A distinctive quality of Rachel Valdés’ work is her willingness to introduce the spectator as an essential element within it. She gives the recipient a place, a presence and an acknowledgment creating a dialog between subject, object, and surroundings. And once again, this will be the central concept that will guide us through the works of this exhibition named “Piscinas”, which is made up of watercolors on paper, digital drawings, photography, and a background sound of rain that takes us back to La Habana in the 90s.
In this exhibition, the artist invites us to have a dialog with modified landscapes, monuments to oblivion full of patterns, reflections, repetitions, distortions of rectangular shapes with great deepness. In it, the vanishing point, that is created by straight lines from one side to the other, takes control of the spectator’s view as if it were a magnet. These landscapes modify the established perception of what we believe we know, providing iconological conceptions that give absolute primacy to the immersion in a subjective experience.
This projection of the subject, of the state in which the sensible shape surpasses the imagination’s ability to comprehend, is where Rachel takes us with her architectonic representations: “Sublime is what (…) proves that the mind has a power of surpassing any standard of sense” (1). That sublime vision that a young person lives during childhood regarding the megalomaniac constructions and that the artist acknowledges when she remembers the sports center where she had her first swimming lessons.
These big constructions awaken the ideal of infinity and transfer a contemplation state where all the senses are activated to distort the known reality. New points of view about space and surroundings that make us question existence, the dilemma between what is mental and physical, objective and subjective, the space we live in and our relationship, as a human being, with what surrounds us.
There is only one small border line between mind and matter, subject, and object. When subject and object disintegrate and turn into only one element, the mind becomes conscious of itself as matter that depends on another one that disintegrates in one, questioning political and moral aspects from the individual and the surroundings. The artist describes it in her last interview as follows:
- “Even if pools are almost urban elements, they are paradoxically underlying in the intimacy of my dreams. They are associated to my formal obsession spectrum such as pyramids, walls, labyrinths, and architecture in general. They are elements of my journeys inside and outside of myself.”
These mysterious works, as Nietzche calls them, are a one-way journey to the unity of Essential Beauty that is inexistent and inalienable. A harmonizing and utopic interconnection that is borrowed from the neo-platonic tradition. It is a combination of joy and melancholy. It’s as if we could go back thirty years and live the hedonism of a time that already went past, a utopic world in a bubble that is conditioned by a territory that is isolated from the world due to its condition as an island.
These fragments of the island seem to be pure landscapes. Like the place of an empty urban space and pure history. However, the city landscape can only happen where its organization lies, it finishes where it ends, where nobody has taken the trouble to care for it, where a part of its domain ceases, where the space is allowed to form without being able or wanting to dispose of it.
- “The country is, in a certain way, the landscape’s zero grade, the one that precedes its ‘artialisation’; no matter if it is direct (in situ) or indirect (invisu)… as artists we are responsible of remembering this first truth that is forgotten: that a country isn’t simply a landscape and that, between one and the other is the elaboration of art.” (2)
Rachel Valdés shows us the city where she lived, that she experimented and contemplated during her childhood. All her doubts and incongruencies before that urban construction and all that love that she created with her poetry and beauty. “Imagined places”, both in its aesthetic sense and as the symbol of a memory, independent from space and time that are characterized by memory’s immortality. The abyss, the space and nothingness lay out temporality problems between a before and an after that are modified or not by the human being.
These concepts are recurring in Rachel Valdés’ work and they enable you to differentiate other terms such as real and imaginary, possible and impossible, here and there, today and tomorrow. Even if these concepts have been located in the future since the 18th century, it is in the 21st century when we talk about sublime experiences here and now.
“Piscinas” lays out the conceptual relationship between the observer and the surroundings, between center and border, between what you see and what is being seen. A rupture from the point of view through the work of art that consists in a way of seeing, and of addressing the proposed work and questioning aspects of the subject and the surroundings."
The experience between subject and object in a work of art collapse through conscience. The distortion of space and the extraction of functionality generates a new way of thinking about the place through which you can discern a series of social and political conflicts in La Habana. And far from wanting to show a pessimistic view of a land at a certain time, it proposes a concrete dialectic between people and nature with the artifice created by man. And it is through art that you can do something useful for society. The artist can create a garden, a place where to look back and materialize the place with the same solid time. Through the integration of the subject as another object, the biological life is related as the natural object, being able to contemplate itself as a temporary essence.
- “The authentic artist cannot turn his back on the contradictions than inhabit our landscapes.” (3)
Sara G. Arjona. The pure landscape of imagined places
1 KANT, M. (1977). Critique of Judgment Madrid: Espasa Calpe.
2 ROGER, Alain. Breve tratado del paisaje. Biblioteca Nueva, Madrid, 2007.
3 Smithson, R. (1973). Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape. Artforum II, 157 - 171