28.09.23 - 30.12.23
Since ancient times, there has been a legend in the Mediterranean of a mysterious island, on the shores of which sailors were lured to their death by attractive bird song. These birds were given the name of Sirens, and it was said that they had the head of a woman. We see them represented as such
on funeral reliefs, in sculptures and ceramics, painted onto amphora, hydria, plates and glasses. Later they were also depicted with breasts and arms and - on occasion - with musical instruments: the lyre and the aulos. Their original iconography owed much to Ba, the bird with a human head. For the
Egyptians, Ba was one of the three immortal parts of the human soul, the force that left the body at death, only to return each night to reunite with Ka, the spiritual force that remained in the tomb. For the Greeks, the Sirens such as Ba conserved that characteristic of the link between our world and the
The Sirens are related to other mythical figures with female faces: the harpies and the sphynxes, although the harpies - with their huge claws - are more bestial and the sphynxes have the body of a lion. Only the Sirens sing, but all belong to the chthonic or terrestrial world and all - in one way or
another - are related to the underworld. It is said that the Sirens are the daughters of the river god Achelous (he who drives away sorrows) and one of the muses (whose identity varies in the retelling). The Sirens were originally the young and beautiful companions of Persephone and their
transformation was a consequence of their failure to prevent her capture by Hades. According to some, Demeter punished them by turning them into birds. Other versions say that their metamorphosis was voluntary: they asked the gods for wings so that they might search for Persephone more quickly. Whatever the case, it is supposed that they continued to visit their old friend, newly converted into the queen of the underworld, and it is for this reason they are so often represented as part of funerary rites.
Among many of the texts than mention them, we can highlight their appearance in three great classical works: Homer's Odyssey, Apollonius of Rhodes; Argonautica and Ovid's Metamorphosis. It is widely known from Homer's tale how Odysseus, on the advice of Circe, blocks his sailor's ears with
wax and had himself strapped to the ship's mast, in order to hear the Sirens without succumbing to their song. It is one bondage to avoid another, as one of the possible etymologies of the word Siren is σειρα, the Ancient Greek for chain or lasso. Cunning and deception triumph over seduction. Two
centuries later, Apollonius tells of an incident that occurred prior to that of Odysseus: Orpheus, on board the Argo, tricks the Sirens by drowning out their lethal song with the sound of his lyre. Apollonius uses the word άκριτος (uncritical, undivided) to describe the Sirens'; song: continuous, not
separable into words like human song. This continuous song is surpassed by the discontinuous notes of Orpheus'; lyre. In his Metamorphosis, the Roman Ovid tells of the origin of the Sirens and their transformation into birds with female faces. These mythological birds are also mentioned in other
classical texts, such as Euripides'; Helena (where they are virgin daughters of the earth) and Virgil's Aeneid. In contemporary texts, Joyce deals with them in the complex and musically structured chapter 11 of Ulysses and Kafka speculates on their possible silence.
Maurice Blanchot says that the Sirens "appeared to sing, but in a way that did not satisfy, that merely allowed one to hear from which direction the true source and the true joy of the song emanated. Nevertheless, with their imperfect songs, that were only a song to come, they lead the navigator to the
space where the song would truly begin". The song was at a distance and what it revealed was the possibility of travelling that distance, of converting the song into movement towards the song and that movement into the expression of the greatest desire. From the IV and V centuries of the Common Era, the iconography of the Sirens began to mutate: the birds with the female faces disappeared and the women with fish tails began to appear, and are now the better known of the Sirens. Apparently, the Greek Sirens migrated. A few centuries later, carried by Persian merchants, their myth arrived in Russia and they were reincarnated as Sirin, a songbird with a female face who - according to the legend - lived near the river Euphrates. She is not the only being with these characteristics in Russian mythology, there is also the myth of Alcyone, who was transformed by Zeus into a bird and arrived at the Steppes, where she received the name of Alkonost.
In the same way, Gamayún is - in Russian folklore - another bird with a female face and torso. It is believed that she too was inspired by the Greek sirens and that her song is prophetic. All that I tell here is not intended as an explanation, but simply as a context for this exhibition. The myth of the Sirens, and particularly their iconography, was the initial inspiration for a series of small drawings and large paintings that I have been working on for some time. Why? I don't know. Nearly all my artworks depart form an image that seduces me and acts as the trigger for a painting. As with the Sirens themselves, there is an attraction there, a fascination. It generates an action, a movement, a displacement towards a space where the painting begins. The myth and its images have served as an excuse, as a trigger. Then I continued working with my obsessions, my sensibility and my desire.
Buenos Aires, September 2023