«The struggle could have been motivated and legitimized by the fact that both media [painting and photography] would have competed for one aim, one final prize, one slice of the cake: the image».
Claudio Marra, Fotografia e pittura nel Novecento.
Una storia “senza combattimento”, Mondadori, Milan, 2000.
In his careful analytical process for an anatomy of everyday life, Rómulo Celdrán offers a repertory of objects, which he examines with great exactitude, paying extremely close attention to the construction of formal details, with an inflexible black-and-white appearance that gives individual works a paradigmatic profile.
«Reality does not exist», the artist suggests, adding that «what we know as reality is a mental physical-chemical process that allows us to perceive what is outside of us».
The task of art is, therefore, to create facets of possible worlds, of realities that, although delimited by tangible boundaries, are connected to estranging ideas or perspectives. The process of building the work is an exploration aimed at redefining the boundaries of possible fragments of reality, even when an object becomes the protagonist of a sculpture or painting, as in our case.
The works selected for the solo show held at Gagliardi e Domke belong to a series of paintings Celdrán called Zoom, which reveals a methodology based on the close observation of an inventory of objects which belong to the artist, and which he constantly uses in his daily private and professional life. What he does to these objects – ordinary but seductive in their design – is he radically modifies their scale: on the supports of Celdrán’s paintings, the objects are actually magnified compared to their real size. This has to do with a tendency that exists not only in art history, but in the history of images in general. Artists, especially from Modernism onwards, have often deformed and changed the features (or proportions) of objects, thus inverting the interpretation of their meanings and subverting the relationship between spectator and work. Just think of the Flowers of Andy Warhol and the mockingly magnified needles and hamburgers in the huge public sculptures of Claes Oldenburg, just to mention two already historicized cases, but there are many more examples.
Celdrán’s research follows along this line, which originates from the principle of altering what is tangible by definition – and he sticks to it even when he privileges the spatial potentialities of three-dimensionality over the languages of painting. What he gives us in the Macro series of sculptures, for instance, is nothing but a three-dimensional redesigning of everyday objects (some of which we also find in his paintings), exasperating their volumes without however neglecting details, both in their formal and chromatic values.
Duct tape, a ruler, a match, trash bags piled up on top of each other, a hatched egg and an old brush: the objects portrayed in the works on view reveal a perpetual fascination with everyday life. It is no chance, the artist explains, «that there is something magical about the realm of size. There seems to be an emotional memory that leads us to experience our relation to objects as if it were a game». The hyperrealism in these works is so extreme as to be constantly, obsessively poised on the boundary of photography, and it also reveals unnoticed fissures and imperfections that transpose the whole picture to a dimension of irrational relationship between reality and fiction.
This amazed vision, however, does not reveal snow-white fragments of reality, but elements which, in the minimal black and white scheme adopted by the artist, exasperate forms, lending them a somewhat mysterious essence. The work of Rómulo Celdrán can also be read as an inquiry into the boundaries of language itself; the author tests the innermost workings of painting, to arrive at a persuasive relationship with photography and its perceptual aspects, which has been a permanent feature in art history for over a century. Combattimento per un’immagine. Fotografi e pittori is the title of a historical exhibition curated in 1971 by Luigi Carluccio and Daniela Palazzoli at Turin’s Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, which clearly showed the consideration in which the relationship between the two languages was held at the time. Today, observing the paintings of Celdrán, this dialectical relationship between painting and photography remains, but ultimately it is a “struggle-less” relationship.
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