Juan Pablo Wert Ortega
Far off suburbs
Exhibition Cercanías. Provincial Museum. Infantado Palace of Guadalajara, 2011.

 

Concha Gómez-Acebo shows her series Cercanías[1] in the Blue Exhibition Hall within the Infantado Palace of Guadalajara (Spain). A group of paintings, drawings, collages from sketches and video about the journey between Madrid and Guadalajara. The subject, because Concha is more a painter of stories than a genre painter, is a continuation of another exhibition held in Utopia Parkway Gallery in Madrid more than a year ago. It is not strictly speaking a series concerning the railway journey because, as the title explains, it handles the distance that covers only a small area of the northeast suburbs around the city of Madrid that hardly takes an hour. The train trip that takes people daily from their homes to work. These are the people, more numerous everyday, whose life goes on in these long trips and that, oddly enough, belong to different social strata, that is the reason why –I guess– the Anglo-Saxons have defined them with the aseptic term of “commuters”. They come and go to Madrid from all the string of railway stations that form the suburban belt reaching as far as Guadalajara. As a daily experience it belongs to a space that is not that of work nor leisure, although it should be computed in the first category. The attitude adopted by these “commuters” during the journey takes something from both: it has the formality imposed by work discipline and the relaxed spontaneity allowed by leisure and that permits us to get into the stories… But before we talk about them, it is better to determine the medium she uses to achieve this. Obviously it is about painting, figurative painting, based in a kind of drawing surprisingly correct, without any trace of academicism and with a “making” absolutely of her own although not enough so as to evoke forms, qualities and poetic glints from others such as Hopper, or better still Ruscha or someone close to us, Goya. Well then, with expressive equipment so precise and near, but at the same time so melancholic and distant, Concha depicts a series of works of “railway interiors” that are at the same time interior and landscape but also tell us the stories of these migrants.

From a historic point of view it could appear a curious case of quackery in relation to documental photography, that is to say, working with a medium historically surpassed in the capture of images from reality done satisfactorily by that technique. In any case, to talk about intrusions in current art is also a criterion historically surpassed and, of course, is not the point.

This is so because what has been happening in the last years is that it is precisely documental photography the one that is progressively getting into the emerging plastic proposals, emphasizing the artistic value of empathy, of moral. Recently Olivier Lugon has denounced in his book “The documental style” how in the 1930’s, photographers such as Sander and Walter Evans were looking for photogenia, that is, the genuine aesthetic of photography in the photographic document moving the testimonial value and the purpose for the direct and purely aesthetic.

This is what Concha does not do in this showing: she sees the stage of this experience as the way to tell these “near” stories by means of the view, of her personal view that is her way to construct the picture and, as José Suárez-Inclán recollects in his brilliant text for the catalogue in a quotation from Merleau-Ponty, “the view isolates, the ear envelopes”.

They are then, Concha Gómez-Acebo’s near stories that her painting brings back to a distance, not necessarily exotic, maybe much more familiar than we pretend, stories that are not told but seen as “far off suburbs”.

 

[1] Cercanías has more than one meaning: nearness, proximity or suburbs, the outskirts surrounding towns.