Visual Perception
Renowned figurative painter Belinda Flores-Shinshillas’ latest abstract body of work presents atmospheric portals to other-worldly landscapes; they evoke the uncanniness of the quaint New Orleans bucolic and pastoral scenery where the heavy Bayou humidity weighs on languid oak trees and drippy Spanish moss, and deafens the enigmatic call of black crows.

Flores-Shinshillas develops a painterly method based on a multiplicity of washy, fluid layers that keep mounting and dripping, one on top the other, one becoming the other as they push the composition back and forth and by so, creating an exclusively pictorial landscape on its own.

In this manner, Flores-Shinshillas’ compositions almost create themselves by growing from hints prompted by the immediately previous gesture. Those “hints” are deployed throughout the canvas thus rendering the compositions somewhat democratic. The whole surface commands the same pictorial hierarchy. However, since each layer responds and to the previous one and all the layers are connected through unexpected connection, those connections are confronted, questioned, or contradicted at each layer. The Creative process brings to mind the principles used for an exquisite corpse that precisely allows for ambiguity and paradoxes.

Regarding abstraction methods and the contention of an established system with a work itself (like that of Flores-Shinshillas’ series of liquid layers and a procession based on “hints”), curator Yasmil Raymond explains that “for Foucault and other, the question of ethics rests in maintaining a level of discomfort with one’s own belief system-never to consent to being completely comfortable with one’s own presuppositions-“1. With her established system of interweaving layers that encourage unlikely and unpredictable results, Flores-Shinshillas practices her own ethics: she finds herself never completely comfortable with her presuppositions. By exercising this criticality, she gives place to works that are somewhat contradictory, works that leave territories unexplored and open to possibilities of interpretation. She has extended the notion of criticality to her own career as she turns now to abstraction, a new system for her, after having a command on figuration and representation.

Flores-Shinshillas’ paintings do intimate some interpretation consensus. The viewer is presented with abstracted elements of nature. Colors identifiable with water, fire, sky, clouds, sun and rain are submitted to her abstraction process and thus rendered as thin curving series of blue and green washes, brown and purple circular spots, bluish gradations, or blurred red drips. The recurrent visual vocabulary provides us, the viewer, with some tools to identify a landscape and yet, as we know, the paintings reveal an ambience rather that a direct reference. Ultimately, the back and forth of the gaze through the multiple layers and drips is enhanced by the back and forth between vague representation and abstraction that is simultaneously present in Flores-Shinshillas’ work. These paintings reveal some information while simultaneously resisting a thorough interpretation of them. They straddle both worlds (abstraction/representation) and find themselves inhabiting the uncanny realm of the in-between and evoking the uncanny mood of the New Orleans hazy character.

Ultimately, Flores-Shinshillas’ vaporous portals need to be experienced and are intentionally open ended for the viewer to find a myriad of colors, gestures and moods to relate with.

Monica Ramírez-Montagut, Ph.D.
Museum Director of the Tulane Newcomb Art Museum in New Orleans