Images that Can Be Touched: Patricio Betteo’s CINCO

Our first contact with the world is through sensation. We first experience and feel. We see, we smell, we touch, and after that, we translate the sensations into thoughts, into words that we can communicate to others and to ourselves. We first experience the world, and then we create a language to understand it.

Although we are not always aware of what happens around us, we tend to avoid our sensations until something changes. An unusual pain, a bitter taste, a noisy sound that hurts our ears, or a horrible view that breaks our daily visual order. Something must happen to force us to pay attention to our sensations.

It seems that we need something to happen to return to the experience, to the primary way to understand the world. Cinco by Patricio Betteo brings attention to this experience, to sensations and feelings. And he create stories where the five senses are the only way to understand the world.

Patricio Betteo is a Mexican artist that has become one of the most recognized comic artists in his country. He has a visual and narrative style that combines realism with surreal characters and situations. He has a unique way to tell stories that is closer to the intensity of poetry than to a fast or superficial account of events. Patricio Betteo is an illustrator, but also an author who combines the visual language with storytelling. His style has his own identity and, as an author, he is capable of creating spaces where the unexpected can happen.

Cinco was published by La cifra, a Mexican publishing house that is gradually becoming in one of the most impressive, because of the quality of its catalogue and the attention they put into every book they publish. Cinco by Patricio Betteo is a good example of the quality of their publications.

Originally, this anthology of short visual stories was created with the support of the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes through the program Jóvenes Creadores, of which Patricio Betteo was beneficiary. So, the final work was a co-edition between La cifra and the Secretaría de Cultura.

This book is a group of short stories all connected through the five senses. Every story focuses its attention on one of the senses and has a different aesthetic. Some of them have a melancholic and romantic tone such as “Los videntes,” while others combine mystery and crime from the point of view of a detective, as in the short story “Técnica mixta”. However, all of them are connected to create a combination of emotions and sensations.

Patricio Betteo does not translate the feelings or sensations from reality to the comic language. Furthermore, he creates a symbolic language from which he builds up a scenario where fiction and sensations share the same visual space. After reading Cinco, we have the feeling that maybe we are not aware of the impact of the sensations on our everyday life. The artist makes us wonder if it is possible to hear the silence and lock the words into bubbles, or if it is possible to see by touching all the objects around us.

One of his characters even says, “Comprendí que mis manos serían míos ojos” [“I understood that my hands will be eyes”]. With this sentence, we can see how this character has a completely different experience of the world, and the artist is able to show us how the world — and everything that inhabits it — has a specific presence: a texture, a smell, a colour that can be touched.

The author even makes us taste a juicy fruit that a character eats and how the remains of that fruit — that dirty and infertile seed — is a residue of past experiences, a vestige of something that is already gone, a happy memory, someone loved but gone, a death, and a lovable pet whose fur can still be felt on our hands. These objects make presence by their absence.

Everything that we keep hidden in the small box of our memories is what Patricio Betteo shows us. He creates a small piece of art that is large on meaning. The artist expands the expressive possibilities of images and words into a language that can be seen, touched, heard, smelled, and tasted.