Words and Things: Rosana Ricalde

Words and Things: Rosana Ricalde

Las palabras y las cosas

Luciano Vinhosa

Traducción de Anahí Ramírez Alfaro

Time Changes Everything

Other authors have noticed that in Rosana Ricalde’s work, the instability between verbal syntax and visual structure expounds the image to the limit of the receiver’s poetic power. The fragile form knitted from her words and images doesn’t do more than seek meanings. But, what tool can be used to carve flesh from an object and extract its essence if time changes everything and never stops its flow? Thus, like dune landscapes, the meaning of her work moves along with the net of words thrown in order to capture it. We find ourselves inevitably subjected to tension: the infinite possibilities of language are juxtaposed with their inability to tell truth completely. Indeed, her works throw us into a pit of silence that is opened up by the words the artist builds her art with, as well as the words with which we try to understand them. If being lives in language, as Heidegger says, it is notable, however, that it’s instability is dynamically connected to our own instability—and even to our anxiety to learn it —because what we are (and what being is) only finds in words a short-lived representation.

If time changes everything, we may say that the instability on which the work struggles to build itself can be taken as a metaphor of everything that is changeable, impermanent and fragile. This is a rich contrast to man’s hidden will to live forever, unchanged, though experience only reminds him of his finiteness. This might explain the fact that art history is filled with portraits. It seems like the privilege of immortality, generally speaking, was restricted to pharaohs and monarchs, but that never stopped artists from making self-portraits in attempt to make the spirit remain through physical portrayals. It is said that Phidias left his sculpted image inside the Parthenon, and even before then, a certain Ni-ankh-Phtah engraved his facial features onto a monument in Ancient Egypt. However, the artist’s obsession with self-portraits is recent, related to the consciousness of individuality. So, if it is correct to say that at certain moments of its history, painting was directly associated with the idea of a mirror reflecting the physical world, then the self-portrait, with the artist’s face as its primary subject, was intended to be a mirror of his soul. The idea that empowered the self-portrait as a historic piece was that the appearance, despite being changeable and fragile, could participate in the subject’s inner life —but achieve greater stability. The self-portraits left by Rembrandt in the 17th century are, in fact, witnesses, and they point to the moment of passage—the turn of the 19th century—when European society psychologized itself.

If poetry is the occupation of words through images, as Manoel de Barros states, poets, like visual artists, describe themselves in an attempt to establish their impermanent beings with images. In her self-portraits series, Rosana collects poems with the same title and brings them to a plane that’s traditionally occupied solely by painting. Giving each one of them a color, she reproduces the poems with embossing tape. It seems ironic that instead of a representation of the artist (her “self”), these are representations of the poets. It is also notable that the standard sizes the artist chose for these objects (50 x 46 x 2 cm) are the same as a small looking glass. Isn’t it through eye contact that we can expect to detect something the subject mistakenly missed? Does this strange subject—the now psychologized artist—reside more in the mirror than in the real world in his attempt of self-comprehension? The inevitable partition between the inner world and the outer world to which we were submitted by the process of civilization has set man on a course that makes him nostalgic for unity. Wouldn’t this gap between worlds be the ideal place for art to lay its foundations to live out its drama and extract from there the strength to continue its modern work? The self-portraits presented by the artist express it exceedingly well. In them, unity appears more compromised than promising as soon as each poet’s nature is known to be movable, like the images of the poems obliquely touched by the receiver’s eye on the surface of the “painting”.

After all, according to the same Manoel de Barros, images are words we missed. So, this anxious pause— the so-called relational space—is formed between the work and the subject facing it. Language tries to occupy it while it struggles with its own representation in this common space. Because the being is more movable than stable, time changes everything and the meanings are remade according to the context.

The self-regurgitating seas are also movable. They crash, they shake, and they turn everything into salt just as time changes everything. Rosana Ricalde’s seas, flowing with the currents that are birthed from handwriting, also acquire dynamic shapes. At some level, they form the necessary counterpoint to the previous works. The usual tension between verbal and visual signs is minimized in her Seas. The substantives of which they consist—the names of the seas—are almost dissolved into graphic substance. It is proved that thought, submitted to a continuous modular pattern, discovers itself each time the artist lets her hand go with the rhythmical frequency of the waves. Originality seems like the appropriate term to describe the posture that stands out, but here it’s meaning should be seen in a different light that usual. Instead of referring to the singularity of the subject or the particular character that atomizes it, it refers to its nullification through the adoption of the molecular gesture. Repetition, I believe, is the rigorous artistic exercise to which Rosana submits in order to forget the self, find spontaneity in the gesture again and return to the origin. Nevertheless, it’s not a representation of the “myself” of Expressionism, but the “ourselves” of Sufistic rituals and mantras.

In this sense, repetition can also be understood as a kind of moral exercise. It wouldn’t be casual or unnecessary to compare her Seas to eastern engravings, especially Hokusai’s, the exceptional Japanese artist who Rosana seems to be inspired by. It is known that traditional eastern art has related to imitation very differently than the western. The point is not that some of Rosana’s Seas to resemble Hokusai’s, but that they take from the master an inspiration for the perfect lines and rhythms that infuse her art with vitality. What counts is the inner likeness. Therefore, the artistic activity is an ethical act, capable of guiding life.

Time changes everything. Trees grow, men appear, days die… art is pure energy animating life. Furthermore, to what words can no longer say, an absolute sea of silence will be imposed. course that makes him nostalgic for unity.

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