Mariano Navarro
Incorruptible pictures
Catalogue of the exhibition 31 mujeres y 12 meses, Galería Utopia Parkway, 2003

 

In the course of her already vast career, that begun with her first individual exhibition twenty years ago, Concha Gómez-Acebo has successively unfolded the catalogue of her motifs and in the last decade these have been situated in her own places, without the need of rejecting traditional pictorial genres.

So, permanent observation of nature; the narrative quality of figures –much more numerous and preferentially those of women– when the fiction is a result from classic mythology or from contemporary literature, or even from children’s nursery tales, and its dramatic and dramatizing capacity; the temptation and a hint of a journey ­–interior, guided by reading, or exterior, with reminiscences of the exotic. Subjects determined by the painting of landscapes, still-lifes, interior scenes or some brief incursion with nudes.

Thematic interests and plastic conception that have brought series and cycles as fascinating as those she dedicated in 1992-1993 to Ulysses and Penelope and Hebrew or Hindu mythology –my first introductory text to the artist’s work–; the one reported between 1997 and 1998, a shared passion, Tintin; or just, the previous one, the windows, 1999.2000.

In their respective comments around her work, Ramón Mayrata and Francisco Calvo Serraller pointed out features that remain vibrant and firm in the paintings that we can see now. R. Mayrata, when comparing Herge’s universe with that of the painter, admitted that “the journey of painting that created dreamed worlds” and, the leading role “embodied in all those figures that, in spite of their different races, are succession of imagined self-portraits of the woman who has started walking in her dreams with a brush in her hand”.[1]

Calvo Serraller also related the idea of the window to illusion, because both “get together two worlds, two dimensions of reality”, and in the case that we are dealing with, doing it essentially from contemplation. Concha Gómez-Acebo, ends Serraller, “conceives painting like an opening, a perforation of reality.”[2]

Two groups or series of paintings are the body of this exhibition. One is, as the titles give evidence, a calendar that serves as a pattern to put in order a repertory of themes and motifs.[3] The painter goes back to some we already know, the desolate landscapes in February –that includes a wink, that red night-light over the threshold of a door where we imagine other kind of tribulation, more brutal, hidden behind the walls of the house –or December, that shares a wet atmosphere that soaks the earth and heaven.

Other works, with bigger and more powerful dimensions show a group or urban views, being shown for the first time by the artist, coincide in the majority in views of Madrid –although April looks in New York­–, seen from a window, as if we were in the first hours of dawn and nobody had yet gone out into the streets. The city is empty, except for buildings, street furniture, or trees.

I’m interested in that metaphysical emptiness, but specially because they are the product of a new manner in the work of the artist: the vast land surfaces treated in a monochrome way, the range of cold tones with a preponderance of pearl-coloured whites and glaucous, watery greens, the adjustment of details and the tenacity to register them, until now less evident in her work.

In spite of my description they are not veduttas from the constructive utopia of the past century, but touching visions in pursuit of the illusion typical of paint. In them, talking into account the distances, it is fulfilled what Robert Hughes attributes to Mondrian when he asked himself why are we moved by his last works about New York and not with the plans that architects imagined of impossible cities. “Partly, no doubt, because the space in fiction. In that area things are never used so they are never rotten; or cannot walk in a picture in the same way as if you were walking in the street or inside a building. Pictures are incorruptible. They are real rudiments of paradise, the blocks in a system that has no relation with our bodies, except through the optic perception of colour”.

The other half, composed of thirty one small pictures and titled precisely 31 women, creeps into the portrait genre, but it is, I believe, something more than the fulfilment of a challenge with tradition.

In the text I mentioned before, I said that as the subject dominant in Concha Gómez-Acebo interests is that of “a woman seen by a woman”. It continued: “Nothing to do with feminine painting or with femininity painting, but an exploration (…) from a woman towards the knowledge of the portrait of herself”[4].

The history of its realization associates more or less emphatically, depending on the different degrees of friendship and proximity with the models. So, they are portraits in which, as it should be, the recognition of the person’s features being portrayed is so fundamental as the things we may guess of the person.

Bur they are, at the same time, an “interior” look –this is a term that inevitably appears and reappears in relation with Concha Gómez-Acebo– to the fact of portrait and portraiture. All of them are done, so to speak, in the first person singular.

I would also like to bring out the guidelines that she has used. The uniformity of format and measures generates intimacy and at the same time it is kept away or simulated heroism –of being aware, I think that it does, a lawful pride for the achievements and the recognition of the value on its own behaviour, you can guess this from the group, the whole, from the disparity within a common aim.

The portraits only depict the face against a neutral background, and it is crucial in each one of them, because of what each woman expresses, the place that occupies each one of them in relation to the edges of the canvass. In the same way that you can distinguish them observing the concrete, specific, plastic treatments used in hair, lips, eyes, etc. All of them alive and transmitting life. They are portraits that bring you to the limit of its truth the assertion according to which: “Contemporary portraits have something of summary proceeding, death sentence”[5].

There is not trace in these pictures of the annihilations that the historic avant-garde printed in the history of portraiture. No breakdown, no picassian distortions, no expressionist post-war despair, not even realistic anatomic fidelity, nor the mystifications of the pop years. They keep relationship, and direct kinship with some of the school of London’s proposals, in particular with Lucien Freud; but has little to do with the British master’s surgery.

It differs radically from the documental anonymity that is so kindred to contemporary artists, specially photographers. Thomas Ruff affirmed in a interview that “precisely an individual portrait can show that a photographed face can be very generic and anonymous”[6]. Nothing more unconnected from these pictures that than will of dissolution.

These women reinforce themselves so much in their “I” as the “she” with which we look at them.

 

 

[1] Ramón Mayrata, “The dream of paint”, cat. Concha Gómez-Acebo, Galería Utopia Parkway, Madrid, 1998.

[2] Francisco Calvo Serraller, “Windows”, cat. Concha Gómez-Acebo 1999-2000, Galería Utopía Parkway, Madrid, 2000.

[3] This is not the firs time that Concha Gómez-Acebo is interested in portraying the passing of time. In 1992-1993, in the exhibition for which I wrote the prologue to the catalogue, she painted a series dedicated to the four seasons.

[4] Mariano Navarro, “El telar de Penélope”, cat. Concha Gómez-Acebo, Galería El Caballo de Troya, Madrid, 1994.

[5] Pedro Azara, El ojo y la sombra. Una mirada al retrato en Occidente, Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2002.

[6] In Francisco Javier San Martín, “Fotografías de una Nueva Subjetividad”, Rev. Exit Book, nº 2, Madrid, 2003.