Continents too narrow for their content: bodies trapped in glass boxes, feline fierceness fading in black cages … The bars jail, like the panthers, were no more than shadows of a deep dream of Paloma Navares, shadows that throughout her life has been veiling appearances, so she has been forced to grope what is not apparent.
The idea of confinement that upholds her artistic work is probably a reflection of the fear of being trapped in a windowless room, that is, her own body, in the face of a progressive loss of vision.
Navares did not succumb to illness but instead took advantage of her altered perception to invent alternative ways to connect with the world. The vision was freed for her from the imperative of the gaze so that her installations have the quality of the ungraspable.
At nightfall, she entered the gardens of Botticelli, Tiziano and Cranach to steal their nymphs, Eves and Venus. She vampirized those suggestive fleshes that typified for centuries the feminine beauty, sucked their blood and introduced them in transparent cylinders whose inner light seemed to preserve them in an eternal limbo. First, she hung them as hangers connected to electricity (1989-1995), then she chopped them up, enclosing those fragments in fluorescent niches, composing the whole a laboratory environment.
What began with the intention of deconstructing the feminine ideal that painters were fixing throughout the history of art, resulted in an advance of what science will perpetuate in its search for artificial beauty, a test-tube woman or Future Eve modeled on the image of the man ghosts.
We owe Camille Paglia a suggestive reflection on the origin of art. She defines art as Apollonian, inspired by the anguish that man feels before the excesses of nature, before the Dionysian overflow. The woman is Dionysian fluidity in the masculine psyche, for that reason the artist tries to fix the perpetual movement in a perceptive moment.
In relation to the representation of the female body, Paglia argues that paying tribute to an ideal, by reducing it to a sexual object by fixing the most “watery” parts of her anatomy (breasts, hips, buttocks), those that reflect the sea that flows from the chthonic nature, they believe in the illusion of stabilizing that flow that scares them.
Navares, during more than thirty years, has explored with a variety of techniques and languages the dangers of wanting to transform that “overflow” into “still water”, denouncing the taxidermy of the soul trapped in beautiful forms. She did it by interweaving the history of art with her own and that of other women, feeling trapped in a narrow continent, balancing between personal and shared experiences, attending to the promises of science, aware of perceiving the world behind a membrane, behind a glass.
Paloma Navares. Del jardín de la memoria
until 22th April 2018
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid