Magdalena Fernández and the noises of the World

The vast field of art has always been a territory of similarities, and the fundamental mystery of analogies appears to be its epicenter. The fact that artworks resemble one another because they are related with the same sources or with similar fates and intentions is a matter for critics and historians. But this resemblance goes beyond documented associations, beyond empirical births. And it is not the exclusive responsibility of those of us who perceive and try to transcribe, through the stubborn fragility of writing the resonance of the eye, to confirm that the works resemble one another. It is also necessary to dwell upon the subtlety of the differences, upon the huge transfiguration potential that lies in the strategies of an artist when that artist is, like Magdalena Fernández, aware of her own place and of the place of her work.

The work of Magdalena Fernández has been associated, not without reason, to one of the most effective Venezuelan artistic traditions: that of optical and geometric abstraction. The similarity between some of her seminal works and such precedents as the works of Jesús Soto, Gego and Alejandro Otero inhabits the beautiful echoes of her creations, and while it is true that she is determined to inscribe them within the traditions that these artists have founded, it is also true that she has transformed them subtly but drastically.

Beyond the connections of her work with the theoretical and plastic sources represented by Italian and Venezuelan abstract art, Magdalena Fernandez's recent work is the experimental and inventive field of a clear “naturalization” of abstraction. It is therefore possible to verify in them the persistence of structures whose visual functioning still responds to the model of the great patterns of modern abstraction, provided it is also understood that, in a sort of conceptual background, what motivates the work from a poetical viewpoint is the persistence of a corporal or organic spectrum, a reduced or disseminated corporality. It is thus that an organicism not devoid of existential concerns draws the modern sources of Fernandez's work increasingly close to an investigation on natural structures.

The keys to this work are therefore revealed retrospectively, and what seemed to be an interest in repetitive forms in her early creations appears now as an interrogation about the void which, in our perception of the natural world, interrelates things; what appeared to be a reiteration of the modern rhetoric of interwoven compositions, is transfigured into an investigation of the fluidity of natural matter.  

This “naturalization” of abstraction represents, perhaps, one of the most interesting clues to Venezuelan art of our time, and it may have had its “clutch” in works in which Magdalena Fernández questioned the very presence of her body, fragmented, in luminous and specular structures. More recently, in her Dibujos Móviles (Mobile Drawings), as well as in a series of videos and videographic segments, Magdalena Fernández declines the formal alphabet of geometric abstraction in a repertory of rhythms whose source is the animal “noises” and “sounds” that characterize the afternoons and nights of the Valley of Caracas, or that refer, through a figure composition permanently oscillating between form and deformation, to the movement of the waters. Dots and lines on virtual water planes; crepuscular toads and crickets with their de-contextualized song then become a pretext for the generation of apparently abstract forms.  

These investigations would deserve more extensive consideration, as well as a more urgent view than the one it is possible to elaborate in this commentary. I would dare point out that they are part of a critical moment for the Venezuelan nation, and that perhaps they suggest symbolic keys that may allow us to understand some of the ideological mutilations that mark new approaches to reality from the field of art in Venezuela. Indeed, they seem to object –and amend- a “Venezuelan ideology” characterized by the secular confusion between the concepts of nature and landscape.

Immersed in the abundance of the natural “gift” that has determined the celerity of its epidermal enrichment, Venezuelan society appears to have conceived the landscape exclusively in terms of infra-real nature. On very few occasions has Venezuelan art succeeded in rendering the difference between the landscape as a humanization of nature and nature as a pre-existing reality (that is, as soil already granted before we came to be in history, and consequently, not depending on our will).

This vast confusion, whose implications have been enormous in terms of the Venezuelan social and symbolic essence, has deprived us of rhetorical resources to develop the field of landscape. It is striking –and paradoxical- that the “artificialization of nature” should emerge today, in our art, through this surprising “naturalization of abstraction”, around which Magdalena Fernandez's recent works develop their dazzling interpellation. A double fidelity, at the same time modest and daring, to the best of our modern arts´ history and to the undecipherable and incessant message from nature appears to intertwine with the symbolic matter of these works in which the ever-mute forms of space are found to be, once again, bearers of the noises of the world.

Luis Pérez Oramas
Arte Al Día' magazine
Number 110
July, 2005