Rossana Zaera. The feast
Rosalía Torrent, 2010. Universitat Jaume I
Catálogo de la exposición
“Can death be kind? Can it appear before us with delicate gestures or metaphors? Can art imagine death with echoes of serenity and nostalgia? Can we toss discreet exorcisms from the tepid image of a bed or a stretcher, from the sign of a cross on a tombstone, from the shroud that perhaps will one day be ours?
All these questions are raised in the paintings of Rossana Zaera, an artist who does not know art unless it contains self-expression, who in each one of her pieces offers us a lesson in controlled anguish. Seemingly innocent lines outline black or reddish gravestones, enfold yellowing bodies, tapering at the feet, with a voluntarily childish gesture that brings back our most disquieting feelings. These lines, only apparently innocent, either transport us to hospital beds, or twist themselves into black tangles of powerful textures.
Through her paintings Rossana responds to questions that have no answer, to the absurdity of life in transit towards an end, a life that at times, as though to remind us, pauses and gloats in illness, bestowing eternal hospital hours, ministering enigmatic contrivances in the form of x-rays or ingenious scans that the artist recreates in an attempt, perhaps, to bring them into familiar terrain, that of art, where she is able to reconstruct and reorganise a different reality in her own way. Jarauta, speaking of Rossana Zaera, recalled Susan Sontag, author of the magnificent Illness as metaphor. Sontag wrote of two citizenships: one, in the kingdom of the well, who lives at a distance from the second, the kingdom of the sick, where nonetheless, life itself would lead at some point. So as not to forget this, our artist, a citizen conscious of both sides of the border, adds her small, sensitive, strong world to the beats of both times.
In The feast, shown in its entirety for the first time, Rosanna also scrutinises the furtive presence of death, belying the festive impression of the piece’s title. But also, and above all, the happy memories of past birthdays and Sunday lunches in her grandmother’s home, the person who guides every step expressed here, the person whose memory pulsates in Rossana’s calm and exquisite torment. The feast recalls the images that accompanied the artist as a young girl and come back to pay homage to her grandmother Paquita Capella, the grandmother whose hand Rossana so often took in her own −one time especially.
The epicentre of this installation consists of three glass cake domes, covering small plaster mummies, pastry replicas of which are provided for visitors to the exhibition to eat, in a gesture that once again returns us to life through a clear anthropophagic pun: eating the dead to maintain life, one’s own and that of the departed. The action she proposes has a strong magic ritual thread. At the same time as we see the mummified representations of the dead, motionless under the glass domes, we eat them, while perhaps staring at their other representation under the urn.
The feast, Rossana tells us, “sets out to recreate the wakes of days gone by in an action shared through its transformation”. Starting with the glass cake domes, decanter, glasses and cutlery that belonged to her grandmother, bound up in her memory with happy times, she pays tribute to those loved ones who ate and drank at her table. Life goes by, and some (always too many), are no longer present at these and other Sundays. Rosanna wants to bid farewell to them all, and in this installation she evokes the ritual of condolence to say goodbye to all of them at the same time. The feast, its creator continues “is a celebration of life on the occasion of death”. In the Nit de l’Art she sought to celebrate life and love by sharing with us something we all have in common: sorrow on the death of our loved ones.
Moreover, the main piece in this installation has the power to summon us to the ritual through objects that have lost their anonymity, because traces of life remain in their story. I have always been intrigued by what antique objects can tell us, the wisdom of the antiquarian. These pieces, which –with the exception of one glass dome– belonged to Rossana’s grandmother, are bound to the artist’s memory; she has retrieved them and brought them into her paintings, entwined in the principal scene through mummies and tombs, the subtle expressions of fragility I spoke of at the beginning, and that with their presence, provide perhaps the only response we can offer death: life.”