El despertar de los insectos
Text: Renata Cervetto
16.09.21 - 23.10.21
Little big fires
A gentle breeze blows through a bedroom window, causing a crocheted curtain to billow. Its woven texture reveals a blue sky in the background, which could well be from the beginning or the end of a day. Inside, the low light of a lamp reflects on the countertop the roundness of its lampshade and the circular volume of its base. The presence of a small plant in the lower corner of the image cuts across the apparent normality of the scene: semi-illuminated by that warm light, its presence turns the solidity of the table into thick mud. The atmosphere of the scene is thus suspended, and what until now seemed familiar is about to be transformed.
"The Awakening of the Insects" is Lula Mari's first solo exhibition at the Gachi Prieto gallery, where he presents a series of oil paintings made in the last two years. To say that these works began with sketches produced during his summers at El Tigre would not be enough. His fascination for this town also goes back to its own history. Mari says that her great-great-grandfather arrived in Argentina from France - Nice on time - and that he was one of the first settlers to install the passenger boat service in the Tigre Delta. Her childhood was spent among the channels of the Lujan River, and it was there that her visual world began to take shape, as did the nuances that only she could distinguish within the island jungle.
In 2020, during the first year of the pandemic, the artist began to incorporate sketches of ancient beings such as insects and turtles into her block. During ancient times in China, turtles were considered a sacred animal, since their shells were used to decipher the destiny of men. The longevity that characterizes these reptiles was equivalent to their wisdom, which leads them without haste or pause wherever they want to go. Deciphering the messages that their armor would bring us today remains with each one, but certainly there is a key to survival and adaptation. We could perhaps learn from that slower and more leisurely temporality, from this other way of traveling and living on earth. This suggestion may be one of the first prophecies that Lula Mari's landscapes throw at us.
When viewed together, these paintings say more than what they represent. There is a force that lives at the bottom of these rivers and swamps that inevitably summons the viewer. Lula Mari develops her craft as a painter not only from a deep handling and knowledge of the technique, but also constantly nourishing what the painting mobilizes in her: a sustained and reciprocal dialogue that materializes at the moment of finding the image. In other words, pay attention to what the painting needs to become something more. The questions that originate in her process are concerns that the artist works between pauses and layers of oil diluted in turpentine. The "paintable", as she calls them, are those images that are presented and ask for a place on the canvas, like mirages that are revealed by dint of not ceasing to search for them.
The figuration that characterizes Lula Mari's paintings delves into the world of ambiguity and the fantastic. At times, we can associate them with works by the coastal painter Fermín Eguía, where mythical giant fish devour boats and large fireplaces burn among the bushes of Paraná. However, the artist's works do not respond to mythical narratives or invented fables, but rather suggest states of a rarefied nature, powerful and peaceful at the same time. The presence of fire and water as opposite but complementary elements also speaks of the balance of natural forces that is presented in these paintings. Fire destroys, but also regenerates and symbolizes clarity of thought, as can be seen in The Transformation, where a large bonfire burns over the water, illuminating the night. Unlike previous works, the paintings in this exhibition do not show people; instead, the landscape becomes fertile, living ground. The scenes unfold like bittersweet postcards from the not-too-distant future, where an overflowing storm, such as Lluvia, churns large masses of water and causes creatures - hitherto hidden - to begin to appear among the grasslands. The presence of these animal-critters, as the artist calls them, is unspoken: they can be felt and heard, but they are not always seen.
The current that runs through these paintings carries with it the memories of the water. On the banks of the river the possibility of an end and also a new beginning is sensed. We could say that everything begins and ends in that image of fire on the tide, which is also one of the many hexagrams of the I-Ching. Lula Mari's paintings hint at the paths that we can only cross when we travel them, as those first boats did in the Paraná. If we go slow enough, perhaps we can notice how new shoots of life inevitably emerge from the mud.
Buenos Aires, agosto 2021