Crave III, 2013. Images courtesy of the artist.
I recently met a fly fisherman who also makes his own flies and nymphs. He showed me boxes and boxes of his creations, some of which are as small as my pinky nail. The flies’ colors and textures vary widely; some imitate insects found in nature and others are flights of fancy, with bold, colorful plumes jutting out. His supply box was filled to the brim with exotic bird feathers and hundreds of spools of pure silk thread. He pulled out two spools of yellow thread and told me that when wet, together they perfectly replicate the color of a specific type of mosquito larvae that is only active for two weeks in October. The fly fisherman reminded me of the painter Luísa Jacinto not only for her effervescent colors and attention to detail, but for her work’s pursuit of something very specific and very elusive.
Sirena, 2015. Images courtesy of the artist.
In popular mythology the sirens sang from ocean cliffs, but according to the Greeks they inhabited a ‘meadow starred with flowers.’ Siren surfaces- flowing hair, waves, seaweed, grass, and flower petals- show up in Ana Manso’s diaphanous and colorful paintings. Like notes in a song, her brushstrokes seem to vibrate and shape shift. In Sirena (Mermaid) (2015), for example, snake-like forms resemble letters, ropes, wisps of smoke, or some kind of innards.
“I know this space is mine; I have this space and I do what I want,” Ana says. Tantalizing flecks of red, blue, and yellow here could be intentional, or they could be drips or points of contact with another works in-progress. Both types of marks point back to her studio as a place of movement, accident, and experiment, where ideas and materials graft onto one another. Ana’s paintings are action-spaces; their springing, improvised choreography records the free and flexible energy inside the studio and the creative mind itself.
José Almeida Pereira, Bouquet (After Manet), 2015. Images courtesy of the artist.
How many people have cried at the Prado?
How many people, when finally placed in front of paintings they’ve seen for years in the pages of books and in their memory become so overwhelmed by the sensation of being physically with these artworks that they lose control of themselves?
I am one of those people.
I was a little girl in a big blue bow and black and white saddle shoes in a small schoolhouse in the Texas countryside when I discovered a deck of cards depicting famous paintings from Western art history. Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, Renoir’s lady at the piano, Rousseau’s desert sleeper- I examined these images one after the other, over and over. Each card contained another dimension where anything could happen. Were these places and things real, or were they imaginary inventions? Paintings were like a beautiful itch that I couldn’t quite scratch. Later on, I saw paintings from the cards projected in art history classrooms or, if I was lucky, hanging in museums. They were what I came to know as art’s masterpieces. Some of these very same paintings appear in the work of José Almeida Pereira.
Espiroide dish. Design taken from a 5th century diadem found at the Elviña castro (Celtic fortifications from the Bronze Age) near A Coruña.
A couple of years ago, before I had a plan together to come to Spain, I came upon a book about traditional Spanish ceramics at the University of Houston’s art library. I used to go there between classes to pull random books from the shelves and look at them. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular; it was simply for the pleasure of finding something unexpected. The day I discovered this particular book was a lucky one: I was floored. The photos, taken sometime in the 1970s or 80s, showed vessels from all over Spain. The hand-painted, rounded, rustic pieces looked like they’d been pulled directly from the earth, but with a sort of enchantment cast on them. Now that I’m here, I look out for ceramics of all kinds. But the most popular ceramics in Galicia look nothing like what I saw in that book. Sargadelos pottery is porcelain, with bright white and cobalt blue patterns and sleek design. Its complicated history starts in the early 1800s with the creation of the first Spanish ceramics factory, followed by a rebirth thanks to Galician exiles in Argentina, and today’s uncertain future. But, first things first: how did porcelain become Galicia’s most important ceramic product?
In Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), the two main characters go to California’s Muir Forest to see the sequoias. When they stop at a cross section of a tree trunk, the woman points to the rings and says, “Here I was born and here I died; it was only a moment for you, you took no notice.” The scene is unsettling because it shows that our own lives are not the only way to measure time. A sequoia’s lifespan can span hundreds or even thousands of years; as with cosmic and geologic time, the human spectrum is not at its center. Time can also be registered with different systems: in tree rings, rock layers, and crystal formations instead of hours or years. These natural elements appear in photographs along with dyed textiles, video, and gouache paintings in Cristina Regadas’ (Porto, 1977) installation Frame of Reference (campo contra-campo) at O Sol Aceita A Pele Para Ficar in Guimarães, Portugal.
June Crespo, Kanala, 2016. Image courtesy of MARCO Vigo/Enrique Touriño
I was riding the boat to work the other day when I saw a glowing blue form undulating on the ship’s TV screen. Two black holes collided 1.3 billion years ago, creating gravitational waves that stretch and compress space and even produce chirping sounds that scientists have finally measured, the news said. The gravitational waves illustration made me think of the ceramic forms in June Crespo’s (Pamplona, 1982) installation Kanala at the MARCO Vigo, where objects seem to float around the exhibition hall as if they were in outer space.
June Crespo, Kanala, 2016, detail; Gravitational waves illustration by European Space Agency
Sam Smith, Reflex Compositions (2013), 1:22. Image courtesy of Susana Pomba.
Sam Smith’s 1 minute 22 second film Reflex Compositions (2013) shows clips of the artist filming his own reflection in a mirror as he turns the camera on, adjusts it, steps away, and then shuts the camera off again. There is no narrative progression, only a loop of the artist turning the camera on and off in different places. It’s as if he’s doing prep work for a subsequent scene, or making a photograph instead of a film. What is the purpose of shooting film in this abbreviated way?
Reflex Compositions was created during Smith’s time as an artist in residence at the Helsinki International Artist Program on Suomenlinna Island, Finland. The island is famous for its massive fortress built by the Swedes (who controlled Finland at the time) in 1748 as a defense against Russia. The resulting development spurred the growth of nearby Helsinki and is today a demilitarized tourist site. The island’s layered histories bring to mind a passage from W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz: “Our concern with history is a concern with pre-formed images already imprinted on our brains, images at which we keep staring while the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all, somewhere as yet undiscovered.”
PANORAMA / ciudad (PANORAMA / city) was curated by Javier Fernández Pérez de Lis (Vigo, 1979) at Galería Adhoc with work by Annegien van Doorn (Vlissingen, 1982), Carme Nogueira (Vigo, 1970), Dieuwertje Komen (Schaijk, 1979), Kim Bouvy (Amsterdam, 1974), and Mar Cuervo (A Coruña, 1980). An additional group of photographers’ work is on display in a selection of Fw:Photography books by Geraldine Jeanjean (Amsterdam, 1978), Elian Somers (Sprang-Capelle, 1975), and Awoiska van der Molen, (Groningen 1972).
A panorama is an unobstructed view of the landscape in every direction. With its explicit focus on female photographers, the central question of the exhibition seems to be whether women see the landscape differently. There are other questions, too: what does the landscape look like? Where do natural landscapes end and urban landscapes begin? How do Dutch and Spanish photographers explore the landscape differently or the same? What is the relationship between people and the urban and rural spaces they encounter?
Viana do Bolo, Ourense, 2008. All Images courtesy of the artist.
Luis Díaz Díaz (A Coruña, 1978) is a photographer based in the Rías Baixas region of Galicia. Luis studied photography in Madrid and founded the Spanish international photography blog 30y3. Living in Madrid helped Luis see his homeland with different eyes: “I looked at the territory in a way I hadn't before and became fascinated by different aspects of it,” he says. Since returning to Galicia a few years ago, Luis’ projects explore the land and its history through his own personal lens.
La fertilidad de Tarsila (Tarsila's Fertility), 2015. All images courtesy of the artist.
When I first saw Luis Vassallo’s (Madrid, 1981) work, it took me back to the Menil Collection in Houston. His recent paintings feel like a mix between the museum’s Magrittes and Picassos and its ancient Roman, and Greek artifacts. Luis’s paintings lay out his artistic influences and pay homage to iconic pieces and players from Western art history. But they also do something else. The effect of this melding of art history with design produces work that is familiar, foreign, and fresh all at the same time.