by Victoria Verlichak
Buenos Aires, 2002
Ideas precede and forestall any questions about technique -although this is fundamental and a source of permanent exploration- in the vast and diverse work of Matilde Marín. This is an artist who chose the noisy silence of reflection and had the courage to break the boundaries between the visual disciplines overlapping in her work. Private and public reminiscences, remote and unfathomable instants, close and disturbing facts, are transformed by the artist in prints, moving images, objects, books, whose ultimate meaning will be constructed by time and historic circumstances.
When she was still a pupil in art school in Buenos Aires and in Zürich, Marín -trained as a sculptor and now herself synonymous of contemporary engraving in Argentina- started an ongoing experimentation with signs, materials and techniques. In Matilde’s case, the inclusion of new technology is an honest step further and blends naturally with her entire work. If her early journey through Latin America was central to the constitution of an artistic plurality, her voyage through Europe and the United States contributed to the aesthetic and technical refinement she is so well known for.
Poetic and metaphysical, the “Escenarios” she now exhibits draw around her graphic work, photographs and videos from the Nineties. The pieces appear to allude to man’s inner memory, traveling through the scenery of play, myth, introspection and around contemporary architectonic spaces. Marín stages the tension between the materials and the sensibility and restrained passion I’ve learnt to value in her almost thirty years ago.
Like instants of a revelation, Matilde displays different vibrations belonging to as many periods of her work. An invisible halo seems to isolate each piece, silently discovering them to the eye of the beholder. The lack of stridencies and sure facts produces a stirring stillness that confirms presences and promotes a dialogue between the observer and the observed.
The Matrix of Print
Marín’s work -where styles merge, eras clash, signs are revealed- resists classification although her starting point is graphic art. She employs its codes to produce objects, unique and edition prints. Her will to delve into the traces of time and memory can be found all over her pieces, where social commentary also seems to be metaphorically present.
In the graphic work, built from a heterogeneous and challenging list of materials, it is possible to verify her daring boldness in experimentation and her fascination over paper. The pieces are an invitation to infinite associations of ideas, tracing a map of her search for new expressions and technical zones, utilizing, however, skills from immemorial ages.
A sheet of hammered rusted zinc, in the shape of the letter “M”, can be counted among the star materials. This metallic plate became the matrix of a series of prints exhibited in “Uno/Uno edición variable”. Also an autobiographical object, “M” stands for her name and surname, for mother and “mujer”.
Metals are also included in the “Paseo nocturno” and “Mirada nocturna” series, where night’s darkness seems to illuminate its marginal inhabitants’ desolation and desperate movements. It has become evident that Matilde finds pleasure in the contact with textures, temperatures and density of the elements she manipulates. This is precisely so because her demanding work rehearses combinations and treats prints as objects, recognizing their hierarchy and possibility to be contemporary. The delight doesn’t erase the drama, it only emphasizes it.
Books from Time
Marín is seduced with remains, witness to the world’s memory, and with everything that comes from the beginning of history. Sometimes she seems to be like an archeologist dealing with traces that have survived through the centuries.
Long before producing “Mitos de creación” -a 1993 book where she elaborated visually the symbolic meaning of texts referring to the beginning of man, the sky and the sea, the birth of language-, the artist had already worked with universal writings such as the Popol Vuh and Lao-Tsé’s Tao Te-king (600 B. C.). These series abridged her reflections about the uniqueness of man, its permanence and absence, its times and origins. Marín remembers that the artist Libero Badii incited her to come up with a special wrap to house and recreate in other directions her preferred texts.
Matilde considers “Mitos de creación” as a closure and an opening; a sum of the work of those years and the beginning of another period which added three new books. “The publishing of “Mitos…” was a sort of internal turning point”. The beautiful book/object has a Mayan symbol in the cover and travels through eleven legends about the origins extracted from the Aztec, Incas, Hindu, Eskimo mythology. The trigger for this project was a Kogui legend (Colombia) which states that “The sea was the mother, and the mother was not a people nor anything, she was thought and memory and the spirit of what was to come”. The incredible imagination and logic recorded in those cultural traditions were turned into original prints, vignettes and ornaments on paper, made of natural fibers mixed with soil, leaves and feathers.
The mysterious climate recreated by Marín in “Mitos…” -summarized in the words of the Matricense Codex referred to “the story which the songs chanted in a certain time and which nobody can remember now”- surely placed her near the problematic worlds of Jorge Luis Borges. The illusory condition of being and the conflicts in relation to the eternal and slippery time -that other labyrinth in the original and sharp edged writer’s fantastic universe- suggested the felt homage that the artist printed in a 1998 book.
Her link with the classics led her to reflect William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in a series of images where, in an antagonistic game, the artist resorted to fire in order to speak about water -which threw certain travelers to a distant island with its unexpected roughness. In this transposition, Matilde appropriated the phrase: “Work the peace of the present”. Thus she tried to capture some of the poet’s universality, while supporting Prospero’s wish to work for the elusive “peace of the present”.
Transition to Photography
Matilde’s approximation towards photography and video is closely related to the use she’s always made of print, a more accessible and popular version of art. American art historian Leo Steinberg says that prints have historically proven to be “the circulating lifeblood of ideas in art”, creating images that have crossed the barriers of time, language and culture, and which in the future might help carry a message across history’s great leaps. Precisely, Steinberg maintains that such is photography’s role today.
First language of man, ancient territory of the sacred, games gets serious in “Juego de manos”, a series of pictures appealing to the senses. The artist captured the gestures of her own hands imitating an old Indian game; in its muteness is ingrained the upheaval of the unknown. The threads touch, intertwine and fall apart. In its comings and goings they modify structures and weave a yarn seemingly sheltering desire and emotion.
Play is always a risk because no one knows its outcome. Is life like a game? These photographic serigraphs series expresses a space where is hard to enter. A unique instant appears frozen in an image. It is a deceivingly true moment, because it is no more. Nothing is immutable. Everything slips like sand between the fingers even though the color sepia of the photographs announces the illusion of the eternal. Like the tracks left by ancient civilizations in the Peruvian desert, the lines of the hands are an invitation to think about the traces of time.
The same hands are portrayed in “Juegos iniciales”, a series of pictures intervened by the artist’s drawings looking like indelible marks of light. For some moments, these generous and harmonic hands seem to contain the lay out of the hopscotch or the field for a game whose rules are known only to Marín. Do these outlines design permanence or recreate evanescence? What’s behind this uneven and incandescent geometry? Is the splendor about to vanish or it signals the beginning of ideas promising the disquieting thrill of poetry?