museo pescador

Sacred Symbols in Canary Art

Text for the exhibition ISLA 2.0 curated by Charlie Five in San Andrés y Sauces, 9 October 2013.

Sacred symbols served our ancestors (the ancient Canarians and many of the ancient civilisations) to transcend present space and time. Symbols represented a channel, a way, a door through which to access other possible spaces and times1.

Art, to a certain extent, has inherited that liturgical function, trivialised and desacralised by modernity, modern religions and science: through symbols, through the construction of the symbolic (the painting, the photo, the video), a connection, alongside other realities, is posited , usually far from the present space and time. I would like to think that there is still something magical, transcendent and “primitive” in art, which for some reason, we continue to preserve through time.

The island is the theme of this exhibition. It is the origin and the end of the story. It is the space where the artists in this exhibition live, and it is the space that structures us mentally. The island is and is defined as a limited space: a piece of land enclosed by the sea.

Just as our ancients used their “sacred symbols” to transcend, a group of Canarian artists and intellectuals used art to transcend the physical space of the island: of all the journeys of modern art in the Canary Islands, our intellectual Eduardo Westerdahl is the axis that articulates and firmly establishes the first overwhelming links of the island. Gaceta de Arte was the result of this “symbolic” work where the avant-garde and “Modern” ideas came to land firmly, like an oxygenating catharsis in the bowels of the Teide. Modern art in the Canary Islands landed in the hands of Eduardo Westerdahl, and all those artists in connection with the incipient European ideas.

It should come as no surprise that Eduardo Westerdahl was once again the pillar on which the LADAC 2 group was based, the continuation in some way of that first Canarian avant-garde, which in its aim of continuation and extension, turned to informalism and extended its limits beyond the islands.It was then that the links were finally established with Catalonia and, in its theoretical aspect, with the Altamira School. Curiously and almost surprisingly, at this time the relationship between the modern and the primitive was once again established, and this is how Manolo Millares was able to generate an international avant-garde artistic proposition, without the slightest uprooting of the mysterious and sacred contained in the material legacy of our ancestors. Past and present coexist. Local and international. Island and universe in an artistic whole that escapes borders.It should not surprise us that Eduardo Westerdahl is once again the pillar on which the LADAC2 group is based, the continuation in some way of that first Canarian avant-garde, which in its aim of continuation and extension, turns to informalism and extends its limits beyond the islands.

It was then that the links were finally established with Catalonia and, in its theoretical aspect, with the Altamira School. Curiously and almost surprisingly, at this time the relationship between the modern and the primitive was once again established, and this is how Manolo Millares was able to generate an international avant-garde artistic proposal, without the slightest uprooting of the mysterious and sacred contained in the material legacy of our ancestors. Past and present coexist. Local and international. Island and universe in an artistic whole that escapes borders.

One of the objectives of isla 2.0 is to give continuity to this common thread of modern, avant-garde art and artists who suffer and experience the island as a deep-rooted inner entity. Not an easy task. But not only that: the island is a limited space, by definition, but it is also a space in expansion, seen stratigraphically from a polymorphic vision – like all reality, open to interpretation – the island is a vein, an excuse on which to reflect and approach.

The island contains, as our ancients knew how to observe, the whole of the universe. Through the island, one can channel all human potential, all probable themes, use all existing languages and, if possible, invent those yet to be discovered. An island is, in any case, one of the many possible excuses to produce a poetic and transcendent artistic event, capable of recovering any sacred vision of existence and regenerating the links between life and society. That is why today, more than ever, we need new and multiple islands, artists capable of inhabiting them, of producing them, of regenerating them. In this sense ISLA 2.0 is nothing but a call for help, a call for attention to a de-ritualised space that asks only to be, once again, a space worthy of possessing the transcendence it once had through art. I is a creative invitation for those artists who have known how to take possession of “the primordial” in art and use its essence as part of their work.

In this sense it is, first of all, a pleasure to have in this exhibition the artist Luis Palmero, whose forms play with space, where the game becomes art, not to mention the prophetic vision of Óscar Lorenzo, whose work contains the multiple “Islands” and many of those possible universes. Additionally, there is the figuration on the way to expressionist abstraction of Pedro Fausto, the mythological vision of Jorge Beda, who turns the island into a space inhabited by Titans and Greek deities, the expanding universes of Mercedes Martín, the material possibilities and meticulous elaborations of Rosa Vidal – the island as a paper construction – adding to the ceramic poetry of Isa Mar and the abrupt “graphisms” of Jesús Guerra. We all contribute a grain of sand to this pending debate on the “Island”, as a psychological, physical and mental space yet to be conquered, both inside and outside of contemporary art. Simply re-opening this debate is enough for me.

San Andrés y Sauces, 9 October 2013.