Fragmentos sobre la sombra
Francisco Jarauta, 2005
Catálogo de la exposición “Anatomía de las sombras” de Rossana Zaera
“1. A long-lost myth translated as the Heraclitean “nature loves to hide”, was told across the ancient world. It could be construed in several different ways: that everything that is born tends to die; that nature develops through sentient forms which conceal their deepest reality from us, or even that its state is that of a contraction which some would call power and others movement. This proved to be a crucial question for the first philosophers and they called each other physicists. Everything depends on the concept that we have of nature.
2. Both the Artemis of Ephesus or the Egyptian Isis are represented by a woman covered by a veil. In Renaissance iconography they became the symbol of nature, though in some engravings an allegorical character is lifting up Isis’ veil, while in other cases someone is attempting to protect her. A journey which is to do with the attitude of a gaze exploring the mystery or secret of nature, as in the Thorvaldsen motif that Goethe uses to illustrate The metamorphosis of plants.
3. And behind Isis’ veil, the kingdom of shadows. If Plato’s cavern announced and staged its presence, the tradition succeeding this can be seen as a long journey through different discernments and interpretations. The birth of art is connected with the recreation of a gaze keen to show the limit in which the appearance of the sentient world, what we see, is legitimated as the form and truth of things. And although Pliny, in his Natural history, would claim that “the question of the origins of painting is obscure”, we can accept that in its beginnings it constitutes one of the most important moments of our civilisation.
4. It was Vasari who wished to oppose the “state of shadow” with the “state of the mirror” described afterwards by Lacan, and which would enable us to understand why children recognise their shadow long before their reflection. And if the mirror opened up a period centred on reflection, the search for a new transparency guided the invention of countless technical devices to ensure the proper perception of nature. Newton’s Optics is the culmination of this long period.
5. The illusion of certain perception in turn gave way to the reading that Leonardo started off with his Treatise on painting “The most important thing in painting is the shading and its outlines”. It was like going back to the unavoidable play of light and shade, the chiaroscuro, that strange syntagm to which Caravaggio and VelÃ¡zquez, Athanasius Kircher -De physica umbrae efficiencia- or Rembrandt, amongst others, have all been so faithful. Neither should we forget Goethe in the most disquieting pages of his Theory of colours.
6. Henri Michaux relates that time in which the feeling of catastrophe imminently inhabits the parts of the body. A trace of melancholy accompanies the empty smile of someone who can no longer challenge the irreparable. In another picture a sun, a large sun of blood takes up the whole space, the future. Nevertheless, even in the most dramatic and untidy paintings, one place always remains clean, absolutely unperturbed. This corner is curiously preserved from the destruction of the worlds, and also from any discouragement, delirium or fraud.
7. The whole history of the body is that of its demarcation, that of the system of marks and signs which parcel this off, to then be able to present it in an ostensible unit which ignores the stitching. There is a second nudity. A passable limit for literature and eroticism. For medicine, the reference body is the corpse. For religion, the ideal reference for the body is the animal.
8. There is a before and an after for the body. A frontier which is corrected and destroyed to go back to an initial zero. There is also a meanwhile dominated by time. It comes forward threateningly and is alien to any form. There are battles against form, which resist abdication from silence. And desire, still asleep, is always on the prowl.
9. Other bodies are bared. They show the signs of life as cheerful appearance. They halt at the dangerous threshold of time. Death and sex, instead of facing each other as antagonistic principles, swap over in the same cycle, in the same revolution. Death is not the price of sexuality, and neither is sex the simple dodging of death. These are only the high moments in a party that nature is holding with the inexhaustible multitude of beings.
10. Illness is the nocturnal side of life. Susan Sontag interprets this as the metaphor par excellence of human territory. As opposed to health, it comes forward as a fall, inconsistency or unbearable weight. It drags the body along in its descent and fells it. It invents an interior, place and name, in which it reveals the limit, perhaps impotence.
11. There are transfigured bodies. These are born from a metamorphosis of its shadows, pain or death. There time is ruled out in the temporal zero which is the single instant. No representation of death can ever come close to that of Holbein’s Christ. Its extreme rigidity, the stiffness, the skin already yellow, the stripping down that only German imagery could give to death. Why that hand indicating the place, the absolute gesture of what is irreparable, body and fate? Only the story can overcome the silence. But how hard it is to resist the temptation of allegorism.
12. Why so much evidence, so much interest for the details even whilst being aware that when these are marked, they only produce the effect of a great pain? Mantegna’s was indeed a strange intention, possessed by the need to record the summary of death for us. We only find the ultimate gesture of its rest. This poetics of evidence which forebodes so well our fate as modern beings. The passion that Giacometti professed for his work was conceivably based on this.
13. “Speaks true who speaks shadow” (“Wahr spricht wer Schatten spricht”) Paul Celan had written in his Schwelle zu Schwelle (“From threshold to threshold”). That distance between reality and language, mediated in Celan by speech, sets us before a shadow that poetry makes its own, which is its territory and place of intervention. Navigating the shadow, attempting to use words to name/speak its truth, tensely, without ever resolving the distance, such is the territory of the poem, its natural place.
14. He who had determined to “write in the ashes of language”, which is as much as to say in that place where language, transformed by a new violence, bursts out in a blaze, enabling one to announce what had previously been proscribed, is now sliding through the landscape of “moving dunes of wandering words”, following the thread, trace, ray, network, veil, lineâ€¦ marking the direction of a trip which starts from the feeling of an absence. Word or image is for Paul Celan the moment when the ends tremulously meet.
15. Rossana Zaera chooses another way. She seeks an interior in which the appearance draws back to give way to a vision of a world which safeguards the secrets of life and death. It is a strange light which illuminates this interior map. The return drags along with it an irreplaceable wisdom which brings us the excitement of those who discover the embrace of shadows.”