gesto desconcertante, señas  que rasgan el concierto de ritmos templados, y así las figuras flotan amenazando con desprendimientos que nunca llegan a producirse.

La síntesis de dinamismo gestual –combinado con una matizada búsqueda e efectos ópticos- y armonía constructiva se manifiesta no sólo en la unidad de cada pieza sino también en el proceso total de su obra. Las texturas de ceniza que sugieren materia inorgánica y disolución e los cuerpos contrastan y complementan a esas otras honduras vegetales atravesadas de electricidad, heridas por un caer apocalíptico de lluvias de fuego,  granizo y violetas. Hielos opacos, cristales de humo, espejos turbios, agua apagada en hogueras lustrales, transparentes estratos de arena que crecen en gradación controlada hasta ser ocaso, son las tonalidades interiores donde reside la clave artística que persigue el pintor, la sustancia ordenadora de lucha necesaria con los cuerpos sn punto de apoyo.

En contraste con los espacios ocupados abundantemente de materia dinámica, en otros momentos Mantecón habita el silencio con una mínima mancha que quiere devorar el territorio callado, o con una serie de líneas que parecen extenderse l blanco limitado e infinito. Aquí es donde l autor logra con mayor éxito el efecto de tensa serenidad que caracteriza su trabajo. El papel desnudo es el símbolo casi preciso de lo sustancial, pero le sobra todo lo que hay  de exceso en el silencio absoluto, sustancia sin doma, materia sin término, llanura y mar sin horizontes. Como este pintor no resiste la desmesura, porque vive en la región estética de los clásicos, debe extraer los elementos sobrantes del vacío y ocupar el abismo sólo con los plantas necesarios, distanciados entre ellos por miles de años-luz, tal como bailan los cuerpos en el espacio exterior. En este sentido su pintura, tensa expresión del equilibrio inestable de las formas en el vacío, es también, además  de geométrica, gestual y alquímica, radicalmente cósmica.

El terror de la Materia Flotante llega a nosotros atravesando ventanas estrechas, entreabiertas en ocre dilatado, rojo convexo, inorgánico gris, naranja cegador…Ese paisaje sereno insinúa el miedo de las grandes profundidades aéreas, la inquietud de los cuerpos desmedidos que mantienen el concierto de sus distantes amistades, unidos por hilos de frágil consistencia. Silencio ocupado de presagios, minúsculos augurios de choque y caída, tensión calculada de los volúmenes, engañosa geometría que abre pequeños agujeros de luz devastadora, vidriera ofrecida al vértigo, peligroso equilibrio.

Xosé María Álvarez Cáccamo. Vigo 1984