Friday, 3 May 2019

Decreto 349 | Apr-May 2019

Ariel Cabrera Montejo, Concha Martinez Barreto, Javier Torras Casas

Ariel Cabrera Montejo | Behind the Scenes from the series Secondary Papers | 2018 | Watercolour on paper | 66.5x86cm 

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to introduce Ariel Cabrera Montejo and Concha Martinez Barreto alongside Young Gods alumnus Javier Torras Casas. Cuban artist Ariel Cabrera Montejo makes drawings, watercolours and oil paintings that serve as a segue to another time and
another place, whilst operating very much within the contemporary arena. Stylistically, Cabrera Montejo’s ‘La Tregua Fecunda’ series suggests French fin de si├Ęcle painting. Exuberant brushstrokes depict man and woman at leisure, cavorting and experimenting. The title La Tregua Fecunda – The Fertile Truce – substantiates this notion. However, the term refers to the interwar period in Cuba between 1878 and 1895, after which Cuba regained independence from their Spanish colonial rulers in the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898). With this in mind, Cabrera Montejo’s depictions of jouissance become redolent of a debauched, military interlude where the affirmation of life is expressed via pleasure. Again, we are minded of late 19th century French painting, where people at leisure, enabled by industrialisation (new wealth and improved transport) and Baron Haussmann’s regeneration of Paris, became popular subjects for avant-garde artists. 

The broader subjects of Cabrera Montejo’s ‘Secondary Papers’ series provide a more panoramic view of his practice. Often opening out into larger scale pieces, we are presented with intricate compositions where protagonists operate within complex environments. Recalling Cabrera Montejo’s earlier experience as a stage designer, figures and objects might appear to be cut out and collaged into view. His subjects interact within a stage, film set or fairground, again referencing the colonial and militaristic in combination with leisure and pastime. In Spanish there is no distinction between the definitions of history and story. 

Ariel Cabrera Montejo | From the series La Treguna Fecunda | 2018 | Watercolour on paper | 38x28cm

This fusion of meaning is encapsulated by Spanish artist Concha Martinez Barreto’s work. Martinez Barreto emphasizes not the grand lineage of canonical history, but rather small, personal stories that might subvert official, linear narratives. Her finely painted scenes are derived from collected, anonymous photographs and so can be considered a version of history painting, but Martinez Barreto prefers to focus on the notion of memory and its capabilities as well as its fallibilities. As such, she embraces the plurality of events and interpretation, whilst illustrating that the universal is often discernible within the personal. She wants to enliven the past and to create something durable from the ephemeral; and elicit the known from the unknown.

Concha Martinez Barreto | S/t 8 | 2017 Oil on canvas 40x50cm

Martinez Barreto’s compositions often depict figures and animals where their scale is disrupted. Babies who are bigger than adults or sheep who tower above children are located mostly in landscapes. Symbolically, this is to assert that our memories of time, place and people do not necessarily coexist with clarity. Occasionally Martinez Barreto will employ the Medieval device of
depicting the same person within the same painting, but at different ages, emphasizing that past and present are interconnected, but not coherently. These paintings are subtly uncanny, their dreamlike qualities reinforced by Martinez Barreto’s monochrome palette.

Javier Torras Casas | Tapestry | 2018 Clay, wax and found objects | 180x70x25cm

London based Spanish artist Javier Torras Casas explores personal and objective histories in his mixed media installations. Combining hand worked organic materials such as clay with blown glass and collected industrial objects, Torras Casas makes work that proposes correlations between natural and manufactured; durable and fragile; historical and new. In ‘Tintes y Mercerizados de especialidad’, a sculptural assemblage that is titled after his grandfather’s now defunct textile factory in Barcelona, Torras Casas utilises original parts of machinery found in the warehouse alongside other collected and manipulated objects. The piece is finely poised, where a delicate interplay between balance, weight and fragility conveys the impermanence of place, people and memory via the precariousness of objects and their interconnections. 

The objects that Torras Casas uses become evocative of specific political conditions by association. ‘Tapestry’ is composed of archived parcels of thread that are accompanied with hand written labels, denoting the material they are made of; the machine that was used to process it; and year. Considering the factory was operating during General Franco’s totalitarian regime, classified
bundles of organic material take on a sinister tenor. Torras Casas’ work, therefore, operates autobiographically both personally and generally. It seeks to memorialise and in doing so imparts considerable symbolic significance to the discarded, defunct and forgotten.

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