13.01.2011 - 26.02.2011
Ángeles Agrela (Úbeda, Jaén. 1966)
Skin deep [download pdf]
"Beauty is only skin deep". Ángeles Agrela has based the title of her latest exhibition on this phrase, normally used to refer to the superficiality of beauty. However, she only takes the second part of the sentence, so that her title neither rejects nor affirms the claim. In fact the exhibition itself does little to reveal her intentions. Rather, her installation dives into a journey that travels along the fine line from the thin painted surface to the depth of our emotions to the suspicion of our futility. Skin deep locates us in a poetic territory that is far from the superficial, a territory that takes shape from images that belong to our collective cultural memory.
In fact, the exhibition is also a collection of real paintings. Reinterpretations, croppings and novel approaches to well-known works of great masters from the Renaissance to the XIX century. Piero della Francesca, Robert Campin, Hans Holbein, Vermeer, Velázquez and Ingres. More specifically portraits. Agrela has literally ripped the skin from the people who, so faithfully portrayed, watch us from the walls revealing what it (the painting?) hides; detailed maps of their muscles, veins, nerves and bones like lessons in anatomy.
It is very easy to see photographs of dissections, or macabre images that show starkly the truth of what lies behind the skin, even we have seen very media exhibitions with real human corpses preserved with new techniques and carefully dissected. The pictures are there... for anyone who wants to see them. Appellant is also the procedure for the appropriation of images to digitally manipulate and serve them later reproduced by the most diverse ways.
Agrela´s choice to paint it is not accidental. The reproduction and reinterpretation of well-known portraits, executed in traditional painting techniques, shapes the poetic exercise that is Skin Deep. Recently, Agrela has worked with large drawings depicting sheets from anatomy books, introducing overlapping foreign elements that produce perplexing associations of images. Her reflection on vanitas was already present in her work, and is perhaps more evident here in her transposition of the subject from the more impersonal anatomical drawing to portraits that the skin of the painting provides, and on which we, as observers, project ourselves vainly. And maybe it really is sin of vanity when we observe a work of art, given that the way we project ourselves on the images distracts us from what really matters. The portrait, which reached its zenith of perfection by the great masters, especially since the Renaissance, locates us as individuals before a mirror in which we recognize ourselves in some way, facing the uncomfortable truth of what lies benath the raised skin in the case of Agrela´s interpretations. And let us not forget that the illusory deception of painting is present in this equation. Does the thin surface of the painting represent the entire depth of the beauty of the work of art? As observers we allow ourselves to be subjugated (and even mislead) by the tiny effects of color and light in the different layers of paint, as we draw close with joy. And we project our way of thinking and our own image onto the interpretation that we make of these events, with all our vanity, losing sight of what really is important. And we also can see ourself devoid of skin, veins, nerves and muscles exposed, because in the double thinness that characterizes both human skin and the painted surface, Ángeles Agrela´s installation plays.