Roberto Cabrera Padilla.
Guatemala Art Critic.
To the south of the Nicoya Peninsula, in the Paquera district that belongs to the Puntarenas canton in the province of the same name. Isidro Con Wong worked for a long time as a farmer, stock breeder, fisher and a timber in a familiar property in the Sector Gigante (giant) with a view to the Nicoya golf. They were eight hundred hectares of terrain with a lot open site and surly cattle when he got here. He had to re-graze for the cattle breeding it was already rooted of a kind zebuin, the planted mango trees, plantain, rice in ( siccanu) labor land that has no irrigation, and he put some agricultural machine, the terrain had a flat part and other mountainous, lower parts and hills. This was his shelter and his natural reserve that met among the wilds.
There he side of Giant (punta gigante) and in front of the Dead Island in the Nicoya Gulf, he became a fisherman, there in the hills and plains he became a timber and an expert of the Regional Flora and Fauna.
Con Wong painting can’t be appreciated if you don’t think in that nature and ecosystems that shelters his jobs. As an essential part of the conservation area of Tempisque of the National Parks. In which they are Bioloc Reserve of the Gulf of Nicoya Islands, and the National shelter of live Curú Sylvester, with all its flora and fauna, its forest, head lands, estuaries and beaches. Biological Reserves and shelters of Sylvester life in which deciduous forest and semideciduos, even ceibo wood is found, cristóbal, guapinol, pochote, ronrón, naked India and other wood species, besides the mangrove and the beach vegetation, nature that shelters many sea bird species as pelicans sea earwigs, seagulls, long palm beak birds, hawks and many others. Sea Nature ostriches Curd, lobsters, big snail (cambute) crabs, seashells (chitán) cirropodos crustacean (Percebe) and a great variety of fish.
This is the original world of Con Wong, a part of all his paternal crowd ancestry since that Cantón got to Puntarenas at the latest of the last century…when Con Wong was born in Puntarenas at the beginnings of the thirties decade. The first Chinese migrations were for plantations work and railroad laying, are now of the National history, so at the Caribbean side as from the Pacific, that’s why Con Wong is more Costa Rican that oriental, he is more Guanacastecan and Puntarenanse, because great part of his life and matureness has been in contact with the Nicoya water and land, there in Giant of Paquera that’s why his paintings can’t be placed, without in any attempt of explanation about the ancestry or the Chinese livings.
We don’t have to forget that Con Wong started to paint after forty five years, in his free time after his farmer, stock breeder and fisherman job. He tells that he drew on the sand in the beach with a stick and with annatto seed (achiote) he decorated the guangoch sacks, from the rice that he cultivated, so he started to paint as before he learnt to dominate the nature with work in his property in Giant Paquera he has a lot wild and still could see tigers, jaguars, deer, besides armadillos, large lizards, iguanas, congos, white face monkeys, red face monkeys, snakes, titís, and a large amount of birds.
Con Wong started to paint when he really knew what is a bull with hump that appears a lot in his painted job, it means who he could cross it, get better, take care of and reproduce them after to graze the open area and shovel and turn over the gross mountain in his property. Also after that there was luck of graze, he learn the way to feed his cattle with big plants that comes after to plant a lot of rice in the same terrain. Man wisdom in the field that learnt to turn over in his paintings all of these land and sea references.
For all of this, Con Wong can’t be considered such as such to label a naïve artist a folk artist or primitive o native, as many try to locate him. He is an artist, only that, of a realistic kind not naturalist, that witnesses what he has seen, known and done for a long time, he is like many artists of this kind, since the customs Rousseau in Paris have become famous, with their instinctive and realizable (utopic) paintings, far away from the industrialized society and the turbulent urban spaces, self-taught artist al must all of them, with a painting that starts to become evident in maturity, after a long life as farm laborers, crafts men, manufacturing laborers, own workers. Or in public or private services.
In this sense, Con Wong gets closer to the vision of the well-known artist “primitive” Grandma Moses, with her small cosmos in the existence of any farmer or North American settler that plasma retrospectively the original world of work.
It is a world of memories and nostalgic from the childhood, youth and part of the natured conscience in the work, life, and human communication. It is the men and women job that resist to the retiring and they want to be the chronic or the witness of another epoch not very far, but very forgotten or unknown by children, grandchildren and of the same place as others (coterraneos).
The aesthetic seed of Con Wong as all of the artist of his gender, it is not in the art of any other historic latitude as of the prehistoric, medieval, or primitive art.
It doesn’t have anything to do with, likewise, with the arts, and industries of the native and antiquated (archaic) towns that study the ethnography since the tribal cultures and hunters, to the few towns that as a testimony even exist in Australia or the Amazons, in moments of its extermination of the streams “civilazatories” that little by little get to them for the exploitation of the nature riches in their millenarian habitats, much less this art has to do with the other, the called art with capital letter of any time. His sacrifice to the influences and streams of the autocratic like or bourgeois of the official demand or the private mercantilism, it’s another emerged art to others possessed pleasures that are found immersed in the tradition and the communitarian life. It is part of the popular art or art from the town, where communication and cultural transmission are still a common legacy, in a social space in which all are at the same time creators and recreators.
Con Wong is an artist, and that’s all. Maybe now his job is very in demanded in the national middle that has lot something of its original source, but in essence it continues being a very personal job, in a world of aesthetic communication with others that paint or manufacture objects of economic and popular character.
Exvotos, decorated of fair, street wall painting, tomb atones and funeral offerings, carves, ceramic, fabrics and many other products, that fill a immediate social function or they are part of the common memory. Their skies as fireworks games; their land and sea Horizons that cut islands, seas, prairies and mounting. It’s vegetation and fruit scores that don’t belong to any botanic that it isn’t Nicoyan, its mangrove and volcanology painted as decorated of a ecologic theater, are nemotechnique registers of a nature that the same artist knew to dominate and transform are scenes painted of the vivid and elaborated, in Grand of Paquera in front of the Nicoya Gulf.
The bulls and cows of Con Wong that appear along the distance or in first plan of his paintings. They look at us established a like when we see them in the reality when we go by fields pastures or closer to the cattle region of the Costa Rican Pacific. Even we can distinguish in his job, if they are the short legs of a Brahman or the long legs of the Brazilian Indo.
The cattle fastened to the branches of the frees in many of his paintings, they aren’t a concession to any surrealism or magic realism, but, rather indirect references of arboreal species which leaves and fruit the cattle feeds in the dry seasons, the branches that are like obstacles that appear in the first plan of his paintings are from the Nicoyan mangrove that lately is repeated in some of his paintings, belongs to the Guanacaste Volcanic mountain Range from the Orosí to the Arenal, the mangoes that hang as crystal bombs in the Christmas portals, are the same converted that the artist planted in his property the pots painted in other paintings go back to Chorotegan Ceramic or that one from the Nicoyan Gulf that were seen by the first Europeans that travel by the Chira Island and that today the intermediaries of the Ceramics from Guatil have become a mercantile object so all of his painting enclosure in that natural world that he knew to live with passion and perseverance and that today it emerges as a chronicle of his communal and personal history.
With everything, Con Wong is a Naturalist painter of those that only translate the linen mechanically, the epidermis of the things, with Con Wong search thoroughly in his memory and experiments to recreate, to synthetic and communicated a new reality. Its color is of a different dry tropic with predominating of blues and softer warms. That’s why some bulls and cows appear violet or slightly red cut out in vegetation, grounds, and dark skies, filled up with flowers, stones, leaves or stars. Its botanic is tropical seen more at night than later baptized as memories of a dawn. It’s all a visual chronology of the work in a farm or familiar farm, where appear little human shapes that are rare in his paintings, children taking care a tiny flock in a landscape of the low land elevation in another paintings the man almost always that a child can be the same artist appears riding on the beast leading the cattle leaving. But the predominant in his paint is the wild and sea that as a Reserve or shelter, it only allows the cattle presence, symbol of a complete region that travel through the paintings of Con Wong, the artist of the realism in the Costa Rican Pacific Life.
San José, May 15, 1991