La Princesa Ometepetl en su Jardin
c1980 by Abel Vargas
Instituto Nicaraguense de Cultura, Convento San Francisco, Granada, Nicaragua
Hanging on the cool stone walls of the sixteenth-century Convento San Francisco are a collection of Nicaraguan painters. The style of these artists unites them – all are naive in approach; colour is bold, lines are simple, creating a quiet and immediately accessible beauty to each of the works – no matter what the subject matter. When some of the paintings show the brutality of civil war or the ravaging of villages – such as Amilcar Mendieta’s La Batalla de San Jacinto, 1988 – this naive approach is made all the more poignant, flat and two-dimensional blood seeping in puddles from Lowry-like matchstick men. Such violence, much of which is in living memory, is perhaps made easier to remember – or indeed taken possession of – in a style which is akin to the primitive painters of the country’s history. It is no surprise then that much of the other work by this group of painters is inspired by pre-Columbian legends, indigenous village life and mythological Nicaraguan figures. La Princesa Ometepetl en su Jardin is such a painting, showing the Princess of the island Ometepe ‘in the garden’. Vargas was born on the island of Ometepe – a mystical place even without the mythology, it is formed of two dramatic volcanoes and sits on Lago de Nicaragua – a lake so big that Spanish invaders thought they were setting out to sea when they first came across its shores. The painting shows the outline of the island’s distant volcanoes, their bright green tops, lush with jungle, misty in pillows of violet clouds. The jungle in the foreground appears shining and plump, abundant in leaves and lusciously healthy, with each detail picked out brightly. It is the almost childlike style of Vargas that lets nature appear so cheerfully; every leaf striving upwards, holding the jungle’s animals – the parrot, humming bird and tropical frog – still before us. The Princess herself appears as beautifully arranged as the green that surrounds her; serene in posture and composure, she holds out a red fruit, symbolising perhaps the passion, blood and love of her country. So perfectly undisturbed, Vargas’s garden is fanciful, yet not untrue; like so many Latin American artists and novelists, Vargas combines reality with mysticism to show another way.
Taking a break in Central America, postcardwall’s weekly postcards will be few and far between for a while.
Follow on twitter @postcardwall_ for Central American art updates and watch this space for postcards from across the ocean come September…
Between Folds / Composition N.1: A Diagonal Line
2014 by Francisca Prieto
UNDERLINED, 29 May – 21 June, jaggedart, London
Prieto’s new body of work concentrates on the line, using its symbols and associations to govern her unique practice (see postcard 319). The line has endless expressions: it divides; it measures; it joins; it slices apart and binds together, forming the most intrinsic and universal signs. Francisca abstracts eight recognisable linear forms and invites us to enjoy them for the simplicity of their composition. The lean of a diagonal line, poised for movement, aptly unfolds with the records of motion, of sport – with the pages of The Wanderers cricket club logbook. As the angle of the composition pushes our eyes forward, Francisca grounds them with the vertical lines of the logbook’s tables, which run straight down. These bright red lines widen and narrow with a movement that mirrors the rhythm of throwing and catching, creating a tension between direction and motion. Emerging from between the gridlines are the softly hand-written words of play – “bowled”, “out” – repeated with the emphasis of an umpire’s call. Begun with the words “played at…”, the line (the game) is drawn to a close with the inky and inevitable “rain stopped play”.
A Diagonal Line will be on exhibition along with the seven other compositions in UNDERLINED, at jaggedart until 21 June. postcardwall (Sophie Hill) has written about all eight works to accompany the exhibition, so visit the show to read about them all.
THE WORLD EXISTS TO BE PUT ON A POSTCARD
2013 by Simon Cutts
Simon Cutts’s art invites us to a place where the lines between ‘a work of art’ and ‘a work of print’ overlap. Books have been considered art for decades; before the printing press any illustration would have been an original, and it is words on a page that inspire some of our most intense imagination. Cutts harnesses this powerful medium to create artworks that require this different level of interaction. In the 1975 work Poinsettia, Cutts makes his ‘book’ out of a white box, which conceals two ‘pages’ (seemingly made of clothing name-tape) suspended by string – the left reading in green ‘my favourite flowers’ , the right in red ‘are leaves’; an image could not have better conjured this eccentric plant. THE WORLD EXISTS TO BE PUT ON A POSTCARD is just as powerful, suspending this loaded phrase in the centre of one of the most influential forms of material communication. The phrase is emphasised through its being built into its very medium – the black embossed lettering is carved into the thick pulp of the paper, so thick that the letters remain invisible on the other side. These words are given weight, as the postcard stands stiff in our hand. As people take pains over selecting a postcard that represents something – whether it be a holiday, a sentiment or exhibition – Cutts has cast the world as a selection of loaded images, ripe for the printing. Cutts is playing with a phrase of the French poet Mallarmé, “…que tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre” – everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book – which, printed on the back of the card, reflects that often the world does seem to exist just so you can tell someone about it. Immediately evocative of the countless images that we’ve ever wanted a postcard of, Cutts’s card could be sent to anyone.
not without undue prolixity
c2000 by Dolores de Sade
The Other Art Fair, www.doloresdesade.com
The Other Art Fair 2014, having moved from East to West, was as busy as last year, with people queuing at the tills all the way down the stairs to buy directly from artists. Dolores de Sade was both at the Truman Brewery last year as well as at Ambika P3 last week, drawing us into her monotone worlds. De Sade works using the often forgotten media of etching, drawing on its exquisite potential to mark meticulous detail. Etchings have a depth, a gravitas – perhaps from their use in books – that demands a certain way of looking. Their quiet beauty, subtle in black and white, is all the more expressive for its limitations, with concentration on the leading line and the evocative pattern of shadows. De Sade’s work is often curiously humorous – eight lined-up conifers finished with the words “and so on…” – including text or half-hidden objects, yet the imaginative potential of the etching is truly manipulated in her places or scenes. As sporadic illustrations in a dusty old book, these images invite us in with their detail and frozen narrative; their sharp outlines freezing moments in time, leaving each scene paused with a hushed anticipation, suspended in the clarity of the image. Indeed, in not without undue prolixity de Sade’s scene stops mid-action, capturing a split second as a man falls through the air and a puff of smoke clouds a barrel of a gun. The violent action of these distant figures is framed elaborately with the rolling shapes of the rock-face – so bowed-over and huddled towards the scene, they appear almost alive, party to the cruel trick of the shot. The light, bathing the falling figure ethereally, is a glorious haze, triumphant against the dark and heavily etched rocks. The possibilities of the story – the shot, the fact that the man falls above the figure who holds the gun – are intriguing; the very lines of the etching burrowing deeper into our imagination the longer we gaze at the image.
The Three Million Case
1926 by Georgii & Vladimir Stenberg
KINO/FILM. Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen, GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts & Design
The Moscow born Stenberg brothers were iconic artists of their time, working in a country so ignited with change that excitement and ideas flowed richly to those who could afford to have them. The brothers were key in the many emerging institutions of the time, co-founding OBMOKhU (Society of Young Artists) and pioneers of the Constructivist movement that encouraged the teeming overlap of disciplines. If you could construct you could build, and building meant anything from sculpture to illustration to set design, thus an all-encompassing art evolved. The Stenbergs designed many film posters – films being integral to both art and government propaganda – drawing on the poignant impact the new and freeing collage approach provided; perspective could be defied, scale muddled and colour bold. The Three Million Case poster is overwhelmed by the imposing and over-sized face of a protagonist, jarringly sliced in half. With red lips and a beauty spot, she should perhaps be the embodiment of enviable film-star glamour, yet her menacing stare and arched brows cut her persona far deeper. One side of her face lies in the darkness of shadow, while the other is illuminated with the stark beam of a spot-light – its source invitingly unknown. The two figures beneath, bending it seems to the dynamic line of constructivism itself, are so crisp a modern eye would think them digital. The pattern of their trousers – flat, meticulous and monotone – almost premeditate the pop art of Lichtenstein (postcard 93) and the like, casting these curious little figures as new-age silhouettes against the block of blue. The composition is finished – underlined – with a yellow block at the bottom; almost magnet-like, this bright line pulls the Stenbergs’ carefully arranged and abstracted components together.
2003 by Thomas A Clark
an island postcard (2) published by Essence Press
Essence Press publish minimalist works by artists and poets, predominantly from artist Julie Johnstone. island was a biannual publication for writing inspired by nature, though sadly it is no longer published. Happily, we have a postcard to remember it by and the poetry of Scottish poet Thomas A Clark, inspired by the landscape and its evocative details, is perfect for Essence Press’s subtle approach to printing where words, paper and texture are treated as elements to a composition. The text of Five Waves is given space to breath, so the poignant ideas seep into the surrounding emptiness of white, igniting it as words pull images from the depths of our imagination. As we would take in the view and expanse of a horizon – a sparkling sea of freedom and possibility – Clark’s lines gleam as the lines of waves before us, hovering in the distance. The repetitive ‘to learn’ begins each line as the lapping beat of the tide, the words ‘the sea’ answering with the shhhhhh of a wave each time. The blue, almost iridescent against the white, is softly violet as water, natural as duck-egg, betraying nothing of the possessive indigo or turquoise. The rippling of realisation whilst reading each line, as one remembers a lesson they too learnt by the sea, is quietly haunting; butterflies of feeling as we are lulled into a feeling of solace, carried with these words that spell the power of nature.