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Virtual Exhibition

María Helguera


Malevos
Start 30/05/2019
Exhibition held from May 3 to June 23, 2007

Memory of the Skin

Jaume Vidal Oliveras

 

Buenos Aires – Barcelona, Barcelona – Buenos Aires: this is the idea illuminating this exhibition, a return trip between these two cities. After its presentation in Barcelona, at the Espai Volart, the show will travel to the capital of Argentina, where it will be seen at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. María Helguera began her artistic career in Argentina, but in 1976 would go into exile to Barcelona for political reasons, with her children and the photographer Humberto Rivas. Even with this distance, her contacts with Buenos Aires have been constant: in a certain way, Helguera has developed a role as a cultural bridge...


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EXHIBITION PAINTINGS: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Del amor IV
2004
Painting
Oil on canvas

In this piece the artist employs the image of the bull, powerfully rooted in Spanish culture, using it as a symbol of an identity. As with other artists who have explored the world of bullfighting, Helguera reflects on this almost initiatory ritual, tinged with references to “sacrifice”. With its primitivist style, in the image the animal is depicted at the centre. With a limited chromatic range, the work recalls cave painting, where the setting is expressed in an attempt to catalogue and define reality. The slices into the layer of brown paint mark out the shape of the animal, which rather than being painted appears to be scratched out, engraved into the material oil.
Canto a lo profano
2004
Painting
Oil on canvas

Using the same technique as in the previous painting, in Canto a lo Profano [Song to the Profane], a male and a female figure seem to intermingle. This symbol recalls Mapuche culture, which was present in Argentina and Chile from before Spanish colonisation. Cultural identity plays an important role in the work of Maria Helguera, who became aware of her own culture while living in exile in Barcelona. She herself describes a conceptual return both to Buenos Aires and Latin America, beginning with when she began to live far from her place of origin, when she became aware that living in a city involves something more than mere existence.
Purita casualidad
2006
Painting
Oil on canvas

In this work we can see a different colour range than in the previous paintings, even though the materially incisive technique is similar. Purita casualidad [Purest Chance] picks up on and reinforces the idea of two sides to things, male and female, which are united. A single entity is comprised of both sexes, which appear to merge in giving way to a new character. It is conceptually similar to the myth of Aristophanes, which stated that human beings were originally divided into three categories: those made of two bodies of man, those made of two bodies of woman, and, finally, those made of the body of a man and of a woman. In the end, as a punishment for their vanity, Zeus divided them all into two halves.
La última milonga
2006
Painting
Oil on canvas

This work, which reminds us of Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, is an homage to Hernández Pijuan, who was very close to María Helguera, like other artists from the Barcelona circles related to EINA design school, including Ràfols Casamada and Maria Girona. They introduced Helguera to Tàpies, through whom she delved into primitivist subject matter, also learning techniques such as impasto. The complexity of the symbolism in the artist’s work is present in paintings like this. It features reinterpretations and adaptations of classical works while using a language influenced by artists contemporary to Helguera, as well as symbolism drawing from Latin American culture and representations of her own reality.
La novia criolla
2006
Painting
Oil on canvas

This work also seems to be a reinterpretation of a classic piece of art, Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride. She herself describes the work as a flagrant case of disrespect towards the artist, but at the same time a declaration of love. The Rembrandt is one of Helguera’s favourite pieces, leading her to start a new pictorial stage where emotion would prevail over technique. On the one hand, she abandoned the use of brushes to work with impasto and spatulas, while on the other she drastically reduced her palette of colours to just three, striving to get as much as she could from all possible shades of red, blue and yellow. The work represents a turning point in the artist’s style and career.
La piel del otro
2005
Painting
Oil on canvas

Piel del otro I [Skin of Another I] initiated a new conceptual and stylistic tendency for Maria Helguera with reference to the works of Yves Klein, although with a different connotation, as if she were most interested in printing directly from the body. There is also a resemblance to the Japanese gyotaku technique, where a fish is inked directly before printing directly from it onto the paper. This results in a faithful representation of the original, where you can see the size, the textures of the scales, and the fish’s shape. A similar feeling is found in this work, as well as in Perros Sueltos [Dogs Set Loose], where the textures of their bodies, their furry coats and their strength are clearly perceived on the resulting work’s surface.
Mitikile
2001
Painting
Oil on canvas

The horse appears as an iconographical feature in many of Helguera’s works. On the one hand it represents Latin American identity, while on the other, it recalls her family identity. The artist recalls the sacred nature of horses, their primary, elemental nature, which is similar to the Spanish bull mentioned previously. Here we understand the cultural puzzle of the artist, where while living far from her culture of origin, she nevertheless feels like a foreigner in her city of residence. The work speaks of the “memory of the skin” as Jaume Vidal describes it in his catalogue text for the exhibition. We understand the difficult process of political exile, of a fragmented identity, and we perceive an attempt to leave a very literal mark: putting paint on your own skin and printing from it.
Las olas del tiempo
2006
Installation


This is an installation by the artist that tells the story of her journey into exile from Buenos Aires to Barcelona. As a sign of a voyage with no return, her work presents a dialogue between the two locations. The central tunic, with the sewn depiction of some of her works, seems both like a pilgrim’s garment and the typical tunics worn in Holy Week, or by people in Latin America. Once again, it functions as a cultural bridge. Various curtains made from drawings serve to protect, isolate and enhance the tunic as the central feature. The title, Las olas del tiempo [The Waves of Time], works to catalyse the experience of crossing the sea, where time plays a crucial role in the transformation, learning process and, especially, fragmentary identity, as seen in all of Helguera’s works.
Pietà
2006
Painting
Oil on canvas

Perros sueltos
2000
Painting
Oil on canvas

Camins de llum
2003
Painting
Oil on canvas

La mesa roja
2006
Painting
Oil on canvas

Cardedeu
2001
Painting
Oil on canvas

La piel del río
2000
Painting
Mixed media on canvas

Purita casualidad I
2006
Multidisciplinary


Piel del otro I
2005
Painting
Mixed media on canvas

Canto profano
2004
Painting
Oil on canvas

Del amor III
2004
Painting
Oil on canvas

Perros sueltos I
2000
Painting
Oil on canvas

Camins de llum
2003
Painting
Oil on canvas





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