- Borges/Xul Solar:Shared Readings and Divergent Productions
1. Borges and Xul Solar
In the year 1949, Xul Solar1 held an individual exhibition of paintings at Galería Samos (Samos Gallery). His friend Jorge Luis Borges prefaced the catalogue and presented him in the following way:
Versed in all disciplines, curious of all mysteries, the father of writings, of languages, of mythologies, guest of hells and heavens, "panchess-player," author and astrologer, perfect in indulgent irony and in the generous friendship, Xul Solar is one of the most important events of our age. There are minds who profess probity, others, discriminate abundance; Xul Solar's plentiful invention does not exclude honest rigor. His paintings are documents of the unearthly world, of the metaphysical world in which the gods take the [End Page 55] forms of imagination, dreams. Passionate architecture, happy colors, many circumstantial details, labyrinths, homunculi and angels unforgettably define this delicate and monumental art.
The taste of our time vacillates between mere linear pleasure, emotional transcription and realism painted by a dauber's brush. Xul Solar renews, in his ambitious but modest way, the same painting of those who do not see with their physical eyes in the sacred field of Blake, of Swedenborg, of the yogis and of bards.
[Hombre versado en todas las disciplinas, curioso de todos los arcanos, padre de escrituras, de lenguajes, de mitologías, huésped de infiernos y de cielos, autor panajedrecista y astrólogo, perfecto en la indulgente ironía y en la generosa Amistad, Xul Solar es uno de los acontecimientos más singulares de nuestra época. Hay mentes que profesan la probidad, otras, la indiscriminada abundancia; la invención caudalosa de Xul Solar no excluye el honesto rigor. Sus pinturas son documentos del mundo ultraterreno, del mundo metafísico en que los dioses toman las formas de la imaginación que los sueña. La apasionada arquitectura, los colores felices, los muchos pormenores circunstanciales, los laberintos, los homúnculos y los ángeles inolvidablemente definen este arte delicado y monumental.
El gusto de nuestro tiempo vacila entre el mero agrado lineal, la transcripción emotive y el realismo con brocha gorda; Xul Solar renueva, a su modo ambicioso que quiere ser modesto, la mística pintura de los que no ven con los ojos físicos en el ámbito sagrado de Blake, de Swedenborg, de yoguis y de bardos 2](Xul Solar 1990, 11)
May these words serve as an introduction of an Argentinean who has hardly transcended the borders of his homeland, and of a friendship that lasted despite certain political divergence and that, after Xul's death, Borges transformed into a myth. Even though theological or religious concerns are only one of the many cultural interests which appear in Borges's production, he shared with Xul the search for different approaches to the Divine, and for new spiritual and moral conduct in other civilizations. Both Borges and Xul were interested in the Holy Scriptures, in Kabbalah, in Islamic religions and [End Page 56] especially Sufism, in Brahmanism, in Buddhism, and in the cosmological, philosophical, and ethical approaches of other thinkers. Furthermore, Xul investigated astrology and different mythologies, such as the Amerindian. Of the diverse Tibetan religions, he delved in the Jainism and in the Lamaism. With all this knowledge he attempted to reach a cumulative and synthesizing approach. Xul's syncretic eagerness can be observed in the pan-altars (panaltares). The prefix "pan" reveals these cultural agglutinations of the artist in various orders: creator of a pan-language (panlengua), a pan-jogo (panjogo), a pan-chess (panajedrez), pan-trees (panarboles), panaltars (panaltares), and so forth. The fusion is clearly seen in the three liturgical pieces made in painted wood during a very hermetic period of the author's work, between 1951 and 1954. First, Cruz (62 × 32.5 cm) represents a peculiar type of solar cross, significant in the importance that he gives to astrology as the medullar system of esoteric knowledge. In this piece the astrological and human elements and the mandalas are combined in a cross built with eleven squares containing grafías (ideograms) that are possibly related to the Kabbalah. The central...