27 de marzo de 2019

Toña Vegas. Energy Matters (English Version)*

The long night. The sound of the water says what I think.


The recent work of Toña Vegas gathered in “Energy Matters” seems to be guided by and to propitiate an ineffable knowledge. The patient and methodical contemplation of nature that the artist has carried out as part of her existential experience has led her to understand the hidden essence shared by everything—the breath of cosmic life that is energy. In the pieces displayed, she transfers that energy by registering their tracings or by picturing their waves and effluvia.

In the contemporary critical perspective, rooted in the western philosophical tradition, the fact that art produces a diverse mode of knowledge—in which forms and images involving both the spectator and the artist access a subtle understanding of reality and a special awareness of the world—is often left aside.
Following this idea, “Energy Matters” is presented as a sensitive lesson that suggests the great mystery of who and what we are—part of a nature that contains us, part of a cosmos that inhabits us, and part of an energy that transforms and continues towards infinity temporal space.
In the works of the Shizen and Scripture series, the “silent writings” of the sea, the surfaces of rocks, the bark and leaves of trees, or the shapes of clouds—“unveiled” by subjecting photographs of these elements to a high contrasting technique—have been transcribed into perforations on black-painted paper or, as in Traces, into the “positive” silhouettes of its contours. 

Scripture and Traces Series

Shizen Series

The Energy Matters series comprises paintings executed by Vegas using her fingers; this allows her to materialize her own energy pictorially. In the process, guided by her senses and intuition, energy appears simultaneously as structure and vibration in layers that overlap and interweave, creating a complex and deep space. These pieces are also traces, vestiges of an energy that is transformed into lines and stains, of a continuous flow suggesting skins of animals, leaves fluttering in a breeze, the wall of an old cave, or a burning emotion.

Energy Matters

Energy Matters

Energy Matters

The nature of some works of art could be related to Eastern philosophical practices which incorporate subjectivity and non-explicit notions as parts of the knowledge process. As in Taoism—where the teacher does not teach what he knows as something that he possesses and transmits rationally and objectively—the work of Toña Vegas communicates knowledge in a poetic way, through “brushstrokes of meaning” that trigger understanding. This process assumes the relativity of the cognitive experience and, subsequently, the immeasurability of any notion of reality.

Katherine Chacón

* This essay was written for the exhibition «Toña Vegas. Energy Matters», held at Imago Art in Action (Coral Gables, Florida, USA), from March 8 to May 3 de mayo, 2019.

Toña Vegas. Energy Matters*

La larga noche; el sonido del agua dice lo que pienso.


El trabajo reciente de Toña Vegas reunido en la exposición «Energy Matters» parece guiado por y para propiciar un conocimiento que es inefable. La contemplación paciente y metódica de la naturaleza que la artista ha realizado como parte de su experiencia existencial, la ha llevado a comprender la esencia recóndita que comparte todo lo que contiene ese soplo de vida cósmica que es la energía, y que ella transvasa, en las piezas que conforman la muestra, a través del registro de sus huellas gráficas o de la «pictorialización» de sus ondas y efluvios.

Para la perspectiva crítica contemporánea, arraigada en los constructos derivados de la tradición filosófica occidental, queda de lado frecuentemente el hecho de que el arte comporta un modo diverso de conocimiento, en el que, a través de formas e imágenes, tanto el espectador como el artista acceden a una comprensión sutil de la realidad y a una especial conciencia del mundo.
Siguiendo esto, «Energy Matters» se presenta como una lección sensible que nos asoma al gran misterio de lo que somos: partes de una naturaleza que nos contiene, de un cosmos que nos habita y de una energía que se transforma y continúa hacia la infinitud espacio-temporal.
En las obras de las series Shizen y Scripture las «escrituras calladas» del mar, las superficies rocosas, las cortezas vegetales, los follajes o las nubes —«develadas» al someter a alto contraste fotografías de estos elementos— han sido transcritas en surcos perforados en papel pintado de negro o, como en Traces, en las siluetas «en positivo» de sus contornos. 

Series Scripture y Traces

Serie Shizen

La serie Energy Matters comprende pinturas ejecutadas usando los dedos como medios que permiten a la artista materializar pictóricamente su propia energía. En el proceso, guiado por la sensorialidad y la intuición, esta aparece simultáneamente como estructura y vibración, en capas que se superponen y entretejen, creando un espacio complejo y profundo. Estas piezas constituyen también huellas, vestigios de una energía que se transforma en trazos y manchas, en un caudal continuamente sugerente en el que aparecen, a un tiempo, la piel de un animal, hojas movidas por la brisa, la pared de una antigua gruta, o una emoción que abrasa.

Energy Matters

Energy Matters

Energy Matters

La naturaleza de la obra de arte –o quizás de algunas muy especiales, como las aquí exhibidas– se emparenta con las prácticas filosóficas orientales, que incorporan la subjetividad y las nociones no explícitas como partes del proceso de conocimiento. Como en el taoísmo, donde el maestro no enseña lo que sabe como algo que posee y que trasmite racional y objetivamente, la obra de Toña Vegas comunica un saber de modo poético, a través de «pinceladas de sentido» que desencadenan el entendimiento, pero asumiendo dentro de sí la relatividad de la experiencia cognitiva y, más allá, lo inabarcable de toda noción de realidad.

Katherine Chacón

* Este texto fue realizado en ocasión de la exposición «Toña Vegas. Energy Matters», presentada en Imago Art in Action (Coral Gables, Florida, USA), del 8 de marzo al 3 de mayo de 2019.

28 de abril de 2018

Patricia Van Dalen & Emilio Narciso. Abstract Cabinet. (English Version)

Abstract Cabinet - General View

Appearing in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, "cabinets of curiosities" (also known as "wonder rooms") were displays of heterogeneous collections ranging from extraordinary objects, exotic natural specimens and rare scientific instruments to antiques and works of art. The undeniable interest aroused by the body of knowledge they contained, with their abundance and diversity, made these rooms fascinating spaces. The growing hybrid selections contained in them were exhibited without the methodology that we know today. As objects became part of a collection and were gradually incorporated into the cabinet of curiosities, every corner of the chamber or room -including entire walls and ceilings- was filled with the most varied elements. Individual display cabinets, closets and tables were usually added to the space to feature smaller or particularly relevant pieces.
The term "immersion" as "the state of being deeply engaged or involved in something" serves as an adequate notion to describe what cabinets of curiosities offered spectators. Their cluttered and surrounding spaces facilitated this experience, where the human body through its perceptions conveyed wondrous relish and cognitive reflection. Conceived as settings for an encounter with diversity and otherness, the cabinets’ presentations of the "rare, exotic, beautiful and valuable" enabled a fulfilling encounter--comparable with that of traveling--in which reason, emotion and sensorial perception were intensely experienced.

Abstract Cabinet - General View

"Abstract Cabinet. Patricia Van Dalen & Emilio Narciso. Duo Project" began with the artists’ review of cabinets of curiosities as exhibition spaces with a continued relevance today. The heterogeneous, accumulative and variable character of the cabinet and its complete takeover of the space as a form of display provided Van Dalen and Narciso with a fertile ground for research and imagination. This drove the artists to undertake their processes of creation in counterpoint, not only in terms of the necessary dialogue with each other to create the works exhibited here, but also through the creative integration of their outcomes into the spaces of Imago Art in Action, where the groups of works created are displayed in a geometric mural of balanced constellations.
In this sense, the limits of Abstract Cabinet fall into the installational and procedural while serving to register the artists’ studies on the aesthetic views of Russian avant-garde El Lissitzky (1890-1941), who believed art was a thorough experience, "expansive and in constant combustion". Pursuing the integrating notion of "immersion" proposed by cabinets of curiosities, in the 1920s Lissitzky developed in Germany the notion of "cabinets of abstraction", comprised of chambers where he installed his constructivist works, seeking to involve the viewer with the surrounding environment created by concrete forms, arranged to merely consider the balance of its elements in space. The purpose of these spaces was to "kindle an experience both emotionally and intellectually" that would modify the traditional constraints on art perception and welcome the concept of modern aesthetics. 

Abstract Cabinet - Entrance

From perspectives that reveal related yet independent concerns, the works of Patricia Van Dalen (Maracaibo, 1955) and Emilio Narciso (Carúpano, 1974) have been revising the languages of abstraction through the narratives of contemporary art.
Patricia Van Dalen is a Venezuelan artist with an extensive and recognized career. Now based in Miami, her ongoing research is born from the interest to unravel the dynamics inherent in the intrinsic plasticity of visual media. For many years, Van Dalen’s study of color was recognized as the backbone of her creative practice. Recently, her findings have shaped some of her reflections on the connections that the geometric grammar of color has with the form, the line and the internal frameworks of the plane. The work that Van Dalen includes in Abstract Cabinet could be defined as a poetics of structures. The proposal intertwines lines of creation that address her artistic trajectory, in an exercise of insistent questioning about the elements that have been structural to her aesthetic language. This formal review is sustained in a space accommodating a subjectivity deeply committed to the creative process and to the fact of being an artist; manifesting in an attempt to dismantle the functions that the expressive elements update in the artist’s language, and through experimentation with new materials and surfaces that contribute to the vocabulary of this dislocation. In her series Grilla and Dessin, Van Dalen extracts the color planes until reaching the constructive foundations of the line, taking drawing to lingering limits. The pieces from the Automatique series, on the other hand, constitute metaphorical body structures, drawings without lines, emerged as a way to give concreteness to the void and to sustain this ambivalence through the figurative suppression of its boundaries, given by the straight cuts in anodized aluminum.


Abstract Cabinet

Emilio Narciso is a Venezuelan artist based in Caracas. His work looks into the role of geometric abstraction as a fertile meeting point for diverse narratives. In this practice, Narciso reveals his study of the work by Gego and various artists from the neo-concrete movement in Brazil, recognized for distancing themselves from the "cold" mainstream of geometrism- as well as the proposals by contemporary Venezuelan artists such as Eugenio Espinoza and Héctor Fuenmayor, who take on their geometric filiation from a critical perspective.
In Abstract Cabinet, Narciso includes pieces that appropriate elements from the geometric grammar. One of its fundamentals, the grid, serves as an expressive module that has allowed the artist throughout his career to develop proposals that concern the formal-perceptual plane and foster narratives of a conceptual nature. In his series Concrete-empty pictorial system, the artist utilizes incision-squared spaces on painted canvases that overlay and hang. The intersection of orthogonal lines and empty spaces given by the overlapping of the canvases creates a visual dynamic allowing the meanings of the words “concrete” and “empty” acquired in different lexical modes to meet and intercept. The pieces refer to the pictorial tradition as a field of representative concretion and of the abstract-concrete that is constantly undermined by questions on its exhaustive value. In the series Photographic reality as an exercise of concretion, Narciso uses the screen as a support for a fragmentary image that refers to the weavings of Gego in its formulation. It is, in fact, a visual weaving as well as a weaving of meanings, where segments of a photograph and geometric design are intersected, signaling the artist’s research for the last years on the two great Venezuelan artistic traditions: landscape and abstraction.

Concrete-empty pictorial system

Abstract Cabinet - Entrance

During the mid-twentieth century, geometric abstraction was assumed in Venezuela as a program that embraced the longings of modernization of a still provincial nation. Years later, the oil bonanza spurred this "modern mirage", incorporating ideals of progress that did not fully correlate with the social, political and economic structures of the nation. This process was accompanied by the country’s enthronement of geometric art and, above all, of kineticism, as the official aesthetics of the oil era, exhibited on a monumental scale.
The presentation of the project Abstract Cabinet in Miami could well assist to reassess the questions raised by the post-utopian and confusing framework of Venezuelan contemporaneity. The recontextualization this installation proposes of the immersive model of the cabinets, opens a symbolic field that makes possible the reception of the multiple and the hybrid- translated in a creative group with plastic formulations accepting the contingent- as a locus from which it is possible to recognize the hidden dynamics that limit and shape transformation.

Katherine Chacón
Translation: Betty Briceño

© Katherine Chacón
© Photos: Emilio Narciso and Patricia Van Dalen