By Juan Evaristo Valls Boix
On Amorós' August Dahlias
Un intérêt nouveau se fait jour pour les transformations de ce qui ne peut être contenu dans aucune figure.
Jean-Luc Nancy, "Le corps en peinture. Corps en regard"
In his column from last Wednesday, Gerardo Jarauta claimed: "when one observes these old people enjoying the warmth of life in their golden hours, one understands that joviality has no relation to age or time in those of good spirit, and that these men and women, despite their wrinkled bodies, are the living image of tranquil dignity."
His words disconcert me. I don't see a better way to disqualify the oil paintings that Amorós exhibited in the Galerie der Künstler BBK of Munich last summer under the title "August Dahlias”, and which will be exhibited again in the AKI Gallery of Taipei the next month of April. This is because, if anything is perceived in these dahlias, it is precisely that they are beyond any personification. That is to say: before being men and women, they are bodies. Before being humans, or spiritual beings, or jovial elders, they are flesh. And with this, these paintings remind us once again that the corporal and the material cannot be bound purely by concepts. That body overflows; uncontainable, constrained as poorly by language as it is by the bathing suit.
I observe those abundant bodies in a setting of coastal aridity and I realize I cannot comprehend them. I want to think they are old people, but none of the qualities of old age correspond with them: they don't display the wisdom of the elderly, nor do they show any mark of illness or the melancholy of past time. I try to define them as human beings, but I don't see any dignity in them, and even less any indignity: only a sort of serenity beyond conceptual demarcation. Finally, after many failed attempts to reconcile paint with concept -because they are neither feminine nor masculine, nor existents, nor individuals, nor subjects- I face up to the obvious: it is better to see them and not to think them. Because at heart -and also at skin- they are matter. They are bulky bodies, lush flesh shown in its impressive metaphysical nakedness.
Maybe that is why their faces lose importance, in order to give way to a generous exhibition of thigh, breast, belly and buttock. This is why the mood is ambiguous, we do not experience them as ‘characters’, but instead we are overwhelmed by a bare presence. If one wants to be precise, rather than being defined by a name, a narrative or a will, they are defined as matter; they are defined as what cannot be defined because it is just in plain view. These are bodies on vacation, vacant and unoccupied flesh, whose concepts are reduced to swimsuits overwhelmed by the abundance of matter. The frontal, direct and curt presentation of these figures, viewed from the perspective of an absent observer, serves to decode the semantic charges which always arise as we view through concepts, figures and feelings; instead reclaiming the plain presence of their bare physicality. In doing this, the arid backgrounds of the Dahlias play a key role, because they do not make the central motif into a lonely being, nor transform them into an isolated individual, but rather they become a continuation and a prolongation of the motif’s density and profundity, held through the developing of shades of brown and ochre. It reminds the observer that the interior is just the withdrawn exterior; that the invisible is just another form of the visible, and that the deep is only a wrinkle of the superficial. Amorós' lesson is not new, but it is clever: body is not linguistic, so it cannot be read: it can only be touched.
This is another key point of Amorós' dahlias, beyond all this dignity, character and grace. When the dahlias show how deep surface is, how dense skin is, we are removed from abstract concepts and instead we are just experiencing. If flesh is shown in the painting, it is due to the materiality of the paint. Amorós' work stands out first and foremost for its attention to texture and for the predominance of color over line; it transforms the matter of the painting into flesh, and the picture itself is a body before which one must be placed and also face – ultimately to discover that one is also matter and color rather than line, form or concept. Her technique, which owes a debt to Spanish Baroque, manipulates the paint to transform the visual experience into a kind of touch experience. Thus by doing so, it is ridded of the cliché of representation, because it is not a sign, nor does it refer to a meaning which limits it, rather it claims its presence and its own body as a real and independent being.
Where then, are the dahlias among all of this flesh? What is it about the flowers? They have been reduced to a secondary ornament. The dahlias, the name that assembles these summer bodies, appears as any other name which tries to overcome and dominate the exuberance of the thigh and the belly: stretched, defeated and overwhelmed by the flaccid weight of two warm breasts.
English translation by the author and Daisy Steele