About my work...
I used to live inside a work of art
Fragments of a conversation with Toña Vegas.
A few years ago Gladys Meneses(1) talked to me about the underestimation of the color black, of the mortuary burden that it bears and of the need to dignify it. I could understand her words, because at the time Gladys was working with that value. Today I speak of another work that dignifies black and makes of it a center, a need, an argument.
Giambattista Vico, forgotten 17th century Napolitan philosopher, from the century of the clear and distinct ideas of Descartes, proposed that philosophy was heir to poetry and history and that in a selection between poetry and science the first came out victorious, because it had a greater load of truth than the latter. He also proposed that in the world processes are repeated by analogy, that one moment is similar to another that already happened and that this one will be to one that will come. In the perspective of Vico, everything takes place like in a spiral: what you lived through, although not identical, you will live again. He proposed as well –and it is almost a consequence of his first affirmation- that it is not possible to access something by only one route (for poetry is the best access), that life is a multiplicity of everything that integrates it, that there are no separations between living and doing and that what you achieve is the product of intricate currents that become condensed. Among those proposals, of course, floats art as knowledge.
Today I deal with the art of Toña Vegas, total integration of numerous experiences, combination of music, dance, literature, theater, life, love; intricate and generous weaving, secret, dense as life. I go to another moment of the spiral where black is expressed as a new (and ancient) turn. Toña Vegas shows two periods of her work in this exhibition: the blue collages of the year 97, the recent “dark” paintings (as she calls them). That dark collage-painting allowed me to conjure up Vico and the memory of Gladys Meneses. Its characteristics were explained by Toña Vegas during a conversation that she, Hernán Rodríguez and I held. Hernán Rodríguez, sculptor, filled gaps with adequate questions.
I met Toña Vegas in the Seventies, in the years when the Galería de Arte Nacional was being created. I remember her attentive face, her interest for painters that I did not know of and for composers that I thought I knew. I recall of course a remote Wagner, a piece by Schubert, something by Schumann for piano and cello, a Ravel concerto interpreted by Michelangeli. (Today I would add songs by Loreena McKennitt). I remember a book with Degas reproductions, several poems, many movies (the integration), but above all I recall a splendid meeting with her and Alejandro Otero (2). At the time, Alejandro Otero was preparing a Jacobo Borges exhibition at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas. How unforgettable are those works by Jacobo Borges, cherished every instant by Alejandro Otero! How unforgettable those movements of Toña’s hands seeming to paint over each work of Borges! How unforgettable at those other moments, when she traced over a book the strokes of the most admired painters! Cézanne,El Greco, Picasso.
A look of complicity spreads between us, a thread of shared desire, of cities, poems and song unites us. I suppose Toña took the sufficient time to exhibit, but I cannot seem to admit that she took so long. Now I assist to the show of her recent work, one almost a product of the Delta (3), the other almost of vicissitude: all of it undoubtedly the product of a minute, adequate, constant study, that, taking many risks has given shape to a deep feeling: one only attained by a true artist.
Our conversation took place at Toña Vegas’ home, on February 15, 2000. Toña’s words will hover solitary and precise.
I can tell you several key episodes that made me choose art, like for example, a trip to Egypt when I was eleven… Through those objects found in tombs, made with such care, with such dedication, with such input of soul, I connected to the whole human race, in all its extension. It was a profound contact, a vision, a moment beyond time when I could perceive myself as part of a species from another dimension and it was the objects, the pyramids, the paintings…
In time, I have had similar experiences with certain paintings of the past: Ucello’s “The Battle of San Romano” at the Louvre, a painting by Bonnard in shades of orange and violet from the Metropolitan Museum of New York…
But I will also tell you that when I was a little girl my mother had me take piano lessons, ballet… and the only lessons I chose, because I wanted to, were painting lessons. I took lessons from Mary Brandt (4), when I was about 12. I was happy when I went to Mary Brandt’s house. Lessons were not open to everyone. She had a few nieces and other children and we went there and she would hand us each a pad of oil painting paper and make us paint. We would paint whatever we wanted. We were surrounding the garden and I loved it there. I was fascinated by her because she was completely different to what I knew, she was… she walked like she was not touching earth much and everything I felt and perceived there was very nice, it was an atmosphere that I wanted to be in, that I seeked. I always liked to draw… I drew everything, I drew my little dog, for example, I drew the sea, I don’t know…. What I saw and attracted my attention I drew it.
There is another moment where something important for my future desire (or need) to be a painter, to be an artist, was forged. That moment was my experience in the house of Carlos Raúl Villanueva (5). There was a great atmosphere in that house where I felt absolutely joyous and comfortable. I wanted to be there and I was thrilled looking at all the things they had. I knew that house by heart. I remember that we used to watch television in a room where later on, , I noticed that the mural that I always looked at was done by Alejandro Otero… And that was part of my life, I lived there a lot. For me the experience of that house was important, very important.
Villanueva’s wife was my mother’s first cousin. I went there to play with my cousins and the truth is that if I was not invited, I invited myself over. I liked the house and the life there. Villanueva played with us. He would put on the masks of the “Diablos de Yare” and would scare us…It was great, there was a lot of happiness in that house, it was like the happiness of being creating all the time, it was a very fulfilling life. That touched me, I felt bathed in all of that.
One thing I feel that formulated there, in that house, was the experience of space, because for me, space, architecture and art, painting are one and the same, I don’t make any differentiation between them: this is architecture and is functional and this is painting and it is not functional. No. For me –and that has to do with my experience of space itself- the fact is that I lived inside a work of art. I lived in a multiplicity of dimensions, where there was music, photography, film, theater, poetry. That experience remained in me like that and it has to do with everything I do.
I would say that my relationship with that house and the experience in Egypt were turning points.
Collage is the first medium I choose. There is a richness to collage with which I can rapidly and easily relate. I like the directness of it. When I work with collage I do not make it as if I was experimenting and seeing if the pieces fit together or not, but rather I do it directly. It shapes itself gradually. I feel it is a very appropriate medium of expression for me.
I’m speaking of before, of several years ago. With painting it happened that when I got down to paint I was very serious. When I worked with collage, I got to it directly. When I painted, I feared not being in tune with myself, there was a seriousness because I felt that the technique was something I did not handle, that perhaps I still do not handle.
That changed in time and now I feel that both are very related, painting and collage. Before, with painting, it was like entering another place within myself.
I lost the fear of mixing recently. It started with the blue collages of the year 1997. In the collages with threads, which are earlier, I start to play, I am drawing with threads and I allow myself to play, to have fun with them and from there a collage emerges that already has a lot of painting in it. These blue collages take place at the moment when I travel to the Delta. I was toward Clavellina and I told you: “There is something of abundance in the collages that I relate to what I am seeing here, I relate this with the abundance with which I am working and which I am feeling…” Why did that happen? I cannot say. But suddenly I discovered the abundance of sensations that I could perceive in what I observed as well as within myself.
Before the year 1997 I explored with collage and I explored a lot. I put myself different ways of working with collage. With painting I was less direct… it had to do with what we could call a sense of sanctuary. I was always interested in the interaction of different realities that I would formulate on the one hand with collage, on the other with painting, realities that are there and they work, not running parallel to each other, but rather intertwining in the collage/paintings.
I would say that my work has an internal architecture. I already said that the experience in Villanueva’s house was important because for me architecture, space and the work of art are one and the same thing. I enter a space. For me it is central that idea of space, that conception of space. It is not only an idea, it is a physical sensation, and encounter.
The readings can make me enter a space that is essential for painting. What drives me to paint is not separate from my life, it is moving with what I read, for example. For me everything is related and probably has to do with a state, with a moment, with a way in which I am understanding life, because deep down I feel that my work has to do with the questions that I have asked myself since I was very little about the meaning of life; What is life, why am I here, what is this all about, what is life and death, are they different or are they zones of the same thing? I have always been impressed and surprised by the fact that we have the capacity of living so many dimensions at the same time. These are questions that I tried to penetrate and answer from different approaches, which by the way were not those of science. Maybe I had something of a mystic when I was little.
I had two extraordinary teachers and for me it was lucky to experience not only their works but also to share their life within art. These teachers were Alejandro Otero and Mercedes Pardo (6). I think that with Alejandro I learned to look at painting. I was privileged, with him I saw an exhibition of Cézanne at the MOMA and that was something that meant for me a detailed study, lead by Alejandro, of each work of Cézanne. That was my real school. I connected profoundly with Alejandro, with his love for painting, for art. I think that for Alejandro, art was his religion. He was a great influence for me. I remember fighting with Alejandro to get him out of me…But truly fighting! I wanted to see for myself…
Mercedes has also been a great influence for me. With Mercedes I learned to paint, she taught me the profound meaning of painting. Her mastery of color is a constant reference, as well as her inexhaustible sensitivity, dedication, richness. At this moment I feel comfortable, and I value these influences that I keep within me.
Many years ago a friend, Albert Arvelo, with whom I discovered the space of poetry, told me that Dante needed Virgil to delve into the darkness of the Inferno and Purgatory. And he always said that you had to walk holding hands with love… and Beatrice was there. I was not prepared to delve into the darkness until I went holding hands with love, with life. Before, when I leaned out into those spaces I panicked.
I am going to read something which is a guideline of my work, it is a text about the birth of Dionyssus which is in the book “The Gods of the Greeks”, by Karl Kerényi: “Persephone started to knit a large piece, a gown for her father or her mother that contained a representation of the whole world…” This has a lot to do with the collages of 1997 and I feel it is still alive within me.
At one moment I felt called or was attracted to enter the dark zones. I saw myself in the need to get into those zones. I was reading “Opus Nigrum” by Marguerite Yourcenar and there I found that alchemic motto that became the guide of my work: “To the obscure through the most obscure, to the unknown through the most unknown”. That phrase exerted an intense fascination over me. Thus, I started to delve in the abundance of the darkness where we live, which has an extraordinary richness and a power that we seldom dare to see, it terrifies us. However, it is always present, waiting maybe for the gaze that will bring it into the light. At that moment I worked in a different manner, with another rhythm, slower, aware of the voices that give shape to that space.
The dark works started to emerge from that place. I liked to work on paper, with the fragility of paper and the different brightness and sonorities of the inks and acrylics, enlarging the formats if I felt it necessary. Little by little they became more and more dense, more painting.
Then a book by Marie-Louise von Franz entitled “Alchemy. Introduction to Symbolism” came into my hands. It is a fascinating book about the alchemic process and its relation to what C.G. Jung calls the process of individuation. Once again I think of that beautiful robe that Persephone is knitting… such as life itself is knitted…
I start to work on wood, I need a more solid format capable of holding this weaving of different elements and realities. I find this text in von Franz’s book: “I am the iron hard and dry and the strong ferment, everything good comes through my mediation and through me the light of the secret of secrets is generated, and nothing can affect my actions. That which contains light is created in the darkness of light…” This is the guideline of the works on wood. In that place I am right now.
I am neither describing nor narrating the alchemic process. I am inside that space, in a space very deep down (or from within) myself, a space where that which I read enters and generates a movement.
A central idea of the exhibition, which has been formulating, connecting, integrating, weaving itself, is intimately linked to the previous texts. The desire to weave spaces for life, from various threads and divergent experiences. The impetus of the deep sense that we breathe, a thread that we possess for a few instants and then escapes. Life in all its richness weaving itself. The secret sensation of creating at the same time that it creates itself in and with us, participants in its infinite creation…
To weave every aspect with different materials. Integrating them? Exposing them to themselves, to their own game. To create, to observe, to feel, to sense, to observe again, to associate, to move around something…
To weave as if dancing, to thread as if playing, to live as if weaving, to live as if dancing.
I would like finally to talk briefly about something that relates to the possibility of expressing specific experiences artistically, spaces of earlier experiences. In painting –and in the painters that I have admired- there is always an inner space, but their painting does not deal with that inner space, with that space of inner life: and in a certain way I think that my painting is about that space. I think my work is about that.
(1) Gladys Meneses, venezuelan artist.
(2) Alejandro Otero, venezuelan artist
(3) The delta of the Orinoco river
(4) Carlos Raúl Villanueva, venezuelan architect
(5) Mary Brandt, Venezuelan painter
(6) Mercedes Pardo, venezuelan painter
María elena nuñez
Toña Vegas's Watercolors
Watercolor possesses its own specific demands: it must be firm, for it does not admit profound corrections; it can be subtle, but not unsure; it demands swift execution for it loses fluidity when it dries. Firmness, quickness and assurance must be in the mood of those who take up watercolor. It also lends itself to transparency although it admits, within limits, the opaque. Transparency and opacity also find correlation in the mood.
In the “Water Mirrors”, as the artists has very accurately named her first series, watercolors allow the expression of subtly colored planes as if the object, vanished for excessively obvious and heavy, would leave only interstices valid only to be felt and expressed. To know those spaces, where the gaze substitutes the object, is to venture into the lightest; the eye cannot avoid recognising itself. The gaze gazes at itself, it finds its own sensitivity.
In the series “Body”, the expression decides to sing out loud its existence in the world. The gaze, not any more as an eye that looks, but as a presence, still fails to recognise the object. Color and space are rearranged from another perspective, they become power, vitality, existence. Color is aware of itself as space, as center. It is the vital, basic song of whom does not forget subtleties in the primary cry. The aqueous matter, watercolor and ink, accepts dry touches in pastels: all is integrated, made circle.
In the three works that make up the “Warp of Water”, the space opens up unknown. Intuition ventures beyond the accumulated knowledge, juicy, dexterous, of the first series. The object-watercolor, concrete, given, is discovered as project: new expressive possibilities burst in. We can recognize closure and aperture interlaced. It is the transition of the one who inquires unsatisfied and takes a risk.
Each one of these watercolors reflects different moments, looks, breathings. The internally linked series that relate them form the weft of a particular feeling about herself and the world. They are subtle inquiries into vast, infinite universes. Admiration for life.
juan carlos palenzuela
Black turned into a transparency or a strong brush line that remains light in the pictorial space, is one of the first images that persist of the recent work of Toña Vegas. Her supports are pieces of wood that function as material planes, as material borders between plastic and visual spaces that simulate not so much conceptual oppositions as unspeakable certainties and fictions. Wood with no other presence than its own constitution, its own color, its own force as an image.
The fact of the image is definitive. Be it from its width, from its illuminations, from its limits or its fragmentations in a whirlwind. Image of a non-reality made painting.
These are complex matters that nonetheless lead to a shared reflection. On certain occasions abstract art has an exceedingly vehement expressive accent that has to do with the passion for life. We could see the painting of Vegas as characteristic of the unreasonable emptiness of modern man. Its large planes, both black and transparent, its serene and opposite extremes, its drawing broken in order to turn it into collage, into piece of paper, into leftover work that becomes a new work, all framed in a chaos and stillness, in an (apparent) disorganisation and a translucency that could well find parallels in our currents times of distress and light.
This work takes place between the memory and the glance, between what hounds us and what we choose. The titles are reflexive. The forms are open. The painting is translucent. Lines are minute, elongated, irregular, on occasion bunched together and thick, with which she suggests forms, a tree, the path of a river, a stele or the façade of a Parthenon. All is in inks, in fractions, in apertures, in vertigoes, in nocturnal airs.
Inasmuch as the blacks are light, ample, this work radiates a different light. Its space is aerial, in gestation, without boundaries or directions. The stroke and the collage, the wood and the washes, form the unity of the image and erode the absolute.
A selection by Toña Vegas is exhibited in Paris. On her own merit and initiative, the artist takes it upon herself to show an excellent aspect of our culture.
In an attempt to understand and propose a place where polarities, seemingly opposite extremes –visual, historic- will meet, understand and tend to each other, in an attempt to fasten and knit them together, from the strokes and between planes, Toña Vegas elaborates pictorial texts –paintings made of drawing and prints, paintings of wood and visual weft, paintings of collage, the representation of representations-, where she speaks, or rather, she asks herself and asks us about the possibility of establishing, sustaining and finding relation systems, contiguities and links between those polarities, and about the ways in which those systems could be witnessed.
Like silent answers, in those pictorial texts the composition, expressly polarized, severed in two, is arranged purposely stressing in its center a moment of unavoidable distance, establishing a tension between the two sides – unresolved, strong, determining- that forbids contact, that recurrently suspends the touch, the crossing-over, the fusion. That moment of distance and tension is the exhibition, in the material support of the pictorial text, of a place of integration that is worked –and thought of- not as confusion but as threshold, pass and passage, an oblique meeting place, where there is no friction, and is in itself the statement of the way in which that system of relations can be made: as a breach, an opening, constructed and elaborated, in which there is a permanent and necessary dialogue between the encounters and the expectations in a separation that both brings together and makes the difference evident.
The only element that subverts that moment of distance is, in a few cases, the overflowing, irregular and multiple embroidery of a line that is drawn as thread and unfurled skein, and that draws in its unraveling the warp of the breeze -unattainable, yet sensitive- when it circulates, when it elevates and suspends the signs and forms, when it moves, shifts, transports in its invisible but irresistible force. Thus, we could venture to think of the links and contiguities as needlework that is made, that is worked in the medium and manner of lace –in the worsted yarn of a drawing that follows the whole surface, remaking it-, like dress and drapery, and that as such, requires care and mending, it implies labor and can always get undone.
Dress and drapery erected in the clean, precise, regular needlework of an image –a pictorial text- that reiterates at all levels a discourse of oppositions in the transit of a touch. A support, chromatic and warm, that is established as the middle ground, the unitary inside and behind, organic and substantive of the play of the same opposites –imaginary, figured- for which it works as a counterpoint, a place of fusion without possible confusion. An obscure flank, the back and past memory, that which leaves, that transforms, loss and absence, figured in the density, in an opaque timbre; a white flank, exercise of transparencies, the present and levity, figured in lightness, among sounds, high pitched.
A numerous world of painting and poetry
Works by Toña Vegas.
“A Possible Relationship”, work by Toña Vegas of the year 2001, like all the ones we will visit today, contains the difference essential in achieving unity; it is an “inverted” picture, if we take into account its composition (and the arrangement on the wall space): it offers a reading that breaks with that of the other three works that concern us here. In fact, the latter precipitate to the right robust, dark, wrinkled, volumes, full of pictorial details that refer to great masters of the past (El Greco in “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”?); in the remaining space, brief brushstrokes, drawings, paper fragments with old graphic works of the author, palette pieces, lagoons that interconnect, that separate and are co-protagonists of the tensions that each work offers. The first, “A Possible Relationship”, diverts the eye toward the left; there is a large dark area (construction with columns seen as if it was leaning on one of its sides?) the circular element that is repeated in every painting and then the papers, the lakes, the drawings, the tensions of almost a Michelangelo that construct, direct and make critical the reading of the picture. As mentioned before, there is unity only when there is difference, or the unity is such because it contains the difference; and the unity of these pieces is incontrovertible, four large format works that repeat, like in a symphony or in a novel that would vary and recommence, a permanent play of tensions in a kind of counterpoint of the elements that make up the pictorial space, counterpoint that leads to think in the Mozartean arias for four voices or in the exquisite multiple dialogues of Flaubert in “Madame Bovary”.
“Games of Breeze”, “Connection in Contrast” and “Circular Dialogue” are the names of the other works of Toña Vegas. In all of them – and in “A Possible Relationship”- we find the links between two worlds, “between two polarities that represent different things” –says the artist- “different worlds that relate to each other in a certain way”. She will later state: “I like to integrate things and I like to think whether or not they are dissimilar; I am drawn to that”. And: “the drawing has to do with the interweaving of things, conducting threads that sometimes break, revelations.”
Revelations is a key word. To reveal, to discover, to unveil, to show that which at first is hidden to the intellect or to the eye to bring to the surface something from the unfathomable depths, to display with lightness or modesty, but in any case, to remove what covers, to strip in order to make vision an unhindered vision. And then a greater clue appears. The works of Toña Vegas are a struggle in favor of revealing, discovering, of allowing to see, of the just pleasure and the just anguish produced by the confrontation (for seeing is a confrontation, it means putting yourself in front of something) between the spectator and the work of art. Whoever has not participated in that struggle, in that action (the spectatio) has missed the most flourishing part of the spectacle. And although a little (or a lot) will be revealed to those who enter the spectacle, they must know that they will never discover or be revealed that which is called the truth: in part because we must not look for the truth in a work of art and also because the truth does not exist, according to a verse by Wallace Stevens. The only acceptable way out is to be a co-protagonist of the work on the board (or on the white wall that keeps the secret of the as yet invisible), that is, to be an active, participating spectator.
Ut pictura poesis, says Horace, appropriating and making explicit the Aristotelian assimilation of poetry to painting. I would like to note what seems to be a constant in the birth of the work of Toña Vegas, rather for the quantic formation of the groups that make up her work: varied, non-strident, intimate, measured, like chamber music.
Each moment (or period) in the work of Toña Vegas is signaled by what she calls a guideline (“I love to have something to guide me” –she says). During the period when her works were insistently black on black, that something resided in an alchemic formula.
But that guideline was also, as in one of the works of the painter, let’s recall, the difference that forms unity. Because to my knowledge, at all other times her guiding principle has been given by poetry. That is the constant. Yesterday, it was given by a certain poem by T.S. Eliot (“Always Eliot”, says Toña Vegas, “I like the rhythm of “The Wasteland”), or by Rilke; today, the guideline comes from the great American poet Wallace Stevens, specifically from several verses from “Domination of Black”. How is art integrated! How close are its manifestations! We are not saying anything new when we state that painting is poetry, narrative, music, theater, dance… All is all in art, because all its expressions (or different and equal revelations) make up the grand, dialectic unity.
 It appears in the poem “On the Road Home”: “It was when I said, / ’There is no such thing as the truth,’ / That the grapes seemed fatter. / The fox ran out of his hole.”
 “There is no need to choose between what we see (…) and what looks at us (…). We need to worry about the between and only it. There is no more to dialecticize, that is, to try to think about the contradictory oscilation in its movement of diastole and systole ( the dilation and contraction of the heart that beats, the flux and reflux of the sea that beats) from its center point, which is its point of uneasiness, of suspense (…) The moment when the den dug by what looks at us opens in what we see”. Georges Didi-Huberman, in “That which we see, that which looks at us”.
 The expression is found in “Epistula ad Pisones”.
“ To the obscure through the most obscure, to the unknown through the most unknown”, reads the formula.
 “At night, by the fire, / The colors of the bushes / And of the fallen leaves, / Repeating themselves, / Turned in the room, / Like the leaves themselves, / Turning in the wind.” (My underlining)
"El Mundo" newspaper, Caracas
Water has always captivated certain types of artists: those who prefer the fluid to the rigid, the ephemeral to the eternal, the transparent to the opaque, the open to the confined -those known to be highly sensitive. Toña Vegas is an artist involved in that tradition, searching for the limits of what can be represented with the most immaterial elements offered by nature. This is, in addition, a Venezuelan tradition whose utmost representative is Armando Reverón.
Attempting to fix the intangible, to see beyond the surface, to detect the occult beneath the ordinary appearances of a puddle left by the rain: this is what Toña Vegas has achieved through the creation of her new work. The prosaic and disposable are objects of her attention, and she transmutes them into art. She resorts to photography and digital prints, but she does not dwell in technology. She shatters it, both in the literal and figurative sense. She tears the paper and recycles it in the form of ¨collages¨, which she then integrates into her paintings. Strips, dots, shreds, confound their textures with pigments and brush strokes: thus achieving the visual and tactile effect of a shimmering, bursting and shifting surface. There is an intimacy between the artist and her medium, a craftiness that is very fresh and genuine, and this intimacy is found again in the discrete choice of formats.
The artist says: “I drink lots of water while I work. I feel it keeps me humid inside. It connects the spaces within my body, perhaps endorses the movements of my own rhythm.”; and, in effect, this communion with the liquid element in her work is achieved. It is necessary to get very close to these works, to gently contemplate their material quality, thus the intimacy between them and the spectator is established, which is also an intimacy with nature, and an extension of the intimacy of the artist with her medium.
Toña Vegas dignifies the infinitesimally small, simple water droplets, small spills, almost imperceptible rows. She seems to treat them in a realistic manner, but at the same time gives the impression of magnifying them, as if under a microscope. They lose their figurative aspect and turn into abstract forms, which then become the starting point of each composition. Random abstract arrangements are born in front of our eyes that reveal no structure, but belong to an underlying order. (She is a rigorous artist but she knows how to hide it.). And from those freeform abstract (and lyric) compositions, the landscape, or its vision, as if through mirrors or through water itself, resurfaces
She manages to create an ambiguity between the smallest and least containable in nature: between the drop of water and the ocean. Scales and proportions have been broken, the whole is in the detail, the detail turns into the whole. This is how landscapes are now drawn, in a transition from the figurative to the abstract and back again to the figurative (or what we want to consider as such). Lines become shores or horizons, stains rivers and lakes. Seascapes, aquatic and ethereal atmospheres, begin to conform themselves, but there is nothing too precise, on the contrary, what is valuable in the tradition of “water painting” (the Chinese, the Romantics, the Impressionists, and of course, Reverón…) is in itself what it suggests -rather than represent-: Toña Vegas: sensations, an approximation to nature in what is changing and unstable.
Venezuelan artist reflect world polarities on the walls of city gallery
Artist Toña Vegas arrived in Hudson with crates of light and shadows, painted on Wood panels under the tropical sunlight of Venezuela. While painting, she thought of Hudson, because the paintings were created specifically for the ADD Gallery exhibit, which opens this Saturday.
Vegas treats the space of the galleries one unit. She paints the walls black and White and splashes them with the paintings, which are a myriad of shapes and sizes. There is a constant play of colors, blacks and whites that have greens and blues, blues and greens and ochres that bounce off pools of light and shadows. The effect is mesmerising, everything repeating and reorganising itself visually.
Says the artist, “The present tendency in the world towards polarisation creates distance and division, and obstructs the possibility of relationship within diversity.
My intention in this exhibition is to create an experience that allows us to connect and interact with a subtler dimension, a dimension that is interwoven with the perception of polarity”.
Living in Venezuela, a country currently wounded by extreme division. Toña Vegas feels the need to reassemble a reality where the separate pieces find a significant resolution.
He artwork, hung on the black and white walls, will integrate the divergence and create the sensation of windows to a deeper reality.
The exhibit will be open to the public today through the end of May.
The concept of this exhibit was formulated between Tony Vazquez-Figueroa and I during a span of eighteen months of work, conversations, coincidences and reflections. The work in tandem can clearly be observed in the show.
Our curator, Lorena Gonzalez, with her extraordinary sensibility wrote a very eloquent text (which Viceversa magazine published in its Sept 5-2016 edition) and connected our works currently exhibited in the Clemente Center’s unique gallery space.
My proposal for the exhibit consists of two series: Transmigration, mixed media printed on paper and Worthy of the scent of bread, paintings in oil on canvas.
The supporting motto of my work can be traced in an image from a paragraph, on the birth of Dionyssus in the book "The gods of the Greeks" by Karl Kerényi (1):
... "Persephone began to knit a large piece, a gown for her father or her mother that contained a representation of the whole world..."
Thus Persephone begins to weave this ambitious piece; it is a work that begins and never ends ... Note that the gown she is weaving contains a representation of the world, which implies her own interpretation...
Some years ago I had a vision, which I could say expresses the central force that moves my work. I was reading one of my favorite poets, Thomas Tranströmer, and fell in a sort of drowsiness in which I experienced with great clarity, from a certain distance (by visual perspective) how each one of us, human beings, weaves our own pattern, organic and subtle, which in turn is related to the tissue created by others. This particular configuration develops in layers, complexities and yet its basic structure is drawn in a similar configuration (or design). Just as the sea, the sand, the earth, the stones have beneath a similar pattern, thus the subtle weavings we create in this life interconnect us.
I could say then that this collection is one manifestation of that subtle tissue pattern materialized into form.
I consider Transmigration as a poetic combination of form and content. It is visually sturdy yet at the same time holds layers of significance that intertwine between the mobile spaces generated by the magic of color.
More specifically, I photographed images of other artists’ works, always with an oblique gaze, in the same way that I captured images of what surrounds me (which in the end is the origin of visual works), and then I associated the captured images through surfaces of color, assembling an unusual configuration in each of the pieces.
Color is the element that creates the link between images. Sometimes it produces a sort of closure and at the same time opens up to new spaces. Like a sliding door that allows a dialogue between two images that were unrelated beforehand.
The collection of pieces functions as a whole: a large mural (a tapestry), yet each piece in itself also constitutes a whole, it breathes alone.
The paintings of Worthy of the scent of bread arise from the need to expose my experience of the current Venezuelan situation regarding the acute scarcity, not only from the material point of view, but of the essential human dignity implied in the act of perceiving the smell of bread (a cultural and spiritual foundation of human race).
The title comes from, and is a tribute to the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who in his poem Mural (2000) (2) writes "... I have seen a country that welcomes me with morning hands: Be worthy of the scent of bread ... ". This image has been present in my personal inventory from the moment I read it for the first time and is now the foundation of these series of paintings.
The choice of oil and wax, the density of the material, which produces a matte paste, relates to the density of the situation.
Visually, the paintings emerge from the Transmigration series: the images in this series have been captured obliquely, the images in the paintings are frontal extracts of the above, creating a macro image of significant areas, thus always intersected by a translucent film containing symbols of the package of PAN corn flour, which is the basic element of our Venezuelan daily bread.
1. Kerényi, K. The gods of the Greeks. Edit Monteávila. 1997
2. Darwix,M. Selected poems (1966-2005). Editorial Pre-textos. Colección La Cruz del Sur. 2008
REFLECTIONS ON MY WORK. INVENTORY/TAKES
The Clemente Center, New York
Toña Vegas. Sept. 2016