Mariano Navarro
PENELOPE’S LOOM
El Caballo de Troya Art Gallery, Madrid, 1995
Text for the Catalogue

 

At least a hundred and twelve princes courted Penelope, daughter of Icaro and the naiad Peribea, wife to Odysseus, the Angry, that wandered around the world punished by Poseidon. As she was firmly urged in order to choose one of them, she promised to do it as soon as she completed the shroud she had to weave in prevision of her father-in-law’s death, elderly Laertes. But that task took her three years, as what she weaved during the day she undid at night.

Such is the account that Robert Graves makes about the myth, that also relates the fascinating coquetry of the Lady to which her father made erect an image dedicated to Modesty, that it is yet seen six kilometres from Sparta.

Penelope serves as theme for the last painting done until now by Concha Gómez-Acebo. Painted just, and, without wanting to do any easy and so trivial comparison, waiting not for somebody, but her own departure to her own Itaca. It seems, as if the artist gathered at the same time in her will and destiny Penelope’s patience and Odysseus’s travel adventure -to whom, she dedicated the first, chronologically speaking, of the paintings here reproduced, The wreck of Ulysses-.

I presume that she, as I think it may have happened to the clever heroine, doing and undoing the weave by which the painting has become an artistic formula of the skills acquired by knowledge. That of pretension which lies in the done and undone weave of the shroud, is balanced with that which defines the fiction in the act of painting. And that is the only way I understand her search of knowledge.

A journey in which step by step she has increased her control of the brushstroke, drawing and the full surface of colour not conceived to embellish forms, but to exist on its own.

A journey in addition, which itinerary has, fundamentally an interior geography, where she has looked at intimate landscapes from experience of other landscapes that have an exterior horizon and where she has met passers-by from the myth or legend with whom exchange secrets. Voices that speak from books. Figures turned into the best of paintings.

They could be divided in different themes, excluding the four seasons series, biblical, those resulting from the Greek myths and those from the Commedia dell’ Arte, all of them, specially the first ones, subsume each other which seems to me most appealing. And besides the method used individually, personally, the one that appears to me most of all: the subject of women seen by a woman.

Nothing in common with feminine painting or with femininity in painting, but with an exploration -in the qualifying adjectives would inevitably be opposed; as the terms of existence are at cross-purposes or the events that tells us the past- of a woman towards knowledge, or, the portrait of herself.

So her attraction around talented characters, gifted with cleverness, Nausicaa -to whom Graves attributes the composition of the Odissey-, or considerable strength like Diana or even Penelope, and who take part of their virginal condition and all the dangers attached to their seductions -it may be that Penelope were the mother of Pan after lying with all her suitors and it is for sure that Diana blinded Tiresias and gave Acteon, transformed into a deer, to her dogs, after he had seen her naked.

If she chooses Danae from whom we know that her father Acrisio, had locked in a dungeon with bronze doors and kept by wild dogs in order to prevent the prediction that said that she wouldn’t give birth to male sons but would be killed by his grandson and whom Zeus, in spite of all precautions, raped, entering, as he could not do it through the door, in the form of gold rain, from which Danae conceived Perseus; she avoids -more because of originality in the interpretation than from Modesty, to which we referred before- and represents the golden rain like a rain made of light across darkness, a rain that doesn’t spill over her womb but hits Danae’s face. A formula of the lighting receive and of its devastating impacts -not in faith but in conscience.

Much more explicit are her preferences in biblical stories. Deborah, prophetess judge in Israel that sat under a palm-tree, in the mountain of Ephraim; and the Israelite went to her in search of justice. Samson and Delilah, whose evocation is explained, since Renaissance, like a reflection of the power of women over men, because Delilah is owner and wise about the secret of his strength; and, maybe Concha Gómez-Acebo knows, in secret that Samson only “opened the whole of his heart, bored about life”. Suzanne and the old men or how innocence and virtue succeed over her enemies vileness; even though she resembles Aphrodite playing with the waters. Esther, a young jewish girl that, in danger of her life, crosses the palace courtyard’s doors and intercedes between her people and Asuero, his husband, king of Persia. She uses her courage, and also her brains that increases her beauty: “Her skin was greenish like I myrtle’s bark” -the Hebrews thought the green-olive colour as the ideal colour in beauty-; and so is how her skin looks on the canvass. Also, Vasti, the rebellious queen and so, repudiated: “king Asuero required queen Vasti’s presence but she did not come. This will soon spread among women”; submerged in semi-darkness a stubborn glow from her eyes appears.