“There are so many possibilities.  Repeated any number of times, the silhouette sketched by the work could lead each time to a new shape, a new work of art.”


José Maria García ARMENTER was born in Canarias in 1956. He has been living and working in New York since 1978.  He was Master Engraver at Cartier for eighteen years, where he carried out very precise and careful work on precious metals, mostly gold and platinum.

At present what he produces retains from engraving what is removed in the process of engraving—that part of the matter that emerges once he chooses not to remove anymore.  Based on this principle, he produces or creates a personal reflexion around a design, a design as object, and a design as design.  Today his output goes beyond the work of a master artisan, going into research of modeling, without rejecting either the artisan or the creativity one or the other.  The artist questions the role of the medium in which he proceeds to create.  He asks himself what is left by the engraving. His practice or work develops like a choice that keeps everything, and contains all, in order to create an reveal the silhouette, but also the volume that is embedded in the metal sheet.

But that volume itself emerges from the plane surface, from the bronze, or copper, or silver sheet.  Here, the surface will emerge to fill a space of art, like the meticulous work of a jeweler who creates a work of art a stone and some metal.   Not wanting to fall into the commonplace clichés that are characteristic when looking at, or based on Heidegger’s philosophy, it is difficult to avoid them; even a small gesture, or at least the surface which reveals, or lifts the veil of the metal.

From his past work as a jeweler, the artist has developed the technique of “peeling”, as he calls it.  It’s more than an action, more of a feat, to peel the metal as one would peel an orange, but which also evokes something closer to home: the peeling of our own skins, which is our interface with the world. And so we have body –world interfacing. 

His technique, which he calls “peeling”, requires piercing and cutting a silhouette on the flat surface of the metal sheet. In his own words, Armenter says, "in my line of jewelry, I developed the technique of "peeling", which involves piercing or cutting a silhouette onto the flat metal surface (copper, bronze, silver), then giving it form, or shaping it by hand, by lifting the silhouette from the surface".

And this surface speaks volumes. A silhouette is sketched; it takes shape and expands into space.  The artist describes his creations as “forms or shapes that don’t exist in any other form.”  The surface conveys a sense of renewal, as if it were saying, that it is expressing itself for the first time, like the first drops of a precious and rare juice.  It expands into space, like the essence of perfume, the heart of a gem.  In this sense as in others, the work of the artist rejoins the work of the artisan. 

The silhouette of the work casts its shadow into space, and the reflections of light on the surface.  Each one contains a multitude of underlying figures, projections of shadows and of light, projections of works inside and outside the work.  The surfaces, cut out and raised into space offer infinite possibilities.  The design, sketched on the sheet of metal, takes the silhouette towards a multitude of shapes.  The cut-out raises itself to reveal what it was hiding or to reveal again, barely sketched out in the space in which the work of art is installed.   These shapes, which the cut-out carries within itself, and which it reveals at the same time, can go in so many different directions, offering a myriad of possibilities, between shadow and light, an infinite variety revealed in the space of the work of art, which is itself the work of art, and which is at the same time a multiplicity of spaces and surfaces.

What is most important to the artist is not to solder anything. Since the metal sheet “expresses” that it contains the shape within itself, and in its entirety, nothing should be added or removed from it.  Refusing to solder or attach anything to the sheet of metal is not an exercise in virtuosity, nor a mastery of a skill.  The artist insists that everything is already contained in that sheet of metal.  The veil and the site are united: the surface as veil and as site, as foundation and as archetype.

The metal sheet no longer contains the shape; it’s the surface that contains the space and depth or volume.   Here, the sculptor’s action is fusing the work of the engraver with the inspiration of the lithographer.  The great lithographers had a deep impact on José María Garcia Armenter when he was a student and in his artistic encounters.  But he relies on the cutting out, not on removing [or adding] anything.  If all is contained in the original surface, it’s because everything is already there, and that it contains all the possibilities which it lifts like a sail, or a veil, which it puts in relief as matter.  Spatial and tri-dimensional, the sheet of metal is more than a surface; it reveals more than the surface of the things it covers.  More than a multiplicity of surfaces, the work is multi-volume, including what is immaterial or intangible.  The artist’s pencil is like a paint brush, his saw like a stiletto, the point like a hole, the action of the artist liberates an “in-between space”, a sliver or crack that is already there.

For José María García Armenter, the artistic sense requires there be “no waste

at all”, since the matter or material, as surface, is already growing in volume, motion and contortion.  The etching or engraving is not rejected, but rather, incorporated, it is symbolic of “what is brought with” and by the metal.  In this instance, the artist makes one think of the coat of arms and seals, like the positive and negative, the image being the reverse, “transposed”.  Hence the necessity for the artist to hold together, in the process of working with the silhouette and its reverse image,  the image and the mirror image volume as a void in space, space as a silhouette in the void.  What the artist needs to do is to carry within him all the images that his work includes. 

In this regard, the artist calls to mind the importance of the process that calls forth the shape. “The most important aspect of the process is taking the decision: I cannot make a mistake. There are so many possibilities.”  Repeated any number of times, the silhouette sketched by the work could lead each time to a new shape, a new work of art.   Or... replicated an infinite number of times, the silhouette drawn by the work could lead each time to a new shape, a new work of art.  

Frédérique Boitel
Paris, November 2008

 Translated from the French by Sylvia Ospina



Jose Maria Garcia Armenter