Tasmina k Majles
The Theatre is Lying
The tenacity of retaining puzzling representation of reality in fiction has been in practice in contemporary art over a decade, provoking many questions of how reality collides and meaning is interpreted (Burner 2006, p.55). The idea of engaging audience and conceptualizing fiction with reality through cross-disciplinary media in contemporary context has given a new dimension to art reception. As much as synthesizing of reality and fiction into body of work that entertains, it also addresses some inconceivable complexities of modern life. The artists in contemporary art articulate the global concerns for example religion, social in equalities, political ideologies etc. through masterful presentational fabrication within the conceptual framework.
Recently ACCA has housed an exhibit ‘The theatre is lying’ curated by Annika Kristensen and Max Delany. The exhibition is a series of collection showcasing five major artist works: Anna Breckon and Nat Randall, Sol Calero, Consuelo Cavaniglia, Matthew Griffin and Daniel Jenatsch. The exhibition is a Macfarlane Commissioned multi-year partnership with The Macfarlane Fund designed to support ambitious contemporary artist work (ACCA 2019). The collection showcases the works of artists through intelligent narrative representation of fact and reality in various cross-disciplinary avenues such as cinematic and theatrical devices, including installation, misé enscene, historical re-enactment, digital montage and compositions with video, light and sound (ACCA 2019). Every exhibit displays thematic elements of artception and addresses double meaning through a staged representation.
Sol Calero’s spatial installation of paintings staged in theatrical representation has many layers of ambiguity. On entering the space of the installation the first element that draws the most attention is the vibrancy of the bright colors and tactile illustration of tropical fruit motifs that has been incorporated. The overwhelming bright structures slowly starts to sync as the elements are observed carefully in details. Furthermore, the elements bring a lived experience of exterior inside an interior that briefly reflects the trading history of the region where she grew up, the way in which the dichotomy between North and South America permeates. The artist draws her inspiration from the popular Brazilian dancer and film star Carmen Miranda, and creates paintings that demonstrate the symbolic interpretation that undermines the aesthetic pleasure of experiencing the image at first glance (Artuner 2019, para 1). The installation is divided into two parts with a reference of a roman arch strategically placed, which gives an insight of her influence of Baroque European architectural elements. It is mentioned that in Latin America this roman arches are a common feature in their architectures (ACCA, 2019). The other segment is staged with astute use of dull colors intentionally to draw the audience into the double meaning factor that how theatrical experience has a reality and fictional connotation. The installation turns our attention to the artist’s reflection and how it is interpreted in a Latin American movement. The artists background of growing up Venezuela and Spain as part of a Latin diaspora, Sol Calero’s paintings and installations is a reference to the complex social and political histories that inform constructions of Latin identity and aesthetics is very much evident in the work (ACCA 2019). The artist describes her work as a referential to a lot of European artists to create a new movement as an expression to address a shift into the Latin American Art genre such as Tropicalia in Brazil, Mexican muralism, etc. (Artuner 2019, para. 3). Her body of work is an illustration of how she intentionally engages the audience to question the origin of Latin American new art movements and raises a voice of hybridity in global art. The analogy of displaying Latin American values with European arts, which establishes hybridity of work, also reflects in the work of another artist called Beatriz Milhazes (Harris 2003, p.28). Both the artist has a very provocative style of using vibrant colors and tropical motifs to draw attention. The use of paintings on a large scale to create this illusion of reality and fiction of drama evokes in various ways in other artist’s work like Patricia Piccinini and Jonathan Wateridge. What resonates with Sol Calero’s work with the mentioned two artists work is the fact that, they all retain skills in manipulating mood, drama and scale, creating components for filmic epics of alternative realities with exigency of painting techniques (ArtAsiaPacific 2018, para. 4).
Another interesting common fact that can be traced among the artist’s style is the use of painting technique as the prime medium to engage audiences. In the recent times there are many assumptions how painting as a medium of art is struggling to create a space in the contemporary art. According to Searle (1994) painting has a way of reviving referring the technique as the ‘Old Time Religion’ and its dominating existence. The strength of painting as a classic technique of art representational technique is very much evident in these conceptual artist techniques. The Sol Calero’s use of bright colors with confidant method of application not only shows the tacit knowledge of demonstration of painting but it also helps to manipulate the colors to give the double meaning to the context. The patterns also shift from tropical in the bright side to the texture of surface on the dull side of the installation. Giving the audience a perception of reality of theatre but in a fictional space.
The painting technique is a major element in Sol Calero’s work and without a doubt she does uses is strategically to connote her message that comes through subtly. The synergy of blending two worlds and narrating a story in line with reality in fiction is an art by itself that has been executed with stupendous skills. Although, this genre of practice is quite prevalent in recent times which involves blurring of reality and fiction boundary. According to Sullivan (2017) this occult practice where typical meaning is stymied may not interpret the message accurately. However, he agrees on the fact how reality and fiction staging may create ‘world making’ process but he also asserts that fictioning involves a further enactment or embody content which emphases on a living out them as real (Sullivan 2017, p. 305). The mentioned argument of reality and fiction conceptual art does helps to put lens on the staged exhibits and helps to understand the artwork better. Sol Calero’s art installation has a subtle way of narrating the double meaning has and engages the audience with the narration in a very profound way. The two worlds she created one colorful and another dark also baffles the audiences initially but provokes the critical insight to think deep by subtly incorporating the message.
The most pleasuring factor of Sol Calero’s work is her expanding power of articulating various elements of art brilliantly; to narrate the double meaning is such a subtle yet provocative manner. The immense thought process into the subject incorporating skillful technique of painting has enhanced the content. Having painting, as a specialized field of research the gallery visit really gave a fresh perspective of understanding how painting and installation can be combined together to create a synergy within the body of work that would narrate a conceptual meaning to the artwork. Sol Carelo’s intelligent spatial installation has put a new perspective to my understanding about new art movement in Latin America and how hybridity of work can be placed beyond boarders to narrate a story. The critical and strategically placement of work with double meaning alluded the double meaning of reality.
ACCA 2019, 'The Theatre is Lying: The inaugural Macfarlane Commissions', Education Kit, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 15 December, retrieved 4 April 2019, https://content.acca.melbourne/uploads/2019/02/The-Theatre-is-Lying-Education-Kit.pdf
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Sullivan, O S 2017, Mythopoesis or Fiction as Mode of Existence: Three Case Studies from Contemporary Art, Visual Culture in Britain, 18:2, 292-311, DOI: 10.1080/14714787.2017.1355746