Painting between –and above– media


Painting between –and above– media

F. Javier Panera

It is common knowledge that in art the system makes cyclic efforts (and sometimes exorcisms, such as pulling brands like the “Leipzig School” out of the hat) to resuscitate painting, to keep it alive and in keeping with the times. We also know that painting has, in all honesty, never stopped existing in the sense of being something fixed or evident (oil, pigment, canvas, brush, textura, physical depth, smell, etc.); though no-one can deny that this type of painting, stubbornly self-referencing, seems to live in a world that is no longer ours, giving shape to points of view foreseen at the beginning of the 1980s by Douglas Crimp in his prophetic article “The End of  Painting ”.

As Gijs van Tuyl has pointed out : “There was a time when painted images were contemplated as windows on the screen of a camera obscura, as reflection of the world like a mirror was shattered into pieces during the modernist movement” and for some this finished up taking painting up a blind alley, which it paradoxically appears to be getting out of in recent years with the arrival of the digital era, the combination of other media and the subsequent ontological expansion of what is “pictorial”.

A common place when reflecting on the work of artists like Arancha Goyeneche is to wonder whether the term “painting” is still the precise word to use when categorising her works. I personally believe that the painting in her works seems to be freed of funerary discourses or of attitudes that make it taboo and that we find ourselves in fact before a “celebration” of the pictorial act, or to put it another way: before a re-presentation of “painting as an event” which is not divorced from the perpetual redefinition of its statute.

Let me explain myself: pictorial activity has ranged over the last forty years between teatrality and self-engrossment; and in the middle of this dialectic, Arancha Goyeneche consciously assumes a rhetorical stance –not lacking in parody and historical allusions– which sidetracks our perceptive logic.

Arancha Goyeneche is aware of the history of painting, of its distortions, deaths and insistent recycling. Her work has its place in the history of reiterated attempts to disarticulate the perceptive logic that accompanied painting for years, after that excess of perforations, drips, traces, burning, smashing of frames and expansions, and after no lesser efforts to move away from the representation of reality with the aim of procuring exclusively plastic values… attempts at transgression that, as we have seen, have not managed to make the actual terms ‘painting’ and ‘sculpture’ disappear.

Within this order of things, Arancha Goyeneche forms part of a generation of artists that has participated –without prejudices– since the end of the last centruy to this unlimited “expansion of the pictorial field” making stimulating “promiscuous” return journeys between painting, photography, installations or the moving image that have reached a territory in which the limits between disciplines and supports become totally blurred .

In effect, many of Arancha Goyeneche’s works reveal what Paul Virilio  called: “the different logistics of the gaze”, until achieving a sort of “visual paradox” in her most outstanding works that almost never renounces chromatic luxury or that “perspective of pleasure” that has always characterised painting, although at the same time the actual nature of this discipline is what is being questioned in terms of both the support and the “concept”. This has become especially evident in her work in the last ten years such as the series “Paisajes musicales” [Musical Landscapes] (1998, Galería Siboney. Santander ), “Paisaje encontrado ” [Encountered Landscape] shown within the group project “Pintura sin pintura ” [Painting without Paint] (2002, Salamanca Convention Center) or the series “Adentro-Afuera” [Inside-Outside] (2003), “Mi ilusión” [My Illusion] (2004) and “Diez Pensamientos” [Ten Thoughts] (2004) included significantly in the 51st international Photography Salon  held in Gijón in 2004 or her participation –likewise revealing– in the exhibition “Video Killed the Painting Star” held in Salamanca in 2007.  

When analyzing these works or the one she is currently presenting at the Trinity Chapel in Gijón, it would thus be necessary to admit that those who maintain that the visual arts have become the common ground for diffuse pictoriality  are right; a common ground in which nothing is exactly painting, or exactly sculpture, or exactly photography, or exactly video… but simply: “image”. However, it is a fact that it is this polysemous, deconstructivist value of images has served in recent years both to reformulate traditional pictorial genres and to settle the different strategies of hybridisation characteristic of post-modernism.

Arancha Goyeneche confirms the axiom that reminds us that painting would currently have less to do with the “history of painting” than with the “history of media”. Subsequent to the post-modern painting of the 1980s, which, as Knut Ebelling has pointed out, was “painting between and above painting”, present-day painting could be considered:  “painting between media”, i.e., painting that finds its energy in the dialectic interactions with other media, supports and disciplines. For artists like Arancha Goyeneche, the pictorial surface –whether it is real or virtual– has gradually become a territory for displacing the image, both in the sense of its semantic ambiguity and its own materiality. Her works are completely crossbred; painting becomes a species of tension in her voracious –sometimes contrasted– pirating of techniques and processes, in a not-always-two-dimensional battlefield where the inner forces of the image “battle” to break through their limits. We are, in short, before: “painting in the expanded field” in analogous terms to those applied by Rosalind Krauss  to sculpture.

The increasingly more complex and unclassifiable current creations by Arancha Goyeneche seem to insist on this fact; an example being her “parasitic” intervention on the architectural elements of the Trinity Chapel or her picto-textual action in the hall of the Barjola Museum. Within this context, the installations take on a deliberate air of “performance” which within the specific architectural setting in which it is framed generate their own space of perception and experience… obliging the spectator to stay on guard.

Looking becomes a critical and creative act here, in a game which has to be interiorized both by our body and our systems of perception. Through these installations, the dual experience of access to the work and of obstruction or obstacle are highlighted almost as a form of spatial invasion, of occupation or “strangling of the sense” of a place that seems to lose its severity to merge into a parasitic and parasitized whole. We are reminded in this respect of the idea expressed by Mario Perniola in his book El Sex Appeal de lo inorgánico  regarding the installation as that space which “(…) the visitor senses, takes in, touches, feels, which extends towards him, obliging him to enter into it, penetrate it, possess it, inundate it (…)”. Such a description fits Arancha Goyeneche’s work to a T. In the installations she has created for the Trinity Chapel at the Barjola Museum, as the frontier between architecture and painting –or between the past and the present– begin to fade, the possibility arises of perceiving to precisely what point the concepts of “painting”, “sculpture” or “architecture” are in fact artificial categories constructed on the basis of language. The installation “Flying to the Moon” is especially significant in this respect.