On “Wounds, scars and other commemorations”
Wenceslao Rambla, 2013
Catálogo exposición “Humanas, demasiado humanas. Heridas del alfabeto natural”
The works in this exhibition have their origins in an observation and, I would add, in amazement at the observed object. It is no coincidence that qaumἀzwor “to be amazed” by something is inherent to the beginnings of thought, of reflection. It is no coincidence that when something amazes us, we have an interest in it. In something that we discover and that gives us a feeling of “strangeness”, that overwhelms us with its unaccustomedness and, as a result, generates within us a thought, a hypothesis…, we imagine, fantasize, speculate… about this observation.
Something like this happened to Rossana Zaera when, a few years ago, walking among the bushes, scrub and trees in a wood in the Aragonese Maestrazgo––El Rebollar to be precise––she noticed certain signs or marks inscribed on the tree trunks and, she told me, she felt impelled to stand before them and caress them as though they were wounds or scars, calling for her attention.
This occurrence, confirmation of her curiosity and wonder, would doubtless go unnoticed by many; it was not, however, lost on Rossana, who, sensitive and aroused, was moved to touch the scars and wonder, in all certainty, not so much about who had caused them (if indeed anyone had, or whether they were caused by nature itself, or both) but rather, about what the tree must feel (a living being when all’s said and done), or perhaps she was moved to remember wounds of one kind or another that she had at some time sustained herself.
Zaera is gifted with an enormous creative capacity as well as an acute sensitivity. Her observations––of things, people, materials––provide her with conceptual nourishment, while at the same time exciting her or distancing her from them (distancing is also an emotion), and move her––in the work we have before us––to envision a project for an exhibition. And in my case, to write this piece.
Her art, it must be said, always stems from an experience. From experiences that, once felt, strive to spill out onto her paper, with her inks, pencils, graphite… And there is no doubt that in this transfer from “feeling something in the flesh” to its manifestation through her art passes through more than just one step. That is, between the two extremes––suffused with personal, intimate and subjective experientiality––a particular aura emerges, secured by her aesthetic experience. One step, one degree, one move that many will surely never take––the worse for them––but that nevertheless others, Zaera included, do, adding extra enrichment to their lives.
It is here, then, that we encounter a key term for what we have before us, namelyaἴszesisthe experiencing of something in a peculiar way, aesthetically.
And in this transfer, at a poietic (making by creating) level, the technique of photography plays a part. A mediating technique we might say, through which forms––wrinkles, shrinkages, roughnesses, cracks…––are iconically apprehended, capturing a visual journey around the trees’ epidermis. Photographs compiled under the title of “Wounds, scars and other commemorations”.
And here we have another clarifying term: “commemorations”. To the marks, incisions or scars, which can clearly be classified as wounds, Rossana adds the term “commemorations”. This denotes another characteristic of her creative labors: she plays with, or handles, language admirably; her perceptions of reality are turned into images, which then become drawings of characters. And they are therefore formalized into an alphabet in a singular process that we might consider, emulating Mies van der Rohe’s paraphrasing of Thomas de Aquino, as adaequatio rei et intelecto.
“Commemorations”, yes, commemorations. A concept that, from its semantic assignment denotes distinction for something, or identification with something––medals, sashes, insignias––comes to have in this case, hic et nunc, the meaning of a mark that manifests a state or an event in oneself. In the case of the trees, in their own skin, in their bark …. In the case of humans––she, the artist; I, the one who writes; you, if you are so good as to read this––I believe it is, or may be, something more than––or as well as––a physical wound. A mark on our souls, this term understood of course in its psychosomatic sense.
That night, after her walk in the woods, Zaera wrote in her notebook: “In nature I have discovered the most beautiful of wounds. Never would I have imagined how similar they are to our own scars…” 1
This tells us that Rosanna in her amazement, in effect, is not only concerned about what the meaning of the wound entails, having seen it for real in the tree trunks; it also reflects her capacity to capture a beauty (qaumazw) in this experiential act. Such that this amazement, as a result of the encounter, gives rise to, mobilizes, the impulse to capture the wounds iconically, not virtually but physically materialized, in the living plant, to then develop an aesthetic discourse and extend it with the discovery, in this development, of an alphabet that would keep––at least this is how she understands it––a secret of nature.
This nature that brings forth grass, rushes, trees… is disposed––as noted in Wabi-sabi––to shelter us, and to––continuing from this exquisite book of Japanese aesthetics––to offer us “a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete […] a beauty of things modest […] of things unconventional”.
And what are these wounds, revisited so many times by this artist, if not incomplete things? Isn’t this seen in the cracks and grooves that score the bark and the workings of time upon it, even the crazed epidermis where the “drawing-wound” appears? But even so, this imperfection or incompleteness has its own beauty: the beauty of the small, the modest, the unconventional. Is simplicity, then, incompatible with beauty? Not at all. And the unconventional? Again, clearly not.
In creating her work Rossana Zaera has a pedagogical vision: she wants people to make use of her labors and be able to reflect from the inputs she gives that, in this case, may well be reflections on pain and its scars, wounds. Reflection that of course embraces a moral and truly human commitment. Just think: how many wounds are we capable of opening up with the way we are, with our snubs and slights, with our scorn or contempt for the other? Many, needless to say.
Yet faced with this senselessness, having caused them we must strive to salve the wounds, heal them; and though they leave scars, this does not negate the attempt—or better, the commitment—to seal our conceptual aberrations, deriving in wounding social actions, toward others, at the same time as making us, ourselves, more human.
So we might echo the Roman playwright Publius Terentius Afer who in the second century B.C. stated: “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”: I am a human, I consider nothing that is human alien to me. And that is precisely the case with Rossana Zaera.
Wences Rambla. Universitat Jaume I. Castellón (Spain)
 Koren, L., Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, Stone Bridge Press 1994