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Spanish Photographer Chema Madoz Opens Show in Caracas

Madoz’s show will open on October 9 and runs until December 4.

(Catalogue text)

Chema Madoz: Metamorphosis of the Image

“between two different worlds, the same things are considered from two opposite formal viewpoints”

Walking in the City

Michel De Certeau

Chema Madoz’s work has a relaxed, disaffected jaunt to it, a distracted gaze that analyzes alternative realities along its way – realities that are not what they seem, nor have a clear purpose. These realities confront us with daily life (perhaps that other world that occurs alongside the one we are, in a formal sense, familiar with) in an endless dialogue between consciousness and memory, knowledge and feelings, appearance and reality. It is a sort of shift between the object and its meaning, or, better still, between its many interpretations.

Every image in his oeuvre is a self-contained world carefully constructed to make us think of the real world while at the same time immersing us in objects’ internal morphology, in the profundity of their creation and in their multiple meanings, because no work is what it seems. Madoz knows how to find the hidden links between things, just as a poet does: the poetic image reconciles the irreconcilable.

These diverse worlds are the meeting point for the images produced in our subconscious and thus enable us to create a new life. Our mind sets about creating that new world in a boundless, random and unpredictable way, free of prefabricated plans and baggage. This world is channeled and manipulated by the works, by the presence of art, the artist, the hidden manipulator that seems to belong to the world of illusion and fantasy. And therein resides the pleasure it gives us.

Each object has its original meaning removed so that it can become part of a little theater of attractions where the order of things is altered so they adopt different roles: some objects are protagonists, while others are part of the supporting cast; but each of them seems to be in a position that enables the minute reconstruction of new spaces for meaning to take place.

Madoz’s images constantly challenge the laws of reason. As poetic images they reproduce and bring together many different ideas. They are contradictory, plural, polysemous, instantaneous images that possess a hidden meaning, without necessarily aspiring to the whole truth.

In this sense, the ring placed inside the trick is also a commitment, representation, transcendence, deception, luxury, and punishment. These contrasting, dual meanings are maintained, consolidated and brought together in the photography.

It is thus clear how different elements begin to converge on the same reality: things that have nothing in common are artificially arranged to communicate other, potential things to us, which could exist as metaphors. It seems as if disparate ideas and objects were linked solely by the premonitory intuition of the artist who knows just how things will turn out: a cloud is trapped in a cage, as if the artist were seeking to curb its spontaneous, natural movement and thus freeze time at a particular moment. Another (or the same) cloud is apprehended; it settles on a single stake, transforming immediately into a thick tree with cotton leaves, which almost resembles the ludic landscapes that inhabit our subconscious.

The human mind tends to deny affirmations. We often cast off reasoning because it seems overbearing, but when something is uttered or, better still, suggested, our imagination laps it up. This explains why metaphoric language stimulates the imagination and spurs it on. From our own ideas and knowledge, we can thus interpret each image as individuals, taking them as particular and shared entities.

Madoz’s photographs constantly challenge the most basic reasoning, encouraging the imagination to find ways to get a mental grasp on things, in order to make our observation meaningful. They involve a constant negotiation of wonder and reason, in which falling into the void feels like a roller coaster and vertigo runs through our shivering beings until we find those moments of respite where we start to understand and rebuild our new reality with the clues provided to us by experience. Here the moment of communication appears, the moment of questions that trigger instant answers, bonding with other questions and answers that ultimately produce a network of meanings. However, reason is taken by surprise yet again: new images throng in our mind… and we fall into the void once more.

This metaphorical aspect of Madoz’s work appears time and again as a bridge to be crossed between desire and reality. There each image seems to be whole in both its form and meaning. The image does not provide explanations, but offers an invitation to recreate it.

On one hand, the needle links tiny drops of water to create that necklace of light, fragile and ephemeral pearls that we can almost touch but which we refrain from doing so they do not slip through our hands. On the other hand, the same needle moves sinuously and appropriately, turning into the sound of an endless intoned “so”, which introduces us to the music that dwells within us. It is as if something in a play had changed its role and taken on a different character depending on the occasion.

These are representations that challenge the way we think, but that are recomposed when other similar images fill in the empty spaces the works leave in our minds. The coquettish femininity of the string of threaded, meticulous, clean and perfect pearls brings to mind the metamorphosis of the image and the transmutations of meaning that occur harmoniously as we move between the works. We want to touch them but cannot because we know that if we did, the illusion would vanish.

Each image stands alone, but as the artist has developed a whole world of images, some connect with other apparently different works and thus continue to elaborate their own ideas. This recalls a brief, Surrealist story in which trees shed tears of Japanese poetry, or trees whose branches sprout succulent musical notes that recall the sound of birdsong, in that dreamlike forest where our subconscious also dwells. That poetic image the artist has constructed using his intuition is precisely what means that two different objects can be reconciled.

Madoz uses objects, appropriates them, mixes them, builds other realities with them and makes the impossible seem believable. He creates multiple worlds, fictional worlds that are parallel to the real world. These are personal worlds where we are invited to narrate our own version, to tell other stories.

The image of an altered piano, for instance, reminds us of John Cage and his sonatas and interludes for piano, in which the music itself enables us to re-encounter lost memories. Impressions, sensations and former life experiences emerge uncontrollably, automatically and involuntarily. Our memories are recreated and we follow the course of our thoughts. We begin to look for similarities that back up what we feel and our analysis begins…

In both Cage and Madoz the moment of execution, rather than the work itself, seems to be the important factor. Each of us finds in Madoz’s images different references and interpretations, just as each piano player interprets Cage’s music according to his own, particular style. Essentially, both seem to think of the work as a form of “execution”: the work comes to life with each interpretation.

Let us now analyze how each artist prepares his work. Both can envisage the final object, both alter object, select their different protagonists and broaden limits. In Cage: nuts, screws, bits of wood, plastic, and play dough are arranged as a series of instrumental chords, while Madoz deploys clocks, musical notes, clouds, bits of marble, books, compasses, old radios, and worn-our ladders. Ultimately, the parameters become more flexible: each object can be reinterpreted and take on a new meaning and spaces of meaning multiply to create a network of meanings.

As we move through the exhibition the route becomes clearer and we begin to ask ourselves (in those inevitable points of contact with reality): what came first in Madoz’s work – the idea that needed the object in order to emerge or the object’s need to be altered and taken to another reality? The answer is as illusory as the work itself.

In his photographs, ideas and objects seem to come together from different places, each one with its own function and meaning, but as they become part of the work’s composition each one takes on another role and changes its meaning. On one hand, is the object’s uncontrollable seduction of the person altering it, and on the other is the artist’s stubborn intention to reinterpret the initial idea. Consequently, the clock, which marks its own time, is now transformed into a moon on black marble, a unique object that seems to be perfectly located in order to make us sense the movement of the earth and the inexorable passage of time. Simliarly, the protractor, which is situated on the horizon, speaks of eternal days and nights that are repeated time and again, where every day is the same, just as in life. Landscapes are created with elements that reinforce and underline their basic meaning making them categorical according to a new logic: a logic that operates convincingly in Madoz’s world.

Madoz works with objects, but also with the connections that are woven between them and this explains why the same objects change their meaning when situated in another context: it provides a way of seeing how each object relates to itself. The clocks are both a moon and pieces in a game of checkers where each white counter has its own time, its own individuality. The message is underlined by the uniformity of the dark and identity-less black counters that accompany the game: is Madoz referring to our society? The black/white, rich/poor, governor/governed duality, in which each person articulates the other’s steps?

In any case, the artist acts as a catalyst for multiple ideas and sensations, each of which are mixed with our personal constellation of ideas. In his work, the artist persuades us to see his work polyhedrally. The confrontation of objects and things that look alike but are not is also an ever-present aspect of Madoz’s images. Life itself is dual, paradoxical, conflicting, and the artist knew this from the start. In his first images, which still included people (his friends), objects and characters were conflated and one took on the other’s role. In a triptych of legs photographed standing over a puddle of water (from his early works) the person is treated like a plant, another living being that also needs water to live, but which gets it via different means. Or is Madoz effectively suggesting that all living beings are equal? Is he suggesting that objects and people are sometimes the same?

The recurrent intentionality and the tautological, insistent statements in the composition of Madoz’s images are the vehicles of their abundance of meaning. Sometimes the works are ironic, while at other times they are repetitive. Nevertheless, their antagonistic meanings are never absurd because they give way to a new form of order, and that order can only emerge through the image, through metaphor. The artist seems to want to articulate the same idea time and again from different directions, as if going back over each image’s content until it becomes fully visible.

In Madoz’s images the objects construct the work’s meaning. Each piece of this puzzle fits precisely and correctly in order to fully reveal itself: the wrapped up book with glasses on top and the painting roller suggests countless readings, while the lit camera with is protected by the “divine grace” foretells a moment of absolute creative ecstasy: every artist’s fantasy.

Madoz’s objects disclose the essence of life itself: they are deep roots that are revealed when we observe the foot made up of roots that has been laboriously and forcefully pulled from the earth, or the creation of an Adam-Eve whose single body speaks of fertility and communion, in which the image of the woman-man/man-woman and in the glass of wine references a continuity of being: procreation and life. We are faced with the duality that is present in life itself and which speaks of the simultaneous and different characteristics that occur in the same instant: man-woman, life-death, light-darkness.

It would seem that the artist’s memory demands he reconstruct his memories on a continual basis. We thus encounter fragments from his childhood (when he used his teacher’s oven door as his desk, his window on the world) that are transformed into objects that contain an entire universe made visible to the viewer.

It is as if Madoz were seeking to confide his world of memories to us. Marvelous objects like his mother’s thimble becomes an arid ecosystem with a huge cactus that grows before us; the old radio from the house contains all the world’s music, contemporary and old-fashioned music; the cheese dish turns into the cheese itself and the ladder resting on the mirror invites us to return to the past (to his past? to our past?), to those childhood moments when dimensions change, proportions are no longer the same, memories exaggerate or reduce sizes and are accompanied by recognizable, intimate smells, tastes and sounds.

Before our adult eyes, these fragments of memory justify what were up until now incompatible links between dreams and realities, allowing formal reasoning to give way to fantasy, as if playing hide and seek with logic and knowledge.

As we peek through the book’s spyhole, we can see the world inhabited by memories, the fragments of the past that our mind reorders and reconstructs arbitrarily, creating new truths, traces of situations that are masterfully reconfigured to take on new meaning. Is that they key to reading Madoz’s work? Should we seek out old memories, fragments and clues in our memory that put us on the route to what the artist is trying to communicate through his work?

Is the artist giving us a veiled invitation to use our own words to narrate his work, to share it to create new, different routes through it, that are not the ones he originally anticipated?

Ultimately, we are left with many questions, some signs, clues to follow, thrills, aesthetic pleasure and most certainly with the invitation to look at each work over and over to find new meanings. It is as if the artist were aware of this and were bidding us farewell, in his own way, with an image: a conspiratorial wink that is his own self-portrait.

Odalys Sánchez de Saravo

Translation: Lisa Blackmore






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