Regina Gimenez El sol i la taula

10 Nov 2018 - 13 Jan 2019
El sol i la taula

Overview

The sun and the table

Regina Gimenez’s work can be understood as an obsolete set of maps, cosmologies and scientific drawings that are put together to be turned into abstract forms. These geometries come from an organic process that goes through the search at antiques markets and on the internet for different paper materials with the potential to be transformed into simple shapes. This specific universe is generated through the superposition and repetition of motifs, so characteristic of the artist. All this, with the will to simplify, is understood as a laborious and not an easy work, to try to determine the composition and discard everything that is not useful for achieving aesthetic functions. This gesture reminds us of the utopian and rationalist process of the modern movement, but also of its subsequent questioning and inconsistency. This fragility is translated into the materiality of the work, which is very far from being cold and perfect, and which consciously reveals the passing of time and the possibility of error of the manual gesture. Layers, corrections and colours can be perceived on the fabrics, which are repeated and superimposed, with a method which, in many cases, wherever chance and playful composition predominate, reminds us of the work of modern female artists such as Annie Albers or Sonia Delaunay, or of the calligrams of the artists of the Catalan Avant-Garde.

What would the sun look like from each of the planets of its system? This poetic image, now obsolete, becomes the starting point for many of the artist’s works. A simple composition with circles that allude to a shape and a size incapable of being conceived. But for that very reason it becomes a universal form that everyone can do and repeat countless times. The installation of templates to draw The sun and the table are custom-made as a game for children, so that they can participate in the exhibition, and the tables are also custom-made, preserving this same scale of elements. A composition that invites you to sit, draw, colour and transform circles into future solar systems.

Gimenez’s compositions are inspired by the simplicity of that avant-garde architecture and design that sought to democratize form, and to make art available to everyone. But as a philosophical basis there was the ambition for a new spiritual, political and social world. We think of the cosmic geometries of Malevich or the stories of the Russian writer Nilokai Fiodorov, who thought about a utopia of a common social order based on spiritual harmony and scientific wisdom to reach immortality and to turn the Earth into a giant ship that would travel through the galaxies in search of planets to colonize. All this had to do with the physical and spiritual liberation of the individual, travelling through space before the vastness of the universe. Many philosophical and esoteric currents had the dynamic balance of the universe as a reference to create not only paintings but also their three-dimensional equivalents in objects and architectures. This gave them great freedom to experiment with production processes and format solutions, removing historical references and starting with a new and free canon, far from the destruction and the absurdity of the traditional order and the World Wars. Curiously enough, this holistic view of the world as a harmonious biocosmos could seem to be widely contemporary for us, and this is why movements such as cosmism are once again appreciated both for its aesthetics and for its creative thinking. The uniqueness of existence and the affinity of the whole with the rest can be understood as the synthesis of various artistic forms in particular, an aesthetic paradigm used by many artists, including Regina Gimenez, who has collaborated with different textile and graphic artists using her visual compositions. This case could also remind us of Sonia Delaunay, who formed part, together with her husband Robert, of the movement known as Orphism (1912-1914), a variant of Cubism close to abstraction, which intended to express the dynamic forms of nature through painting’s own resources, such as shape and colour. Similar to Gimenez’s compositions, they used circular bands of different colours that were divided into quadrants, which gave a certain rhythm and movement to the composition.

Now we know that the ideas of modernity were not as democratic as they claimed, specially because after leaving the conceptual phase they faced a very complex organic and social reality. From political interests to each of the communities, many ideas remained in theory and utopia, or were resolved by citizens, who knew their specific needs without paying attention to plans and programmes. In 2016, Gimenez presented a series of collages titled L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, which later became an artist’s book. This series is named after the emblematic architecture magazine of the modern movement, published in France since 1930. The artist found a copy in 1965, and following the work method, she selected the graphic parts of different advertisements of construction materials to turn them into abstract drawings. These materials and the announced novelties, which are now obsolete and unsustainable to us, end up obtaining a certain formal value through abstraction, in a gesture in which whatever is most modern and practical ends up losing its functional value and recovers it in a more free and playful way.

The sun

‘More sun, more light!’ is the desperate cry of our age, wrote a journalist of a German nudist newspaper in 1929. Nudists believed in the therapeutic value of the sun, which gained medical credibility during the 1920s thanks to the Swiss doctors August Rollier and Oskar Bernhard. Both tested the efficacy of the so-called sun cure (heliotherapy) on tuberculosis and malnutrition. This fact was so important that Bernhard was nominated for the Nobel Prize five times, and Rollier three times.

Surely there are few motifs as universal as the sun, with representations in different civilizations, from the Mayans to the Egyptians through the entire history of art and the avant-gardes. For example, the image of the sun in Miró’s work is recurrent, with a yellowish, reddish or orange shape. In this case, the representation of the sun becomes an ideogram, whose meaning is usually doubled by the word “SOL” (“sun”) in the image title.

… and the table

The idea that being outdoors is therapeutic has existed since the 1920s. The relationship between modernism and the new culture of the body and health were key to understanding a new way of life that would break with the past. The folding camping table could be considered as a summary of the modern ideology: a portable, light and accessible design that allows us to enjoy health and nature. The table is also a key element of the interior space, of the workspace and gatherings around food. The installation of ten tables that can be found in the large exhibition room becomes a gathering element, designed for visitors of all ages to enjoy. It is not the first time that the artist works with a piece of furniture, although this time it is “hidden”, only revealing its initial usefulness if we pay close attention. The interest of the artist towards the modern movement is inevitably related to design and architecture, following the motto of working aesthetically with all forms of life. The 2013 Interiores series reproduced interiors of modern houses, repeating compositions with each of the pieces of furniture that we have seen so many times in decoration magazines. Tables, chairs and lights compose the modern canon as we know it today, stripped of all its social and philosophical ideology to become luxury goods that move around the global market. And that movement is paradoxically one of the first to advocate for an “internationalization” and practicality of the forms that could be transported and used in the five continents. We think about the internationalization of architects like Le Corbusier or Niemeyer. Here is where another generative reason of Regina Gimenez’s universe comes into play, which are the discontinued maps and cartographies that suggest a certain fascination for the universal citizen who has the world at their feet. Stripped of the names of cities, mountains, seas, and landforms, they become mute forms that seem untouched by colonialism and the different political orders.

The game can be understood as a privileged place to build knowledge, where creativity and projection can be stimulated. The game gives us pleasure and satisfaction, and that is its purpose. Children are spontaneously involved in game situations, generating actions without having pressure from adults. They put all their experiences into practice and progress in the autonomy process. This willingness to play, to try and experiment with simple forms without having to justify oneself with great narratives is of great importance in Regina Gimenez’s work.

If we think of an indistinguishable work between design and play, an unavoidable reference is the world of the American designers Charles and Ray Eames. From equipment to transport the wounded during the Second World War to buildings, furniture, exhibitions and toys, this couple worked with a playful spirit that seemed to defy the seriousness of some of their European contemporaries. One of their less known works was The Toy, designed for people to play “in”, and The little Toy, to play “with”. They were a series of panels in different dimensions to get inside or put other toys and objects with square and triangular modular structures in different pure colours or with geometric patterns. Their interest was to think of new forms and uses for the materials and also to think of modular spaces with total freedom. The old images of these toys are in line with contemporary visual arts and architectural experiments that challenge what is understood as “home.” Playing with the image was also very important for the Eames. Another important reference is the film Powers of Ten, produced as an IBM advertisement in 1977, where they work with the scale of the universe and the human body. A camera zooms in constantly from the galaxies to the protons and neutrons within our skin. There is no better metaphor for modernity and the anthropic than this film, conceived as if everything revolves around men (male and American, of course).

With this philosophy, Gimenez, together with the artist Rafel G. Bianchi and the master of lithography Alain Chardon, created the editorial project Eldital’ull that “suggests visual exercises in the form of games for innocent and not so innocent children”, based on modern texts and magazines. These works constitute an exercise to lighten the great narratives of the mid-20th century to turn them into a simple game, precisely designed for one of the groups with the greatest capacity for intuition, children. Some of the titles of this series are Teoría del color, a lithographic poster built from different studies on colour made by authors such as Newton, Goethe, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee or Vassili Kandinsky, or Geometría Cósmica, made from schoolbooks of the 1930s with explanatory diagrams about the cosmos.

Repetition and letting anyone participate with each piece with a certain “do-it-yourself” spirit has a lot to do with what is playful and make up this signature so characteristic of Regina Gimenez’s work. Because playing is a very serious thing.

 

“There will always be an old lady who approaches children with scary faces and talking nonsense in an informal language full of strings of childish phrases. Children generally look very seriously at these people who have aged in vain; they do not understand what they want, and they go back to their games, simple and very serious games.”

Bruno Munari, Arte come mestiere, 1966

 

Rosa Lleó, curator of the exhibition

Installation views