Immersing yourself in nature
By Natalia Vidal Toutin, 2021
Sometimes nature has unexpected effects on inspiration and contemplation. Human beings relate to their environment in unusual ways that sometimes coincide and create by definition and, at other times, simply surprise. In the case of Chilean visual artist Verónica González Ugarte, deliberately and regularly coinciding with nature has reverberating artistic consequences.
The canvas blooms or glows. This is how I would define the result of this game, or decidedly flirtation, that occurs between silk and paper when they spontaneously intertwine and move apart to give shape to the pieces that make up the series of works, One Hundred Views of the Mount. Despite the guided participation that the artist plays in this encounter, the result she obtains for each piece is highly organic and referable.
She has selected her raw material meticulously and these preferences act vociferously in identifying that implicit signature of the artist, the one that does not go in ink, but in spirit or essence. It is recognizable and carefully seductive. The most attractive lure for contemplation is that which comes from the reiteration of patterns. That sequence of continuous superimpositions captivates the viewer in a circular fashion until his mind is plunged into an introspective process that detaches him from reality and invites him to travel tendentiously wherever affection or thoughts take him. Paradoxically, this is the same effect that, by widespread definition, achieves the submission of the human being in nature: calm, introspection or a liberating escape.
Veronica Gonzalez Ugarte works the qualities of fragility, volubility and elementality in her artistic trajectory, her evolution considers a journey that goes from the use of feathers, rice paper, silk, to countless elements that refer to the original to a demanding process that she calls industrial beta, to visualize her concern for the effects that contemporaneity is bringing to the cultural and ancestral identity. His fundamentals redirect the use of technology in art towards a process of reinterpretation and socio-cultural projection that respects inherited knowledge and the wisdom of nature itself.
Listening to him talk about craftsmanship, alluding to the exclusive and authentic quality that hands have to create, is a delightful extension of the coherence between his foundations, purposes, training and his work. This becomes evident when we see how, through an exploratory process and artistic research, she achieves for this last series that silk and paper are homologated in a single body that dances on her hands and reflects per second a different perception and superficiality. At times it is silk, at times paper, at times it is seen how, between them there is no battle but romance. They unite, contour and, as I said before, bloom or glow.
Then the fire, literally or conceptually, opens space to insist on the argument. Whether in the form of burning feathers, laser cutting or scalpel; the segmentation, erosion or irreversible division of its noble materials materialize this action of violence that many times the rationality of our generation or technology itself exerts on our species and its traditions.
But not everything that burns is devastating. From the same use of fire in her works, Veronica collects valuable moments of meditation and concentration that inspire the continuity of her works and discover before her eyes new forms, a contour of magic that only thanks to the action of burning becomes possible and allows that, whatever the result of her work, not even with the absolute intention, one is equal to the other. This same spirit defines what he aspires to as an artist: to recover the essential spirit.
Cien vistas del Monte is an investigation and a revision of materials that have three aspects or languages that come together: nature, observation and collection of elements. The artist appropriates what she has obtained, abstracts its qualities and generates new icons with which she works. From this exploratory process she recovers forms, elements, visual patterns, repetitions and rhythms, to worship nature and its forms of inspiration from her studio.
Cien vistas del Monte is an invitation to explore our behaviors and look at the present from the eyes of the interior. It is an incentive to awaken to the essence and momentarily suspend the lights of artifice, the trend or the passing. It is a journey into a forest, a garden or a damp path with moss or slightly loose sand. It is a warning sign, a yield on the road, which admits the passage first to that nature that gave us life and at the same time can take it away from us.
One Hundred Views of the Mountain
By Paula Solimano. Curator of the exhibition, 2021
In her fourth exhibition at Artespacio Gallery, Cien vistas del Monte, Verónica González explores the relationship between the human race and the natural world through the medium of printmaking. Guided by her interest in the Japanese tradition, the artist creates a variety of landscapes, whose textures, rhythms and patterns emulate nature's sense of order and harmony. Like the Bonsai tree that emulates a waterfall, or the raked stones of the Karesansui gardens, which represent the rippling surface of the ocean, Gonzalez's overlapping layers take the form of waves and mountains. Like these, rather than hiding their own materiality and limited dimensions, her works are admittedly copies of an original. Veronica Gonzalez's works-taking the form of a print, a video or an installation-function like the Ukiyo-E prints of Mount Fuji: they turn an ungraspable body into an icon, which can be exchanged and circulated at human scale (and speed). The impulse to represent nature is also an attempt to possess it.
Tracing natural surfaces to tear elements from it, Verónica González recreates an exercise that began in her childhood: raised in a farming family, the artist traveled the countryside taking natural elements with her, trying, by means of the objects she found, to apprehend the places she passed through. In recreating it, González also goes back to the ancestral tradition of traveling and gathering, transporting herself to what she believes -or imagines- was a nomadic life. However, his process of appropriation, abstraction and serialization can also be seen as a form of industrial production, subjecting elements of the plant and animal world to production, distribution and consumption and permanently fracturing the matrix. Through titles such as Cloning, Pollution and Fire, it is possible to note a concern for the catastrophic effects of such intervention on the natural world: is printmaking not a metaphor for the human imprint on the Earth?
The visual rhymes, glows and voids in One Hundred Views of the Mount require the audience to stop, slow down and give themselves over to observation and contemplation, like the artificial landscapes of Zen Buddhism. At the same time, for their construction, they demand the repetition of monotonous actions and high concentration, generating in the artist an experience of meditation. However, denoting the use of fire and blades in its construction, also triggering a state of alertness, both in the public and in the artist. Adopting Eastern and Western, ancestral and modern, artisanal and industrial methods, in her show, Veronica Gonzalez ends up representing the relationship between the human race and the natural world as a loving bond; as part of this bond, the boundary between care and aggression is always elusive, always blurred.
By Marilú Ortiz de Rosas. Art Curator, 2020
Journalist and writer, specialized in visual arts and letters,
PhD in Letters at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University.
The primitive and simple pen is a central element of Verónica González Ugarte's textile compositions, with which she creates delicate works of very careful manufacture and suggestive reading. They are full of symbolism alluding to flight, that which invites us to take off without setting ourselves any limits or ceilings, but at the same time confined to the space of the wall. And separated from the heart, the flesh and bone of the man/bird that perhaps in its desire to reach the highest possible, burns its wings again and again.
We find, precisely, scorched elements; fire is an antipode force that is also shaped in the work of this artist, provoking the counterpoint and the tension that such aesthetic and fine pieces require.
González Ugarte works with both natural feathers and others created on paper and silk, achieving very diverse effects, some of which are related to ancient and refined Japanese engravings, while others seem to invoke the Hellenic legend of Daedalus' son, Icarus. In this one, Daedalus makes wings with feathers, which he sticks with wax, to escape from the island where they are captive, but he warns Icarus not to fly too high, advice that the young man disregards. Then the sun melts the wax, Icarus loses his wings and falls.
However, in the context in which we live, fire also alludes to the progressive and ineluctable warming of the Earth, to the fires that break out everywhere, and the planetary order seems to have been inverted, since humans, like Icarus of the 21st century, will soon have to move away from the Earth if we do not want to burn our wings...
Mother Nature, of which we all and everything is a part, and her slow but forceful destruction moves the artist, who cries out to capture her most pristine manifestations; the trace left in the clouds by the wings of the birds in their flight...
In this project, which was premiered under the name "Biomimesis", with great success at the prestigious Sextante Gallery in Bogotá in 2018, the artist presents two-dimensional pieces, volumetrics, light boxes and videos, most of which allude to birds and their particular mythological universe. She also evokes the initiatory journey and its many vicissitudes and difficulties, the same referred to in "The Conference of the Birds", by Farid al Din Attar, the wise Persian poet and mystic of the XII/XIII century.
*The Conference of the Birds", by Farid al Din Attar.
Mystical epic that narrates the journey of thirty thousand birds, which, under the spiritual guidance of a Hoopoe bird, gather to go in search of the king-bird or Simurg, who represents the divinity. Simurg is often associated with other mythological birds, such as the Phoenix, which, like Icarus, is also a winged being associated with fire: it is always reborn from its ashes and in the Christian world it symbolizes resurrection, New Life.
By Maria Elvira Iriarte. Art Curator, 2018
Veronica Gonzalez continues to develop her work with feathers. Real feathers and artificial feathers die-cut with laser, in tissues of fine silk fabrics, mounted on paper. Feathers are a part of the basic alphabet of the artists vocabulary ; they are simple forms -although only in appearance- with which the artist arms expressive surfaces in the manner of a visual pentagram. Another part of her language, uses uniform, abstract surfaces, worked manually or mechanized manner on different supports, particularly plastics, Hanji paper, and fabrics.
Important to emphasize once again the extreme care in the manufacture of these works. Every detail deserves all the attention and solvency of the artist in the handling of the very diverse procedures used: selection of materials and their suitability, dyes and colorations, textures, adhesives and stitching, cuts and slimmings, mounts on a rigid support, generally a frame with linen and silk paper; sometimes the wall directly, as supporting. The manipulation of die cuts of silks as compositional elements of new works. These perforated cloths generate a very light visual surface. They play the role of a strange grid where the voids are forms of feathers. The work is composed of an absence; it would seem the silence of the feathers, his silence and absence.
The Philosophy of nature
By Arturo Duclos. Art Curator, 2017
It is a fact that the artist must vie with that one spirit of nature that acts within things through form and configuration alone - as if speaking by sensitive images - and only once they have grasped it, imitating it in a living manner, is when they bring to life something real. For the works that are conceived from the appropriation of the form - even if beautiful - would be works without beauty, since the only thing that bestows beauty to a work of art, to its whole, cannot be the form, but rather something that is beyond form: the essence, the universal, the sight and the expression of the immanent, natural spirit.
On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature, Friedrich W. Schelling
Based on Schelling’s passionate proposal above – a fragment taken from the beautiful passage: On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature, a speech developed in 1897 and delivered live on the occasion of King Maximilian I’s name day – I would like to define the scope of the hypothesis on Veronica Gonzalez’s recent work: Elementary Fibers (Fibras Elementales).
Firstly, I would like to highlight the key elements about this body of work that derive from a procedure the artist has been developing since the initiation of her work; it is a resource that comes from German romanticism, together with the existence of a thought structure based on nature as an original and displaced paradigm. From quavering birds ensconced in niches, to complex, tridimensional silk configurations that rethink the stance of the sculptural precept and the natural object. Hence, as for me, there is a concern to think and rescue a vision about this work, understood over a profound insight about art and nature.
Many artists, as well as the naturalists geared this age-old concern -taken to an extreme by philosophy, poetry, and the art of romanticism - toward direct investigation in science. They collected, drew, and created replicas of natural elements like stuffed animals, seashells, exotic feathers, leaves, fibers, etc. All these elements were subjects of investigation and admiration in light of the exuberance of their beauty and perfection. Two centuries later, this affectation would seem as a parody, if we would understand that it refers back to the same aspects developed by its romantic equivalents. For what is currently contemplated as just simple nostalgia, becomes for many an affectation; when facing the immensity of the sea, as they pick up some polished rocks or wayward seashells strewn on the shore. In this case, we are speaking of recovering the essential spirit, of what ignites Veronica Gonzalez’s research, in this action that she establishes as a bridge traversing through contemporary art and harking back to the study of natural elements by artists of romanticism (Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich), and then connecting that very spirit to the beginnings of the twentieth century (Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and recently, Joseph Beuys, Wolfgang Laib y Anselm Kiefer, among others.
Naturphilosophie, or the philosophy of nature, was a concept coined at the beginning of the nineteenth century by German philosopher Friedrich W. Schelling that enlightened the research activities of many philosophers and artists. Primarily, in the cases of those cited already – C.D. Friedrich and P.O. Runge – formulating a divergent stance vis-à-vis the Enlightenment and Scientific Rationalism of the times, opening the totality of the romantic activity domains to Naturphilosophie. In turn, it endorsed an organic conception of science in the twentieth century, quite similar to that of Rudolph Steiner – and which later influenced Joseph Beuys – where the subject plays a role of utmost importance and defines the character of its artistic narrative as an ‘individual mythology’; envisaging itself toward the world as a figure of the viewer. For Naturphilosophie, its ordinary contents speak to us of finalism: the pursuit of concealed morphological forces and interactions, especially its hypothesis about the identity of nature’s forces, as well as the stipulation of correspondence between natural objects. For example, the analysis made on the correspondence between micro and macrocosm that understands nature as a ‘global organism’.
From this blooming vision of the world, I will now plunge into the Elementary Fibers project proposed by Veronica Gonzalez. Beyond the direct references to romanticism I am making in this most recent body of work, there is a ratification of a much more complex idea about the reconstruction and restoration of nature, possibly a close relative of nineteenth century theories. However, the symbol that operates in this trade is related to the romantic quirks relating to observation, the gathering of natural models, the biological conscience of the primary reference points and the repertoire of the artist’s experience in her visual arts education; this is where nature disappears and artifice appears.
The serial, matrix-like, use of the natural elements mocks their representation, albeit in the art of romanticism, not even in their classical and idealist vision can it be empirical, the study of nature is an end in and of itself. Hence, and from there, in this trial and error process at the artist’s workshop, the biological concept of autopoiesis surges in order to refer to the knowledge production attitude within this work of art as a metaphor. This being a concept coined in the twentieth century, initially associated to the systems theory, but apt for a wider range of interpretation as it relates to the resources and visual operations that emerge in these works of art. Hence, the systemic serialization, the feather cut outs, the leaf outlines, the repetition of birds and floral elements constitute an explicit symbol in the use of this metaphor-concept coined by Maturana and Varela already forty years ago. In doing so I want to call attention to the living representation of these displays of plumage and foliage and their sensuality as a tangible model, production substrate and at the same time enigma, as if Mesoamerican ritual tapestries.
ART AND NATURE
Many of these works of art convey an emotional baggage of dispossession, but later, inside the artifice of visuality, they become carriers of tranquility at the realization that they are clippings, slight silk silhouettes. By the same token, the ensemble of works exhibit a manifest centrifugal condition in their constructive structure – like the volumetric formations that are self-supported by their own isolation. This provides them with their structure, literally speaking. They are sculptures manufactured with silk filigree, taking their forms in a spiral condition. The same happens with other volumetric sculptures hanging off the wall. A separate group, ‘Mantos’ (Blankets), consists of a large, semicircular structure made of feathers of black and white hues that suggest a ritualistic and enveloping appeal. An empirical attraction for the viewer, not only because of its dimensionality and imposing bearing, but also for the autopoietic projection it generates at its drawdown.
Having said this, I would like to come back to the sense this exploration acquires with the understanding that the activities of the artist do not only encompass a shifting study about the philosophical conception of nature, but beyond that, she conducts an actual expansive creation, from the very biological terms in which this naturalistic lightheadedness is unleashed. This is why premeditation of an autopoiesis does not only act as a metaphor, it is rather a spiritual foundation and a theoretical substrate that offers us a developing point of reference about the meaning of this work of art.
LAND AND CULTURE
The link to this work of art is located in the American territoriality, which contains ancestral practices belonging to the native populations, and more directly in Chile, with the Mapuche botany - a precedent of medicine and cosmogony – as well as the ritualistic blankets and feather ornaments used by some groups of the Amazon. This should be understood as a cultural vision about the concept of Philosophy of Nature, which is also present today in many living cultures that are still linked to the land and to millenary practices in a variety of areas throughout the globe. What is interesting is how that idea was transformed into a form of knowledge through philosophy and into a form of artistic expression of high culture with the German Romanticism at the beginning of the nineteenth century - when the rest of the world was looking to advance toward the model of pure science. In the meantime today, that whole archetypal culture linked to nature moves us to an introspection on the knowledge production models that radiate from popular wisdom and the vernacular culture, which in turn are only considered within the context of tradition - without the ability to acquire a scientific standing – are excluded as a form of knowledge and reduced to esotericism.
However, a spirit kindled with scientific naturalism more than a tradition, has survived in a parallel and underground manner, running across two centuries of history and recovered by several thinkers, doctors, artists and biologists. Thus, it is not in a causal manner that there is an association of this work of Veronica Gonzalez with the Philosophy of Nature and the autopoiesis, not only due to the evident traits in her work referencing natural elements, but also because of the familiarity that with her work reinstates these contents.
In itself, this work is a reformulation of the order of natural elements in so much as it seeks to contain its dispersion into structures of a different nature - either by accumulation, scale, or coupling methods to create inflexible units. With her desire to tame, the artist creates new groupings of elements that progressively feed a spirit connected to the same natural order. She achieves a grasp of the internal logic that was appreciated by artists of a different time, in order to return it to the viewer, but imbued with that type of uncanny and mysterious vehemence. Yet, the mystery lies in the circularity nourishing this type of thinking, as this latest work is conceived from a self-generative thinking, of which we are all a part of as living beings – a type of instinct that emerges when we are connected with our biological and natural order. It is a non-transferable pact with our own survival, one that is not explicit in any writing, but that safe-keeps our commitment with life – a process of autopoiesis that upholds the fragile equilibrium between nature and us.
This is a work of permanent progress as it is subject to the natural cycles of growth and evolution – it has no respite. It is worth to ask ourselves how this research calls into question the present, our estrangement from that philosophical matrix based on nature; we are only connected to it at the moment of our birth or our death. The remainder is a life forsaken to the lack of knowledge of ourselves, as we are severed from our natural order. Thus, I believe there is much more to this work that a thinking concerning the attributes of the natural forms, rather, it leads us to connect with our own, deep spiritual shortcomings and to reformulate the way in which we relate to nature.
In closing, I dare to venture a thesis that parallels the expressive weight in this work. I would say the living forces supporting Veronica Gonzalez’s creative process in this project rest on the basis of autopoiesis. As per Maturana: ‘Living beings are systems of cyclic dynamics, closed into themselves, like networks that self generate the molecular components that constitute them.’ This systemic logic is what upholds the gathering of art and nature, of the artifice that must conceal its mystery and the biochemical order of the natural, which in turn conceals – even from science and art - the unspoken mysteries of life and death. Strictly speaking, this work gathers land, sea, and sky in order to produce its own cosmogony, which will undoubtedly develop and become more complex in her next projects.
Space / Time
The work of art by Veronica Gonzalez
By Lucrecia Piedrahita. Art Curator, 2017
“Drawing is that line possessing a memory of which Matisse speaks to us; that action, like a spirit’s breath, is the air that fills the voids, the shortcomings from which the action of knowing is prompted.”
J.J. Gomez Molina
Representation and Interpretation
Making reference to that which is visible implies revising the image, its mourning, its outbreaks and its plights. To graze the areas of interpretation is equivalent to name and to describe the image in as much as its visual and textual effects – the reminisced image is installed and projected to be in itself a communication agent. Defining the image entails linking concepts like object, visibility, and cultural studies. The object retracts our gaze back, and at the same time expands it, encompassing our techniques of intellectual speculation and it encourages us toward an emphatic and critical dialogue that compels practice of the arts. On the other hand, visibility is that which turns vision into a language (Mieke Bal). Expression and content, together with form and image, are constituent parts of the visual language, of visibility, of the way in which the gaze is exposed, and how we look at something.
The implied landscape
Initiating from the separation of layers, artist Veronica Gonzales arranges the compositional strategies within the elusive act of controlling the color, the light, the design lines as patterns and the fundamental fibers that - together with the personal and poetic act of sewing/knitting - are the evolving synthesis of her work. The retina frames – as a spiritual eye – the landscape it delivers to the viewer: from the ‘Doni Tondo’ to the square, to the rectangle - they are geometrized pillars upon which the gentle movement of the feathers or of the leaves saturated with fibers emerges, unveiling a third - material and spatial - dimension. The frailty and levity of the materials, and simultaneously its strength, weight and allure, or even its vicissitude and its perpetuity, are the result of a set of works of art in a realm of empathy with nature. The artist beholds and analyzes the landscape, capturing it through painting, engraving, and tridimensional objects. Accessing the landscape involves a greater degree of formal purging, from the extraction of its intrinsic values and bringing them to the artistic creation, lauding the naïveté, the raggedness or the depth of the materials with which she draws minimal elements – traces or simple remnants of the natural surroundings. The most genuine manifestations of Zen thinking and of its aesthetic values - like unpretentiousness, austerity and simplicity - are pulsing in Veronica Gonzalez’s work.
The highest form of incarnation of the perceived landscape - additionally implying an interpretation of itself - will be developed from the third dimension. It allows a glimpse into the protrusive and protruding fallen leaves, the same way as an intaglio, and the textures printed on engraved silk, which optically produce a system of inward and outward creases – a geography of their own – where the shadows blur to the very brink of vanishing. The sophistication of the landscapes’ color plot reduces the color spectrum to focus its gaze on the volume and space and thus infuse elegance to the composition. It fastens the undulations in the silk into the overlaying of the elements that, with drawn and threaded lines, convey an enormous perceptive intelligence that turns its illusion into a superior form of reality.
In the midst of these undulations, it’s possible to feel the wind blowing. Sometimes there is light, sometimes, fragments of things. Suddenly, an effaced surface appears, and behind it one can almost glimpse the drawn lines of blades of grass. Thus, between stains, sfumatti, fingerprints and drawing gestures, the evanescent impressions appear. They seep through the overlaps and the collage, dispossessed of any formal rhetoric and manipulated with passion and intensity, to collect abstract landscapes, representational landscapes laid out in a sacramental manner over the support of silk, paper, and linen. These act as containers of the graphic structure that is knit, vindicating the fabric and capturing its naturalness and its most basic and inner aspects. Like this, we can envisage different degrees of penetration and acquisition of the landscape, which evidence an artistic maturity, a greater expressive synthesis, and a greater complexity of forms and approaches. In this way, in some of her work, Veronica Gonzalez draws from an almost literal loan of details and natural, concrete hues that at a later point in other works, will become but a stimulus for inspiration; in both cases, it will lead her to an inclination towards experimentation based on the senses, towards a spontaneous interpretation of the motifs.
Temperature and atmospheric fluctuations that the sun’s cycle creates on the landscape at dawn, at dusk or at night, as well as the different and contrasting tones of the sand, the sky, the pond’s water, to the point of sometimes reflecting the idea of humidity and condensed air, all as a demonstration of a compelling observation. In this observation, detail is important as it keeps an ever-present sense of the transience of the passage of time – the pursuit of that elusive instant. The structural tool in her work is the fiber – a thread that joins each of the constituting parts of the image. The acts of threading and pasting are techniques for the gathering and arranging of the landscape, and of its aesthetic surroundings offered by the artist. It is where the intuitive ideas about what we could call feelings of the visual memory are mixed; a succession of planes that accumulate on the silk/linen, overlapping simultaneously to shape rhythmic images, leading to an individual contemplation. Materializing successive images of a single object is related to the idea of a “kinetic vision” where space is understood as it relates to the vitality of the eyes that explore it. These simultaneous images inside the work of art itself open the dimension of the infinite to grant the objects the necessary plasticity to last in time.
The lyric impalpability of the Japanese landscape is a point of reference for Veronica Gonzalez’s work. Blades of glass reflected in the water; faint shadows, delicate and slender, render account of a retina that is educated and trained in reading the different forms and in the details. Thus, it surrenders itself to stylistic levitation between East and West. It highlights the principles that govern nature, singling out the elements and reassessing the space surrounding them as part of a perfect and harmonious unity so as to come closer to the rocks, the grass, the branches, and captivate their souls in an extremely delicate manner. It also approaches them with a certain primitivism, accentuating the materials themselves, their texture and the aspects and qualities that best define them – their expressive and organic qualities. The empty spaces are silences in the paintings of the silk pond. They are landscapes resembling intimate altarpieces by means of which white threads – like rays of light – filter through, like fields of air, like visual diagrams that sift the surfaces of diffused limits. There, where the feather settles and transfigures into a river, into a cloud, into a mountain, into an abyss anchored to the framework of the linen’s support - which acts like a piano-terra - fluttering the composition’s elements towards its center of gravity. The synthesis of her work emerges in extracts of the sky, the rock, the furrows that remind us of pieces of dry Japanese gardens where rocks symbolize sacred mountains – valleys of silence.
The eye - the artist’s camera that travels only to come to a standstill at visual areas, at silhouettes, and fluid and organic force fields of the open horizon belonging to the constructed-landscape, to the portrait-landscape where the detail showing birds poised on the branches is a graphic discernment of the figurative contemplation. The drawing system grazes the naturalist model, which outlines, by way of observation, the form. It establishes an interaction and a sequence that uses nature and the graphic reverberations of the elements affected by the actions of collage as a backdrop. By the same token, the symbolic intervention in the artistic project reveals the scripted synthesis of her drawings. It reveals a range of parities where drawing keeps a tight relationship with the represented object and the process of representation.
Veronica Gonzalez’s work in constructed through the subtle assemblage of elements that pair up by way of mutating and changing forms; the materials are mediators to grant prominence to space and time.
The Practice of Everyday Life
NATURE & MEMORY
By Lucrecia Piedrahita. Art Curator, 2015
Breaking away from the usual language
French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, in his book The Ground of the Image, raises a discussion about the definition and comprehension of the image, as well as a reflection vis-à-vis the role it has played (and plays) in different social constructs. Nancy approaches the interpretation of the image as the clear and the distinct. The distinct is known for establishing limits, separation lines, and markings. Hence, the image is differentiated, and as such, it keeps limits with the factual world, or better put, with the world we have available. However, this separation is not of a passive nature. Nancy speaks of a force, some pressure, an energy and intensity between the image and the world it represents. This happens because the image has the potential to extract a number of meanings of the world – of breaking away from the usual language.
The image does not aspire to be an impression of the available world, but a way in which to unveil the other meanings of the world.
“Nature & Memory” – Archive
More than the concept of archive, we are left with an impression; more than the memory, we are left with the hope of it; more than the possibility to make the archive an institution, we prioritize our need to embellish it and to avoid its destruction.
Jacques Derrida approaches the issue as an impression – he questions the condition of the archive, he examines the term and even promotes a revolution coming from psychoanalysis on the “predicament” of the archive. It is hence required that we firstly think of the archive as a return to the beginning, to the memory, to the “externality of a place, a topographical mise en scène of a consigning technique – the composition of an instance and of a place of authority.
… The matter of the archive is not one of the past […] of a concept related to the past that could –or not – be at our disposal; an archival concept of the archive. It is a matter of the future, the matter of the future itself, the matter of a response, of a promise, of a responsibility with the tomorrow. If we want to know what it means, we will only get to know the archive in the future. Maybe.”
The word archive (arkhé) takes one back to the historical beginning and, according to nature, also to the principle of mandate and authority in the social order. It is in this occupation of a space, or in having a place in which the concept of archive hosts the memory of the name arkhé, while it is itself hosted by that very same memory. Thus the term takes us back to the beginning, to the essential, and at the same time, it takes us back to the arkhé of the mandate. With the term archivum, we are also taken back to the legal, as well as the hermeneutical authority - resting in the home of the superior magistrates the archive encases the law, reminds us of it, and demands its compliance. In order for the archive to be an archive, it must always have a physical repository or residence, as well as support. This is the crossing point between what is public and what is private.
The archontic function of domiciling, unifying, identifying and classifying requires not only a place to be a repository of the archive, on an immobile support and available to a legitimate, legal and hermeneutical authority, but also the power of consignment understood as the act of assembling signs – it needs to coordinate the corpus inside a system that should not present a dividing heterogeneity. It is hence, the way in which the archontic power of the archive considers the power to gather, which is equivalent to consigning. It is on this issue of the archive that Derrida proposes to reflect towards a discourse that is constructed around the storage of impressions and the encoding of inscriptions.
The value of consigning memory is latent in the work of artist Verónica González, and this can be attested by the referents she resorts to: the aesthetic experience of Orient, the historic adornment, the affected objects and the constant revision of nature and landscape. She creates archives by means of a writing of her own landscapes and archaeologies.
The subject of nature produced the landscape and the still life as pictorial genres. The 20th Century will have been the scenario for the vanguard to attack painted landscapes. A new and re-interpreted, semantically updated landscape will emerge. It will become sign/symbol and in other cases, a critical reconstruction of itself will begin.
In the artist’s work, the movement of strokes of the materials, and the filigree of detail, suspended from the traces of the sewing threads arranged in varied inclinations and juxtaposed over the plane, assign new meaning to the borders of an exact, precise, mathematical and rigorous structure of a different landscape as a result of a meditated equation between human and world.
“Interpretations of space that may be fabricated in the mind are limited to what we are capable of knowing and understanding. What I am attempting to insinuate with this statement is that even if we know that humans may have innate general ideas – such as space and time – it is experience that defines the nature and the circumstances of space, forming its perceptive ability. The experience of our existence and the attributes of what we call space are applicable to the idea of physical space, that is to say, the environment in which the body moves and is located and are extended as far as one can see, as far as the visual limits delineate the horizon. Mathematics can conjugate infinite and isotropic spaces, or imagine spaces of “n” dimensions, entelechies which we can ponder on, but which escape the possibility of a practical experience. Physics as a science aims to discover the indefinite limits of the space that is supposedly occupied by a continuously expanding universe, and offers astronomical measurements between stars - unreachable distances. The geometer, the surveyor or the architect seek to assign reason to that space in which the body moves, and that we so naïvely call “real”, in light of the intellectual and abstract views. However, that space belonging to experience, the one in which we move without the help of philosophical, neos, mathematical or physical concepts, does not result in being less complex or unknown simply because we consider it “real” and commonplace.”
The landscape is formed as a mechanism of organization, measurement, rationalization of the culture, while at the same time it is a metaphor of relating with the land. The landscape entails visualizing practices and perception devices – among which is the sight – but it is also a meaning that correlates as mediator and physical space of life and humanity (humanitas), between humans and nature.
In terms of space, the linkage between human and world underlines new landscapes, redefining itself constantly so as to offer some nature where real, mute revolutions are happening. The landscape is today, as always, the experiential space that cannot separate itself from the human dimension.
It is precisely this reflection on the relationships between human and nature and the reconstruction of a landscape that are present in the work of Veronica Gonzalez, where the poetic action of both is redefined. Her work digs on the landscape, on the fragments that she affects from her creative process, and which she charges with meaning through her relationship with the outdoors space. Each brushstroke / gesture pins down the expressive and constructive structure of the composition. Some material traces and an organization of the engraved-painted landscape account for the sense-generating process. Pictorial supports that compose palimpsests where graphical and pictorial material is coalesced; the inscriptions; a fixation on the tangible details: all of this is Veronica Gonzalez’s work. It is the result of a combination of engraving, painting and drawing by means of techniques like collage and assemblage, underscoring the relationships with deconstructive processes. It is also the result of tracing differences, of the spacing through which elements are related to each other; it is the movement (active/passive) that consists on differing, by delegation and reserve.
Her work tells of an archive of memories inscribed on the palimpsest that she assembles by way of a definite geometry under which Veronica Gonzalez categorizes the figure-ground relationship, and the relationship between fills and voids. The artist goes well beyond in her work as she combines materials in a different order. The elements of the composition are optical gadgets that rearrange themselves constantly over a background that allows one to see the horizontal and vertical plane insinuations of architectural and landscape gestures. They make the viewer’s eye wander over the whole surface following the arrangement sequence. The light of the space characteristic of the engraving, the visual balance, the silence in which it all accumulates in this work remind us of the historic shapes of Academia, as well as lead us to new readings of the art practices and underscore the status of the image.
From where is landscape created?
Determining landscape as a contemporary concept and defining the constructive logic behind it has been one of Veronica Gonzalez’s quests as an artist. She reviews her personal stories through regular practices as well as the poetic nature of the visual actions archived in her memory. Her silks, papers and engravings reflect because of their own ability to represent her story and her territoriality, and to bear witness of her identities and contradictions. She withdraws from contemplation and gets involved in the action – recording, tearing, knitting, weaving, and superimposing are some of the techniques the artist uses in order to give value to the process in her work and to give the viewer a tactile, visual, auditory and olfactory experience, “… the waves had the scent of a green light …”
The landscapes represented by Veronica Gonzalez experience – from the amount and plethora of materials – a spatial density that is transferred to the physical experimentation of those looking on, observing and interacting with a work of art that transfigures the essential components of Eastern painting, i.e. vacuum and time. Landscapes confined in circles that sway from defining figures to the abstract, and which offer the poetic nature of a stain as a representation of vacuum, as a blank space where strokes settle as tectonic plates of the fields, of nature, and of the footprints of the wind, formed from the void. Its visual syntax is expressed in the form and the composition that puts in evidence the work, “Japanese Botany I and II”. In this work the view wanders and finds a number of focal points that underscore the distances between the elements, the remoteness, the limits and the thresholds. The result is the validation of what detail is to contemporary art and to the exposition of the craft.
Space as a cumulative density of forces in friction is understood from the point of view of Art, “in terms of location, place, enclave and surroundings. We describe these spaces as locations or landscapes and we catalog then into categories like biotic, anthropogenic, cultural and historic. Moreover, things happen in these spaces – plants grow, it rains, an animal runs, night falls, the sun warms up, it’s dark, you can hear the crickets, there is a lot of humidity. Albeit all, the idea of dealing with a continuous, isotropic, abstract, inert and isometric space is appealing. It is visualized as an empty, Cartesian plot, laid out to be physically or conceptually occupied by artistic activity. However, inasmuch as a containing entity, space is defined by that which it is able to contain, which provides certain definite characteristics like extension, scale and essence.”
In her work, the gesture, the superposition of textures, the priming of strokes, the thickness of the threads of the canvas and the needle-tip pen shift the space to create the void and, as Heidegger states, “to space means to graze, to empty a place, free some space, open something”. The void becomes space and it stabs, breaks the surface, creates atmospheric reading planes and underscores the finite characteristic of the horizon that explodes over its own intangibility.
Time, understood in her work as intervals of vigil that materialize with the super- positioning of humidity, layer over layer, in the traces of trimmed, insinuated and hieroglyphic silhouettes, as an accumulation of thoughts condensed into black clouds, like attics of the abyss and black dust – engravings of insoluble spaces and voids.
In her engravings, comprised by tesseras represented in delicate fragments of silk and linen, the planimetry of the void becomes a discursive modality of the images that create space and interstices of light and shadow through which the air wanders, as well as the thickness of the matter to cross through the thresholds inscribed in the auto-biographical notebooks of her aesthetic constructs.
Veronica Gonzalez’s work makes us believe in Art, exposing ourselves to it, traversing its horror without yielding, creating in the middle of nothingness, of the impossibility, of the experience of what has not been created, of what has not yet happened; experimenting the weight of the world, and at the same time, freeing ourselves from it.
Encyclopedia and Memory
Or the arcane spectral realm in Veronica Gonzalez’s work
Or the Theater of the Divine Camilo
By Arturo Duclos, 2013
Like the moon
-Fortuna Imperatrix Mundo
(13th Century poem included in Carmina Burana)
It is my intention to explain or deal with, Veronica Gonzalez’s new body of work - comprised in this publication. This all originates from the research the artist previously carried out in Chile, from 2005 to 2010. During that period, she developed a complex rationale about the evanescence of representation and its language structures, on the brink of the dissolution of forms. Already at the time of the artist’s graphic and pictorial production, she contemplated the dianoetic origin of its fundamental elements, which in a serial setting would tend at their dusk to have a language divide. At a later stage, with a final tendency to point towards the creation of a platonic system to explain and repair the poetics of language, we find the origin of this, her current production of works. They shape this new and complex theater of shades and expressions, leading to a serious commitment towards the deepening of her formal and conceptual resources.
ENCICLOPEDIA AND MEMORY
In her thorough quest for a production system that would transcend the sphere of the immeasurable, Veronica Gonzalez ran into the very arcane of language that sets a threshold beyond the physical boundaries. Veronica Gonzalez started with the manufacturing of a subtle weaving of overlaid shadows. These specter-shadows, which Gonzalez has managed to tame through the slight levels of patterning with graphic art printing and cutout techniques, are the key to her recent research, which she blends with pictorial and textile techniques into a new embellishment of patterns. These are the fundamentals - or phonemes – for the structuring of her language mystique. In her quest, she has also discovered findings, glimmers of a specter that would convey to her patient journey, the fundamentals about the non-physical characteristics where the disconnected nature of her art with encyclopedia lies.
We can find the foundation in the taxonomic eagerness of an alphabet of shapes, translated into specter-shadows that the artist converts into a syntactical development of the manufacturing of phrases that create a space of associations and meanings. Let us recall as a common linchpin, established from the anthropological language, John Downey. In the seventies - drawing on his psychotropic experiences with the Yanomamis indigenous people - he completed psychedelic mandalas using feathers, leaves and ancient wisdom diagrams. He turned them into drawings and engravings to explain supernatural and technological knowledge that was communicated to him during his mystic, cultural trance. At the same time, he created an anthropological and encyclopedic codex – genuine symbol maps to decipher.
One could also speak knowledgeably of the existence of a mnemonic architecture encompassing an under layer in the production of subdivisions of meanings. These, multiply themselves from irregular structures to assemble into round forms, parallelepipeds or rectangles that evoke a sense of vaults and circular ruins carefully aligned; elements that would be profusely gathered by medieval scholars of the XIXth century in publications that, to this day, are used as reference.
Yet, where does the key to her arcane language lie in this new artistic production? Not an easy question to answer. At the risk of vulgarity, since the main key is fabricated in the sole engine of the spoken word, the combinatory capacity, the rule that encourages the mysterious and magical result – based on rules such as syntax – is to give power to the word and sense to language. However, the complexity of this answer lies in an even more challenging process when establishing the cause, since the combinatory capacity in itself is just an effect, a mere consequence of randomness guided by the coherence of a governed system. Under this premise, she aimed at an hermeneutical and unintelligible origin that dates back to the memory of knowledge, which has been singled out as a derivation – based on fantasy, fortuity and inconclusiveness – by the early encyclopedists and experts. In 1520, Giulio “Delminio” Camillo, also known as the Divine Camillo, travelled to France to obtain funding and present the King with his design of a mobile model of an extraordinary, magical-mnemonic and technical theater. This wonderful device, built at human scale, allowed - through the encyclopedic concept - retrieval of the elicitation of the specters of representation of ideas and objects in the context of a given location. Unfortunately, this Renaissance genius died fourteen years later, without having accomplished his efforts and albeit the French King’s interest. The King had disbursed 500 ducats as part of payment for the assembly of the Theater of Memory, which was never seen, much less built, at the time.
The Theater of Memory was based on the Hermetic-Kabbalistic notions of its author. It was made public after the manuscripts were posthumously published in 1550 in the book, L’Idea del Teatro. A few centuries later, in 1966, Francis Yates brings back to life the ideas of our character (Divine Camillo), in order to position his theater as a construction of memory that represents order and eternal truth, and that teaches the various stages of creation – from the origin, the angels, the planet spheres, and the origin of humankind - in his book, The Art of Memory. In Yates’ drawings and sketches about Camillo’s Theater of Memory the basic images of the planetarium were amulets that received astral power, and they were channeled and manipulated through the very activity of theater. Having control over the proportions of universal harmony, whose memory was preserved in the structure of the theater, the operator was able to control the magical powers of the universe.
This delirious and fascinating idea has been revisited and taken on in Veronica Gonzalez’s current creation as the dream of an entire encyclopedia that must remain as such, as the dream of the Yanomamis, or the young Segismundo (Life is a Dream – Calderón de la Barca), giving pretext to its own existence, an opera, a creation. It is then, when we enter that subtle gateway we cross, that we realize the real dimension of this theater of existence proposed in a future tense, in its perfect evolution, giving way to the pieces that constitute that mysterious alphabet. It is here that the spectator intervenes to find the significance where there seems to be no apparent connection to the meaning because logic unravels in the poetic base. As I look through the images in these works, I am reminded of the circular maps of The Divine Comedy, or Athanassius Kirchner’s circular motifs, no less an evocation when it has to do with concentrically aligned silhouettes, or the elicitation of shoes when we see glimpses of human forms in yoga postures. This is why spectators find themselves compulsorily limited by the observational framework of the explicit, heightening the experience like the effect of a voyeuristic fantasy that attempts to discover something that is not evident to the eye.
A DANGEROUS METHOD
An uncomfortable situation, no doubt, this theater of shadows with unpredictable, fluctuating elements, dull materials and shrouded characters floating adrift. Whatever odd encyclopedia and science support it, seeing as how it only poses questions and leaves leeway to a delirium of interpretation. Still, this is where Art acts as a dangerous method by giving the spectator back that active dynamism, the role of questioning, of curiosity. It is in this theater, and now in the essence of the dream of a complete encyclopedia, that it continues to remain as a dream within a mysterious and unassailable aura. This is why the added value of this exercise of encyclopedia and memory entails the intensification, rather than the decrease, of mystery. It’s as if we were trying to explain to ourselves today, how the international network operates, Internet and its incomprehensible weave. It too owes its specter to a sort of pan memoria, with ample information storage capacity, and whose apparent abundance motivates us to act between premonitions and sensations, and fills us with a feeling of lavish spatial experience that inspires the web Argonauts.
Going back to the thesis of mystery and reality, the maneuvers that Veronica Gonzalez shows us point, like the sphinx, toward the solution of complex enigmas. Greek mythology tells us that the sphinx learned from the Muses the formulation of enigmas and the beautiful production of words. Key information that undoubtedly connects us to the onslaught of sense that Art entails, repaying those who rebuke it with questions to themselves.
ART AND MEMORY
These reflections aside, we enter fully into the mysterious encyclopedia that the artists puts forth, abundant in definitions, compartments and shapes that we must remember in order to connect the senses. It is important to come to terms with this Art of Memory to prepare us to remember things in the context of placement – even when we don’t find a connection between what we remember and the place where it is located. In this way, when we render the space, we have a powerful detonator of associated information. According to the famous orator Cicero, it was Simonides the poet, who invented the Art of Memory when he named each of the victims of a disaster that ended up in the collapse of a building filled with notables. Simonides was able to escape thanks to the intervention of the gods. He was able to remember the names of the victims based on the location of where they were sitting before the catastrophe.
Although strange, these spatial and symbolic techniques were used over centuries, including during the Middle Ages in the building plans and cult images that paraded from one Cathedral to the next, so as to remember the scriptures and to educate the masses. They were later brought back to life in the writings of Ramon Lulio, Giulio Camillo, Giordano Bruno, and Robert Fludd, among others. Hence, if we look closely at, or rather, read between the lines, how these filigree pieces, transparencies and subtle plots are constituted, we can discover - between the foliage of oak leaves – sketches and elaborate figures, landscapes, small, hidden stories, even the imaginative tale of A Thousand and One Nights. The archetypes, symbols or mandalas are gifted with a sequential, geometric sense. Moreover, they are the basis of work in the artist’s encyclopedia.
THE VISUAL CONFIGURATION
The basic method in this Art lies in imagining the space – it may be done in a simplified or symbolic form, or in an architectural manner – comprising various memorable elements. There may be specific ideas encompassed within other, more general ideas; small spaces or niches inside other rooms containing symbolic elements such as a religious icon or some principle or axiom that denotes a religious, symbolic or political concept, written on an ornamental crest; hints of hierarchically organized elements, geometric and concentric patterns, flights, structures containing a special connotation such that the vertices or ways in which the structures are connected compose a tridimensional semantic web. Starting from this set of possibilities and open procedures in nodes, the magnificent structure of art and memory can begin to be built.
The very stunt described by Jonathan Swift in the phenomenal writing machine that Gulliver discovers at the Academy of Lagado, where researchers from a variety of schools write their books and publications using a random method that combines words. The wonderful machine is operated by the master’s assistants by means of levers within a mechanical complex of gears and precision pieces. Wooden cubes with words on the sides in their language are made to spin on a central panel to create phrases.
The accuracy in Veronica Gonzalez’s visual configuration is justified by its pertinence to the system applied to an alphabet that is scarce on visual elements and signifiers. All the pieces come together, not just visually, but also as one experiences the poetics in the sensitivity and subtlety of the foundations and in the fragile delineation of images. The same images that in her previous work, remained in a latent state of ethereal suspension. It is the quintessence of a sheathed and self-reproductive system that allows spectators to realize and appreciate a special gentleness in the handling of the visual assets. The system allows for a continuum of creative movements, adding but a few components to the whole, some of which can be exchanged or shifted so as to alter the variables that randomly produce that magical combining action. The results we see today are derived from the thoroughness in the configuration of a system that has undergone calculations and adjustments in the past five years. This is why it is important to capitulate and reflect on the operational terminology of this whole fiction, at the time of this publication. A system in constant evolution can only consider itself in an enveloping vertigo of its own creation. It could be unequivocally stated that the lack of sociological, transcendental and analytic meanings – typical of many current productions that tend to limit the production of many a discourse – in this case, opens up to pure experimentalism of the pictorial surface and evolves to become matter, pure significance that works out its artistic inquiry in a process of autopoiesis. Hence, what is apparently dull from the formality of its images, ambiguous and dissolved, albeit evocative, serves the sole purpose of evidencing this system that offers a corporeal nature to the magical, combinatory machine that we recognized in this very contemplation of the Theater of Memory. In 1532, Viglius Zuichemus informed his friend Erasmus of Rotterdam “that Camillo – whom he had met and whose project he was familiar with – expected that all things conceivable by the human mind and which could not be seen in a physical form, be expressed through certain physical signs. This could be achieved after grouping the conceptions by means of conscientious thought so that the observer could perceive with their eyes, everything that is otherwise hidden in the human mind. As a result, that physical appearance is what he calls Theater.
This imaginative comparison I have insisted on doing in relation to Veronica Gonzalez’s project - Seda & Gráfica (Silk & Graphism) and the Theater of Memory, probably enlightens the explanation of one of the great mysteries of artistic creation. Undoubtedly, there are a variety of approaches to understanding these processes from culturally, politically, and socially conventional points of view. Meaning does not necessarily lie within the realm of the explicit or the symbolic; as is the encompassing pretense of significance production systems that continuously tend toward solipsism. All are valid options, yet they are not able to comprise each other or are contradictory and/or exclusive, but hardly ever complementary as an explanation of the above processes. Instead, by recurring to this arcane figure arising from antiquity and the early stages of thought, it is possible to approach the Art predicament, which as a system theory, is able to absorb and reassess the operational conditions of other artistic dialogues.
It is not my intention to establish a solution to the understanding of the general artistic modus, I rather think it pertinent to observe from the relative points of view highlighted, messianic and with neo vanguard pretense, and cast a glance that allows a rapprochement of the mysteries in the Art thought, of how Art and artists think of themselves inside a complex plot, difficult to unveil from a strategy of proximity. It is harder to understand the set than the parts, but the common mistake of isolating them, brings us back to the idea of a single work, the master piece, a fallacy that can only be validated with the artist’s genius and not with the proposal of his creation. At present, the artistic experience is more interesting than the object isolated from thought that only creates islands inside museums and disconnects us from the idealist world, which in the Art realm is the only poetics possible.
“… It was said that this man had built a type of amphitheater, a magnificent fabrication in which whoever was admitted as a spectator, would be capable of speaking expertly about any theme - as fluently as Cicero”.
ON THE BRINK OF THE UN-VISIBLE
By Lucrecia Piedrahita. Art Curator, 2013
Museologist graduate of the Florence University of the Arts, Florence, Italy. Specialist in Urban Journalism, UPB. Specialist in Political Studies, EAFIT. Candidate - Master’s Degree in Aethetic and contemporary Thought, 17 Institute of Critic Studies, Mexico D.F. Architecture student, Architecture Faculty, UPB. Curator for Colombia of Proyecto B, exhibit by artists Mieke Bal and Michelle Williams Gamaker. Director for Latin America of University of Chicago’s book, OF WHAT INE CANNOT SPEAK, Doris Salcedo’s work written by Mieke Bal.
Cannot erase another
But it can corner it.
Spaces too take up room
In a different dimension that is more than space.
There are spaces with just one voice,
Spaces with many voices
And even spaces with none,
But every space is alone,
More alone than what it comprises.
Even if every space
In the end blends into every other space.
Even if every space
Is an impossible game,
Because nothing fits into nothing.
The Act of Interpreting
The classification of what is visible is necessarily linked to the constant revision of the images that define the social imaginary and individual perceptions of our own experiences. The image as a staging of reflection or thought, constitutes an ethical demand on the part of the one producing, observing and interpreting, and is a channel for poetic and political analysis of reality.
Referencing that which is visible implies a revision of the image, its mournings, its outbursts and its dramas. Skimming the fields of interpreting parallels naming and describing the image and its visual and textual effects - the image that remembers establishes and projects itself to become a communicative intermediation in itself. Defining the image entails linking the concepts of object, visuality and cultural studies. According to the Chambers Dictionary (1996):
“An object is a physical thing, but it is also a goal or purpose, a person or a thing towards which an action, a feeling, or a thought are directed at – thing, intention and objective are condensed in the object”.
The object draws back and expands its view, it involves our modes of intellectual speculation and it encourages us toward the emphatic, self-reflective and critical dialogue, inherent to the artistic practices. The object is the vanishing point that opens new territory and expands the interpretation map of art and how that connects to culture and its social, political and aesthetic effects. In turn, visuality is “that which makes a language out of vision", that is to say that which bonds significance (the mental representation of a thing, concept or idea) and the signifier (understood to be the physical component that nests in the brain and bonds an acoustic image or a sequence of sounds with the tongue); both elements comprise the sign or visual language.
“The sign is made up of a signifier and a significance. The signifier plane comprises the plane of expression, and the significance plane that of content”.
The image is a mobile and mutating boundary, and it is a determining factor of symbolic production and the contemporary artistic practices. Its power lies, among other things, in its versatility and its ductility – “it is unbreakable because it is capable of enduring every possible change without the least resistance”.
Expression, content, form and image constitute the visual language, and visuality determines the way in which the view is presented and how we observe. Therefore, the sphere of visuality is correspondent to the sphere of language and hence, of the images and their public circulation.
The images, seen under this point of view, are a way to understand history, a way in which humankind expresses itself. They are a crystal of humankind’s memory and its recollectionof s. As Didi-Huberman states, it is not possible to develop “a real story of the images by simply following the method of linear chronicling”, because, as he says, “one single image encompasses in itself various, heterogeneous periods”. What is attempted here, according to Didi-Huberman, is to diverge from that option in order to initiate an artistic tendency described as a “true rationale of montage”.
What is this option about? According to the explanation by the French philosopher, it is really about restating history in terms of “explosion” and “reconstruction”. In his explanation, he turns to German philosopher Walter Benjamin to concur with him on the manner to conceive “a real history of art”. In essence, the question is to not give an account of the history of images, “but to access the subconscious of sight, of vision – something that cannot be achieved by means of the narrative or chronicle, but through the interpretative montage”. In any case, a montage is required, one that will allow the doors of interpretation to sufficiently open. Here lies the practice of the senses, and it should be reached through the analysis of the image, the visual and visuality to discover the strength of sight, that will strip us from the stillness and shake us beyond the impulse of our own perceptions.
Sight and Structure
In Chilean artist Veronica Gonzalez’s work, memory is a conceptual connector that ties a series of experiences to refer us to her interests and personal quests – the feminine and its practices; the body as a territory; and nature as action and introspection. These are themes that she unravels from the subtlety of the materials she selects: silk, paper, linens, leaves and feathers, by restoring the value of their tactile and visual connotations, such as luminance, focus, vibration and transparency. Hence the artist calls on her intimate recollections to produce a work charged with significance, that knows how to travel from figuration to abstraction: starting from repetition, seriality, inflection, the minimalist essence and the baroque weight. All of these elements are elucidated by the superposition of monochromatic elements and the geometric persistence of concentric circles (“Natural Oak”, “Engraved Oak”, “Black Oak”), producing a dense and saturated effect of planes, folds and ruptures. These elements refer us back to the perceptive impact nestled in the horror vacui vision (the need to fill the void, characteristic of the Baroque), by means of the dialectic that calls for the abandonment of space or the fulfillment of the vacuum, so as to determine the moldable construction of interactions between dark/light and interior/exterior.
In this manner, we are offered a technical, poetic and aesthetic image that can be read by the “spiritual eye” of one observing and understanding the ritual activity of each piece that is crafted by the artist with the meticulousness of an ethnographer.
“Ethnography has a vocation for the other – it seeks, follows and contemplates the other. Its astonishment is worked through, often times, by rationalization of one’s own referrers, though it also sparks conviction and it awakens the imagination. The ethnographer takes risks on significance - they have to assign significance to every thing that has crossed their sight, and to the interaction with others: including the reconfiguration of the perception of their own perception. As they wager on significance, they are putting at stake all the prestige and the strength of the tasks of sight and significance. The ethnographer touches the invisible threads of the mystery of the visible, they display what is beyond that which is evident, and shape and structure it right before our eyes, in our eyes.”
The artist travels across the territory of the image, appropriates it, and adopts perception as the key word of their trade. Ethnography, as presented by the words of Mexican researcher Jesus Galindo, is the task of sight and significance. It is this streak that is present in the graphic work of the artist, that of a thorough observer of her own cartographies.
From that process of thorough observation, movement is decanted as an element that is present in many of her pieces – movement is to the image what composition is to the piece. They need each other, coexist, separate and multiply. It is a constant flux that highlights the relation to memory and its elicitation of narration, the knitting of dreams and realities and an invocation of recall – in Walter Benjamin’s terminology: crossing thresholds, wandering and strolling.
Movement as a form of thought and idea of representation, aids the images that the artist created and reconfigures the interval as that “space” that allows images themselves to select and archive. Therein lies the power to perceive, to “withdraw from the image that which does not interest us”. It could be stated that the action of perceiving is selective; it accounts for the travels between images and gives significance to everything that has crossed the sight of the eye that sees and the interaction with other images. It is in this interval where everything is waged – prestige, the strength of the tasks of sight and significance (J. Galindo, 1998). By means of perception, the invisible becomes visible; it displays what is beyond the evident and shapes and structures it in our eyes.
Movement is conducive to thought and has a truly transforming capability: it modifies space itself and its connections. Hence, the recognition of true movement is one that transcends the boundaries of space, a movement of conscience, a mental and spiritual movement; portraying the internal, making it possible for time – as a measure of the internal – to be expressed in space, be perceived, be given.
The conceptual presence rummages through the visual archives of the artist, evidence in her works: “Voyage Engraving I”, and “Voyage Engraving IV”, where ancient representations are redesigned. They materialize and take form so as to produce the triple effect of surface (form), edge (contour), fixity (content), and to point out the possibilities of attention of sight and hand in the configuration of contemporary drawing, its structure and its graphic. Structure is understood as a system of contemplation, as a tool of organization, as a conceptual strategy. Graphic is understood as gesture, stroke, trajectory and sequence.
Drawing, which precedes engraving, is the manifestation through inscription; therefore, drawing is memory, as is vision. Consequently, one single image does not exist; we always have many historical, mental and real images that nest in the perception and materialize either by means of a writing streak or by drawing. Artist Veronica Gonzalez clips the images and ponders on how to sketch them on paper, thus giving priority to the sensation/perception in order to value the practice of doing through inscription.
Sensation is present in the artist’s creative process, it is immediate, and once it becomes a recollection, it is memory. Therefore, once a sensation materializes, it becomes writing; it becomes an imprint. An imprint that does not forget, but at the same time is liberating; it is the silence. In Nacy’s terms:
“Silence here must be understood, not as a deprivation, but as a disposition of resonance […] as when in a perfect state of silence one hears one’s own body, one’s own breath, one’s own heart and all of one’s own resonating cavern (Nancy 2002:33). Silence is not the lack of sound - without silence sound does not resonate. The body, turned into a resonance chamber, inhabited by silence, becomes thirsty. It quenches its thirst in a fountain that makes it even thirstier. What is resonant exists in a time-space continuum that is not chronological time or geometric space. It exists as a wave exists in the tide; with a presence that evidences itself in the toing and froing, coming in and out, here and there. Conscience wants to free itself from the swaying of the sensitive; it wants to understand so as to not be vulnerable to perceive; it wants to rid itself of the body. That which resounds does not dissolve the sounding form – it expands and contacts it; tenses and relaxes it; makes it vibrate; turns it into what it is: a vibrant form. That which is resounding overflows the form, it does not deform it but enlarges it; gives it breadth, density and vibration or movement, whose perimeter does nothing but draw closer.” (Nancy, 2002:14)
Silk and Graphism, Veronica Gonzalez’s exhibition Project, depicts drawing as inscription, as an imprint and a memory to highlight art work as a form of thought, as a dwelling place for earth’s habitation, as a gesture of existence itself - the scent of fallen leaves thickened in the gestural tint that imprints the drawing in the silk and the hand that also engraves on paper as support, like a tabula rasa.
The geometric configuration of the visuals of the plane holding the knots of landscapes and allusions to nature and body, values the establishment of rhythm and line proportions to reinstate the value of drawing and the structural nature of it. These are the effects of rethinking - from the task of intimate communication and the practice of drawing. Thus drawing organizes thought and presents, on equal ground, the “demonstrative habit” and “poietic knowledge” – praxis and poiesis.
It is from this compositional persistence that the artist proposes her drawing-like diagrams as organizational strategies to develop her own pictorial language, which she shapes based on her interaction with the surroundings. Based also on her micropoetics (mini poems), to be transfigured into a reference catalogue so as to allow herself the quest for an order that ranges from the careful choice of a subject/theme, supporting material, spatial disposition, and the delicate union between the technical engraving process, and assembling with tasks inherent to sewing. Going from this domestic, intimate and private action that grants a powerful charge to her aesthetic thinking and allows her to bring together both physical and spiritual matter that fusions throughout every work of art.
To draw is to place oneself on the brink of the un-visible
Veronica Gonzalez’s images are written gestures in time, from where the stockpiling of memories and recollections as fields of force are read. There, the artist communicates her obsession to narrate her own stories, to give an account of the passing of time, to attentively and in detail revisit a sunset, a landscape stored in in her retina, the indefinite shapes of the color smudges. Memory arises as a problem of representation and perception, a concept that is very accurately developed by Walter Benjamin and that allows the establishment of correspondence with the Chilean artist’s work.
In the essay of, On the Image of Proust, (1929), Benjamin highlights a reminiscent author who steps into the conflict between memory and oblivion and presents it in his lengthy work. So he introduces us to that quest for lost time in the following manner:
“Because for the reminiscing author the main role is not what he has experienced, but the fabric of his recollection, Penelope’s task to remind […] Is the involuntary memory – Proust’s mémoire involontaire – not closer to oblivion that to what is generally called recollection? And is not this work of spontaneous remembering where recollection is the fold and oblivion the warp, more so than the opposing piece to Penelope’s work and not her image and likeness? Because, here it is day that undoes the work of night. Every morning, awake, most of the time weak, lazy, we hold in our hands nothing more than a pair of strips of the fabric of a lived life, just as they have been weaved into us by oblivion.” (Benjamin, 2012).
Benjamin places in opposition two concepts at work here, namely memory and recollection, or voluntary memory and involuntary memory (Mémoire involontaire). Guillermina Fressoli, explains this opposition in her article, “Memory and recollection in the work of Walter Benjamin” (Fressoli, 2011). According to Benjamin, voluntary memory is a commemorative repetition that is close to a certain historicist will, hence its highly conservative quality. On the other hand, involuntary memory or recollection, on which Proust bases his work, is the reconstruction of a past that is on the border of the collective and the individual and is presented as an interruption of the historical continuum.
Moreover, in memory and in recollection experience builds in two distinct ways. In the first, experience is better understood as a life event, or what you have lived through (Erlebnis); this life event restructures the meaning based on everyday life and protects the bond with the world of an alienated subject (speaking in Benjamin terms), avoiding novelty. On the other hand, experience built on recollection (Erfahrung) is an interruption, a displacement that bonds the past with the present creating a new image, Therefore, conflict can be read between a social memory that stabilizes a representation and a criticism of the recollection that permanently builds representations.
Veronica Gonzalez’s aesthetic proposal arises amidst the constant remaking of experience, remembering and recalling. The rewriting of her ideas originating from the development of the forms of her own universe and her perseverance in filling the blank spaces is a manifestation of her intention to recompose the present, based on the past, in order to give foundation to experience. Her obsession for describing the slightest detail of simple everyday activities in a passionate cult of similarity is another demonstration. It is in experimenting each moment in detail, taking the time needed for each moment, where we find what Benjamin calls renovation.
Why remember? The image then is the inevitable secret.
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