Absence of Landscape –
Rosario López at Eduardo Fernandez Gallery

Eduardo Fernades Gallery presented a solo show of Rosario López in 2018. The following is the text which accompanied the exhibition, from the original in Spanish written for Variaciones del Territorio:

Absence of Landscape

The works comprised in this exhibition -as many of those made by Rosario in the past- are deeply engaged with the idea of territory. Her artistic practice starts by leaving the artist’s studio to travel around the world in search of places and landscapes that inspire her. The journey has been long. For Rosario it started with the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, then the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina and more recently the cliffs of Cabo Raoul in the island of Tasmania. She visited these places in an attempt to capture their essence and experience the natural forces that make and transform them.

Although the majority of works in this recent exhibition reference a specific place -Cape Raoul, in the remote lands of the Australian continent- for me the need for location is irrelevant. What counts is the territory as physical presence, seeing the land as a specific matter that represents the forces hidden behind it. It is this matter that connects geography, architecture and art in Rosario’s work. If architecture deals with the notion of inhabiting a place, Rosario tells us that such a place can change our experience of existing, it can raise our concern about the way we relate with the land, the way we experience a specific territory. It is through the study of the topography and accidental formations that Rosario manages to connect us with an original architecture, that of the planet we live in.

Her latest series of work entitled La Tierra Importa (Land Matters), starts with a photograph of the cliffs at Cape Raoul. The monochrome image gives a specific sense of scale and dimensions of the territory but can also reveal the hidden forces of nature that are contained in it. This image is evidence of the different structures and materials that inspire the different works in this exhibition. It reveals Rosario’s intentions and connects these works with former projects she has made at different landmarks around the world. Some examples are: Resurrección (Resurrection) a work from 1997, Trampas de viento (Wind Traps) made in 2000, Insufflare (insufflare) and Lo informe y el límite (The shapeless and the limited) from 2007.

From the large image of Cabo Raoul, one can imagine the wind and the waves splashing against the cliff. If we look more carefully, we one can even imagine the primary forces and tensions of nature behind them, the tectonic plates that shake, destroy, and reshape the geography of our planet. Throughout her journeys around the world Rosario has acquired particular skills: a profound knowledge of the essential connections drawn from the landscape, and very clear and sharp conceptual language and artistic practice that has reached its most depurate state.

The works comprised in La Tierra Importa (Land Matters) talk about the multiple variations and manifestations of natural forces which shape the landscape and lie at the essence of our idea of territory. In that sense, all human constructions, whether they be buildings or sculptures, are inevitably inspired by these forces. These works are the conscious evolution of a series of forms that Rosario finds in their original state.

There is a second reading of Rosario’s work. One that entails turning her back to the natural landscape to get inside the artist’s studio to develop her creative process. In this exhibition, it is evident that there is an economy of means resulting from a rigorous experimental practice of sculpture. This allows Rosario to recognize the expressive dimension of the materials she works with, in this case, felt and steel. What comes out of this intimate work at the studio is a deep knowledge of the natural components and the physical characteristics of materials (color, weight, malleability, etc.). In that sense, the weight of a rock is represented through the lightness of felt, the lines of drawings and the shape of forged steel. If Rosario’s artistic process is inspired by the landscape, it is also independent from it. The work at the studio is key to develop this other part of her creative process, a more disciplined and meditative act of finding shapes and creating with forces. This is a constant in Rosario’s work.

Some pieces are produced directly at the studio, but others require the intermediation of the ceramists and forgers. Their technical knowledge gives a definitive form to the final piece. In that sense, Rosario’s artistic practice is very contemporary: Her work is made using multiple resources. A rigorous process which entails research and developing a precise theoretical discourse for every project. Through the years, her discourse has become clearer. A combination of conceptual work and a careful practice at the studio has allowed Rosario to experience every landscape differently.

Talking with Rosario we added an additional component to the exhibition. One that may not have an evident presence in the show but is still crucial to understand her work. It is a sonic component better expressed by the force of silence than by any specific sound. For Rosario, the photograph of Cabo Raoul contains the sound of the cliff, which we can only imagine. But once we look at the felt structures, the noise is absorbed, and the rock remains in deep silence. Thinking Rosario’s work in terms of sound and silence allows us to feel the strength of the muteness –of the emptiness of her sculptures- in the exhibition space. Emptiness can be perceived in the steel and felt structures, it is something that has been present in Rosario’s work for more than twenty years. Rosario’s pieces are traps where silence can be contained, and emptiness can be felt or seen.

In Rosario’s words: “I think that my work is inhabiting landscape. A landscape that is absent but not empty. My work visualizes the void by showing the limits of what is contained or delimited. Emptiness must be seen as a natural phenomenon”.

The catalogue of this exhibition includes a conversation between Rosario and the philosopher Stephen Zepke. It develops the idea of presence and void through connections with art history. Zepke talks about the force of chaos as an element of the landscape. For him “all those black forms, those drawings talk inevitably about a form of disappearance or death”. The disappearance he mentions or the absence of landscape that Rosario refers to, allows us to understand the work as a continuum, from the first Aproximación a los órganos (Approach to organs) made in 1994 to the most recent works which make this exhibition. They all evidence an incessant research of the forces that shape the territory and influence sculpture. In the end, Rosario’s work is fueled by a deep interest in emptiness, absence and silence.

Rodrigo Orrantia

Translation from Spanish: Laura Carbonell

Exhibition online at Eduardo Fernandez Gallery