Deathline - Paula Anguita
Text for exhibition's catalogue
Patricia Ready Gallery, Santiago, March 2017
Within the collection of the British Museum in London, there is a curious and enigmatic object: a black obsidian mirror, of Aztec origin, which belonged to the magician and alchemist John Dee, consultant to Queen Elizabeth I in the middle of the sixteenth century. It is said that on its black and polished surface, both the visible and the invisible world, the tangible reality and the intangible dimensions of the suprasensible could be reflected simultaneously. If this is effective, we can think of this object as a threshold of convergence between reality and fiction, or perhaps as the synthesis of the total dimensions that configure the "true reality", merged into an absolute surface, without obverse or reverse, like Malevich´s Black Square, or Borges´s Aleph. As a whole, Paula Anguita's work can be understood as an incessant will to recreate John Dee's black mirror and emulate its properties through multiple mediums, formats and materialities.
From its beginnings, the artist has presented her work as a visual investigation focused on the tension between reality and fiction. The conceptual foundation of this will is related to the notion of perspective: given our condition of mortal beings, inserted in the spatio-temporal phenomenic plane, we understand reality as a sum of fragments perceived from multiple points of view, both in optical and interpretative terms, but incessantly aspire to reconstitute a vision of totality; an absolute point of view. The single eye of the god is multiplied and fragmented through the eyes of man, like a mirror broken in infinite pieces. It is this tension between unity and multiplicity (in essence, between Being and Becoming), inherent in our experience of being in the world, which is the leit motiv that the artist has developed throughout her career. It is an existential standpoint, which in her work unfolds through a formal universe based on the intentional use of optical illusions, the expressiveness of the body subjected to relations of integrity and fragmentation, and the potential of interpretation of the image in terms of sign. All this, expressed through a language characterized by a sort of cold sensuality, in which the abstraction of geometric diagrams and the meaningfulness of graphic images establish a permanent dialogue between objectivity and subjectivity.
This feature is particularly highlighted in the works that give form to her current exhibition, “Death Line". In conceptual terms, these are works that have as common denominator an accentuation of the existential dimension inherent to her artistic proposal. The name of the exhibition clearly expresses this intention: death appears to us as an irreducible aspect of life, that "single certainty" described by Heidegger as the line of the horizon that surrounds and encircles our existence. It is the real threshold in which the antinomies and dualities proper to our mortal condition are overcome, constituting the passage to the experience of the Absolute. How can this dimension be represented? In the artist's proposal, the reference to death is not shown in the crudeness of the explicit documentary record, nor does it seek the immediate effect of the emotive and cloying. Neither is it situated in the perspective of moralistic, pedagogical or politically committed discourses, so typical of certain contemporary artistic trends. Rather, it is an elegant symbolic evocation, in the manner of the Vanitas of the seventeenth century. Evocation that, in the context of the exhibition, acquires multiple forms and accents, through a material strategy that combines laser engraving on metal, serigraphy and techniques of indirect reflection through mirrors. A palette that conveys the precision of the cut, the control of the hand that operates with a scalpel, millimetrically, with no margins of tolerance or improvisation.
The "Black Light" series names an apparent paradox: can there be a black light? Perhaps light is the obverse, and darkness is the reverse of a single modelling force that is perceived in dual form from the human perspective. The portraits that conform the series are inversion exercises between figure and background, light and darkness: the human figures in the foreground appear as cuts of light, spectral shadows, while the backgrounds struggle to assume the role of the absent figures. Traditionally, light is presence (and life) and darkness is absence (and death), but through the exercise of inversion this duality is reinterpreted in a critical way: it is perhaps the quest for achieving a form of "absolute presence" in which, just as in the black mirror of John Dee, the tangible and the intangible, life and death, the presence of the real and the memory of the absent are unified on an absolute surface, without reverse. With quite austere resources, the series manages to highlight the potential of re-signification of the documentary image through successive operations of editing, inversion, posterization and transfer to a material medium that evokes engraving plates, but with contemporary digital techniques.
The "Vanishing Point" series shows the attack sequence of a prey animal and its victim, in the pristine purity of its mechanical fatality, as a theatrical performance deployed in five acts, contemplated from a point "beyond good and evil ": that point where the tragic ceases to be terrible, becoming synonymous with fullness, strength and sensuality. In the perfection of the natural law, the moral categories are abolished: the Ethos becomes Eros. And in this, we recognize a form of beauty that touches the sublime. At formal level, geometric grids and bodies are mutually delineated, in a counterpoint of abstraction and figuration that reinforces the implicit conceptual aspects.
Following Nietzsche, "nature is the supreme indifference transfigured in power," and this seems to be the phrase that is glimpsed in the subtle geometric patterns that shape the work that gives the exhibition its name, "Deathline". The world is essentially will to power, life is a permanent confrontation expressed in incessant relationships of appropriation and domination, and it is in nature that these relationships are seen and reflected, as with the clarity of a mirror. By means of an optical strategy of dynamic perception, associated with the movement of the observer, the artistic operation is directed here to reveal the essential plane in which these relations of dominion can be perceived as what they really are: pure vectors of blind force, of which living beings are simply incarnations on the phenomenic plane of the ephemeral and contingent.
The relationship between diagrams of objective analysis and the image as a sub-layer of meaning is also the matter of “Fatal Attraction". It is a work in which the artist extremes the analytical, cold and distant point of view from which she tends to position herself, achieving a surgical approach to a certainly tragic event; stripping it of any emotive connotations and expressing it as the result of the interaction of objective variables like weight, gravity, height, time and velocity. The fortuitous elegance of the body lying down is almost a volitional pose, an intentional gesture, which the artist underlines through the equation that describes with the elegant precision of the mathematical the parameters of its fatal fall.
In synthesis, Deathline appears to us as a relevant sample of the language already consolidated by Paula Anguita, both in formal and conceptual terms. Placed in a point that transcends the small ties of the local and the contingent, her work invites us to a reflection on the dimensions that constitute the essence of our vital experience in the world, from a more comprehensive and universal perspective. According to Nietzsche, "things come to us willing to become symbols": Life and death, light and darkness, the absolute and the relative are some of the "things" that Paula Anguita has chosen as a material to be transformed into symbols of themselves, reflected in all their tragic beauty.
Artist´s website: www.paula-anguita.com