White on WhiteMon, 16/09/2013 - 20:00 - Thu, 21/11/2013 - 20:00 Felipe Coddou · Oliver Roma
A few years ago a play called "Art" triumphed notoriously in Madrid (previously it had done so in Barcelona). It spoke about a white painting for which a collector had paid a lot of money. The concept of the work asserted that the sacralization of art and the artistic object had reached such a point that contemporary art was becoming a banal idiocy close to an insult or a scam.
At the time people recommended the work to me with great interest, saying: "You being an artist will love it ..." I always answered with a resounding NO (more or less like that of Santiago Sierra) and this always puzzled them. Then I told them that years before hand I had had the opportunity to passionately enjoy an exhibition by Robert Ryman in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which showed about one hundred white paintings. Their perplexity increased: There were only white paintings? And you liked them? “I didn’t like them, I loved them!” I responded in a provocative way.
In reality I said nothing but the truth: Ryman helped me discover the strategy of obsession and the passion to build the intimate discourse of an artist, which goes beyond fashion, trends and general taste. I also perceived in his work the search for transcendence and the capability of "finding oneself" through the intensity caused by thought and obsession. I found in his work hundreds of hues that fascinated me and took me to emotional territories by me vaguely known. Years later, in Houston, I was able to enjoy the huge black pieces by Rothko Chapel alone, for an entire half hour; they deal with the same repeated theme and are offered to the viewer as screens to help them enter their own mystical space.
In many occasions emotional artists speak of a type of ecstasy reached at the time of absolute concentration when performing their work, when time comes to a halt before the "key finding". When I hear or read something regarding this topic I always think of St. Teresa of Jesus and her mystical "encounters" and states of ecstasy.
I think the exhibition "White on White", which presents the works of Oliver Rome (Paris, 1967) and Felipe Coddou (Santiago de Chile, 1974) entitled "Blackout" and "Turistas", respectively, speak of silences left by transmutations and ecstasy. Usually these silences are final, intangible and full of unanswered questions. In these absolute silences, time binds itself in an essential way to the pause of the universe and is able to define in the people who live the experience a new mental space full of certainties.
In the early sixties, during a summer afternoon in a small village in the Pyrenees, I observed as several women, sitting in the shadows, silently embroidered sheets and tablecloths for theirs or their daughters’ trousseaus. I was fascinated by the speed with which they worked achieving precious images. Their level of concentration was very high in order to avoid mistakes. At a certain point one of the women sighed deeply and immediately another one said: "An angel has passed by" and the others nodded. That was the first time I had ever heard the expression. I remembered this story because I believe this exhibition is full of angels’ sighs that happen and consequently transform the environment. They manage to transmute the characters that inhabit Coddou’s images to strange places where nothingness is drawn and the questions are huge because the desolate landscape seems to hide all the metaphysics of our time.
However, although the images of Oliver Rome have much in common with Felipe Coddou’s, they speak of ecstasy as a place where silence is drawn before a sigh and as Javier Hernandez Viñuelas so aptly defined while talking about Oliver Rome’s work: "It happens rarely, but when it happens nothing will ever be the same ... And what were once solid structures that sustained beliefs and values, what once showed us the way and were our guides, crumble to pieces and you're left in the dark, with nothing left to cling to. Where once there were indubitable answers, now there's only emptiness, blurred messages that have no meaning or represent absolute silence. And then, when you've emptied of what had cost so much to learn, the opportunity to reinvent yourself opens before you, to take a step further, a quantum leap, to be reborn"