MARTA CHIRINO: BEHIND THE CIPHER

MARTA CHIRINO: BEHIND THE CIPHER

Texto publicado en el catálogo
MARTA CHIRINO ARGENTA  (28/07/2012-08/09/2012)
A Caridá, 2012: Amigos de As Quintas, pp. 3-5
 

Those who decide to depict the natural world always express time, for they immediately invoke fleetingness, that which is transient and, as we know, is destined to fade away. A picture of an iris or an oleander evokes the short-lived moments when the corolla opens as the summer begins to stir, and the same can be said for the brief ripening of fruit and withering flowers; and the bouquet that will wilt in a matter of days. Artists who create true works always go out on a limb, and to show nature like this, with the fragmentary intensity deployed by Marta Chirino (Madrid, 1963), amounts to propounding a resolute, sincere, almost radical kind of direct approach to art, and also, to a certain extent, facing the risks involved in working on the frontier of the experience of investigating so-called botanical art. “Mysterious nature, the air shines all around, but the earth burns in the dark water”, wrote Pablo Palazuelo, who also composed some beautiful lines linking nature with time and the act of creation (“the pomegranate tree, a slow yellow polyhedron”).[1] Moreover, these words seem to express a certainty he shares with Chirino about the impalpable tremor of the surrounding natural world, arising from the secret murmur that envelops nature and from that disquieting vibration of natural things, as well as from the extraordinary experience, for a creative artist, of exploring such uncertainties.[2]

To write a single line of poetry, as Malte Laurids Brigge noted on arriving in Paris in 1904, “one must see many cities, people and things, one must know animals, must feel how the birds fly, and know the gestures with which small flowers open in the morning. One must be able to think back to paths in unknown regions […]”.[3] Artists need to know the gestures of flowers and the uncertain path, for the art of our time has discovered that they have to explore the existence of universes that are invisible, in the sense of being alien to reason, mysterious extra-retinal worlds which were to lead creative artists to feel their way towards unveiling the enigmas of being. Marta Chirino, the daughter of a sculptor of Winds and Roots, addresses a disquieting fusion of knowledge and art in her work, far removed in every way from the remarkable botanical draughtsmanship of earlier centuries. In this sense, her work, which is after all a veritable ontological exultation of nature, represents a prolonged and tense process of listening to the natural world. Her activity, conducted with serene lucidity, is closer in essence to contemporary artists who have regarded nature as the original source of their work, and at this point we ought to also cite the supreme example of Paul Klee, the artist who considered that the origin of art was precisely the inescapable need to discover the profound reality of nature, what Marta herself once called “the original idea”, the one that would enable the artist to reveal, or at least to sense, its hidden structures.[4] This is achieved by a process of “reinvention” in her works, as she described it on one occasion,[5] through a powerful use of sensory confusion: flowers that look like skins, branches with a bony appearance, seeds that resemble insects, memorabilia of the bunch of flowers that evoke vanitas

The works of this artist transcend the limits of representation, becoming, instead, an expression of nostalgia for an absolute. So these subtly executed drawings or engravings, with their sense of everything fading away, seem to remind us of the fragility of appearances, or perhaps make us wonder about a previous state of plenitude. A sense of minimal cosmic space submerged in the illusion of shadows, a strange suspension of time: such are Marta Chirino’s drawings. Often there is no ground shown and her plant forms float in an atmospheric space, sometimes like apparitions looming over a cosmic chasm, at other times seemingly consumed by the air. The drawings have a dreamlike atmosphere, with a certain air of emanating from a twilight state of consciousness and a general predilection for shadows or half-shadows, and this is precisely how they evoke, as they grow, the miraculous nature of their substantiality created out of immateriality. Marta Chirino has now been calmly working, with gentle persistence and a hazy sense of ritornello, for two decades, years of drawings in which she has constantly presented plant subjects with an air of remoteness, as if they came from the ends of the earth. So their depiction seems to be located in a realm that appears impalpable and yet occupies the paper with a sense of plenitude, like an extraordinary apparition, with “limbo-like clarity”, as Marta wrote.

Looking at some of her most recent works I found myself thinking that this artist seems to observe not so much the finished element as the sense of how it is formed, generally eschewing a vacuous celebration of colour. And so her work celebrates concentration, in the manner of someone listening intently. This, in turn, gives rise to a kind of botanical pathos in her drawings and engravings. The artist’s activity is reduced to essentials, to the line from which the world emerges. Based on this kind of linear sensibility, leading to a sort of silent, unforgettable chiaroscuro, what Marta does can be summed up in a couple of words: making visible.

This artist has sometimes explained how her work arises from walking and observing the mysteries of nature while tracing her own path, as Machado put it,[6] thereby becoming a true explorer of nature. Ultimately, Marta Chirino emulates the epic enterprise described by Klee when he postulated a quest for a hidden form of writing that would enable us to understand the world. As Novalis wrote: “Various are the roads of man. He who follows and compares them will see strange figures emerge, figures which seem to belong to that great cipher which we discern written everywhere”.[7]

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Se reprodujo en el catálogo de la exposición MARTA CHIRINO. FLORILEGIUM

Madrid: Galería Lucía Mendoza, 2016, pp. 15-20

[1] See Alfonso de la Torre: “Arde la tierra en el agua oscura”, in Revista Turia, no. 103, Teruel, 2012.

[2] “Il y a quelque chose, une créature en moi, qui va d’un tel train qu’à vouloir la suivre je m’essouffle, condamné á n’être toujours qu’un traînard derrière cette voyageuse qui peut, elle, remonter l’infini des temps et en revenir chargée de tous les trésors de ses périples entre deux battements de mon cœur,” George William Russell : “L’Architecture du rêve”, in “Palazuelo”, Derrière le miroir, no. 104, Maeght Éditeur, Paris, 1958. The text, entitled “Candle of Vision”, is reproduced in Alfonso de la Torre: “Pablo Palazuelo, 13 rue Saint-Jacques (1948-1968)”, Fundación Juan March-Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza, Madrid-Alzuza, 2010-2011, p. 232.

[3] Rainer María Rilke: The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, trans. Burton Pike, Dalkey Archive Press, Champaign, IL, 2008, pp. 13-14.

[4] “In order to dissect the seed of the original idea, I examine the tiny structures it is made of, discovering the parts that are invisible to the human eye and which, without the appropriate magnification, would remain on the surface”, Marta Chirino: “El proceso creativo” / “The Creative Process”, in Marta Chirino: Sobre la Naturaleza y el Arte, Ediciones del Umbral, Madrid, 2009, p. 107.

[5] “Flowers and plants that are reinvented in size and shape, demand a new space in the process of creation in order to position themselves in that critical moment when I am nothing but their scribe.” Marta Chirino: ibid.

[6] “When I am out for a walk, I can’t help noticing the branches on the trees and looking at the ground, at the remains of fallen leaves, fruit and petals. Sometimes I discover an odd different form shaped by the whim of nature—a curving branch, a leaf whose sections create an unexpected sculptural shape, a flower hiding a unique microcosm…—that prove irresistible to the tools of my hand, pencils. […] and so we trace our path as we walk, as the poet said.” Marta Chirino: ibid.

[7] Novalis: The Novices of Sais, trans. Ralph Manheim, with illustrations by Paul Klee, Brooklyn, NY, Archipelago Books, 2005, p. 9.