Art and Mysticism: the story of Xul Solar

Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari, who later changed his name to Xul Solar, or “solar light,” (1888-1963) was an Argentine painter and illustrator who also created musical instruments and toys. He was born in San Fernando, the province of Buenos Aires. Xul solar developed his artwork style filled with mystical worlds, and alternate universes are filled with cities that float, arcane symbols, angels, winged horses, pyramids, snakes, and frightening half-breeds of airplanes and people.

He studied architecture and engineering at the University of Buenos Aires. However, Xul Solar decided to leave school and traveled to Paris, where he studied drawing and painting with Emilio Pettoruti (a famous Argentinian artist) in 1908. In his first artistic attempts, in 1917, we're inclined to the art nouveau style and forms. Over the years, Xul Solar created his artistic style, although cannot be categorized strictly as surrealist, it possesses a tint of oneiric and surrealist due to the dreamlike character of the artwork with an esoteric flavor of profound religious and metaphysical suggestion. In an imaginary space, Xul Solar combines faces, magical elements, and fragmentary objects, treating his material in a schematic, planimetric way with dynamic action and an exceptional sophistication of color.

Xul Solar had the dream of changing the universe. He invented two languages, Neo-CRiollo and Pan-Lengua, also a unique form of chess, a modified piano, and painted works based on his blend of cosmic mysticism. His visualization of a utopia centered on the foundation of a universal language. He believed that Spanish was several centuries out of date, so he decided to invent Neo-Criollo. This language was derived from Spanish and Portuguese, with parts of French, English, Greek, and Sanskrit, and intended to be a universal language for South America. Xul Solar attempted to communicate with everyone crossing his path and wrote numerous texts in Neo-Criollo, including “San Signos.” An extensive collection of writings, based on the hexagrams of the “I Ching.” Soon after, he created a more complicated language, the Pan-Lengua, a proposed international language rooted in math, music, astrology, and visual art.

Xul solar modified a piano to make it simpler to learn; he built three rows of colored keys for playing a hexatonic scale of his invention. The colors of the keys corresponded to the colors in his paintings, using the canvas as sheet music. Solar’s efforts at merging spiritualism with art included starting a puppet theatre for adults that presented religious and poetic works, with the characters representing the astrological signs. Also, the Pan Chess, his mystical and sophisticated version of chess, the rules were constantly changed based on the Pan-Lengua language. The rules could be a collection of music notes for his piano or a dictionary for the creation of new languages. However, his games were not only games, but they also activated other dimensions: “Our patriotism is finding the highest possible ideal of humanity-fulfilling and spreading it all over the world,” he would say. Jorge Luis Borges, who was influenced by him, said: "Xul took on the task of reforming the universe, of proposing on this earth a different order. For that, among other things, he changed the current numerical system of mathematics to use a duodecimal system, with which he painted his watercolors."