Change of course
Creation has always been to me, first and foremost, a form of personal development, therefore a learning process. I do not conceive this movement as an evolutionary line in continuous ascent. New challenges -decisions to face the unknown- involve sometimes twists, alterations in rhythm and / or direction.
My recent work presents a distinct change of course in relation to previous production. This turn in my trajectory is not as radical as it might seem, as it was already emerging in previous works, but it is accentuated after a quite long pause caused by vital circumstances, deriving only in part from a will to ‘start over’ stripped of the ‘ballast’ of what has been my artistic discourse.
Opening a new period. Looking for the base.
Desire to be reborn, to start from scratch, to make tabula rasa.
After a long pause, the tabula rasa suggests itself as motif.
The blank page, the act of crumpling the page at the very start, even before starting. The paper made into a ball as a point of conclusion and as new beginning.
Above all as a beginning.
A determining factor in the subsequent evolution has been the reflection inherent to my parallel teaching experience. An experience of years within the framework of a very open educational system, which allows me to experiment with different forms of developing creativity, to assist and collaborate in other people’s processes, and as a design teacher, to explore the relations between art and design, between autonomous and applied forms of creation. All this leads me to an examination of my own methods of artistic production and decision-making, an examination that in this new stage will become goal of my artistic project.
The role of the process
Since the beginning of my artistic practice, my work has developed largely in a procesual way. Whatever the medium used – objects, photography, drawing, painting… – and regardless of the underlying references and contents that have appeared more or less explicitly throughout my career, this way of facing the creative act has been, is a common feature of my artistic work.
The concept of the work is not necessarily linked to a visual narrative or some kind of symbolism. In general, beyond the explicit content of the artwork, I am interested in the very processes of production of visual language and meaning. How a work communicates, over and above what it communicates. In this new stage I aim towards a new approach to creative work, trying to locate the conceptual level of the work in the very process of elaboration. This desire to stress the way in which things are made leads me to focus more and more on analyzing the process by which the image emerges. I am interested in reflecting on what happens there, throughout the process, at the level of meaning. The content of the work starts to be deeply related to the procedure in itself. The works are a register of an action or secquences of actions in which the material is subject to manipulation or exposed to physical processes. Essential concepts deal with the very constitution of the work: materiality, movement, chance, organization. As a result of this new approach the work becomes fundamentally abstract.
The movement towards the field of applied arts
Around 2010, coinciding with the beginning of my teaching activities, I start to move into a field between fine and applied arts. I begin to experiment with materials and execution processes related to disciplines such as jewelry and textile art, areas that I explore adopting only partially inherent starting points and goals. I focus on discipline and technique as subjects of reflection; to a large extent, this perspective reflects as well my way of approaching the educational task, frequently serving as an anchor or origin for the conceptual background that I propose in my exercises.
Textile design is a field in which the work process is based on systems that, as I lack of specific technical background therein, are perceived by me as hermetic, systems which perhaps for that reason attract me. I am looking for a way to ‘infiltrate’ this complex world in which I do not have the codes. It is not my intention to acquire or develop greater technical sophistication in this discipline. I consciously approach the material with a very basic technical preparation, applying elementary principles and ‘pre-technology’ methods. At the same time, I incorporate resources from my own background in autonomous disciplines such as painting. I am driven by the desire to explore the implications that different degrees of knowledge may have in the creative act.
Sometimes I adopt as a motif crafts and household textile works, frequently relegated as minor occupations, belonging to the amateur or to the female sphere. I use them as a vehicle to reflect on the creative process itself, on the relationship between making and thinking, on the role of knowledge and the capacities with which an object or image is made.
‘Inventing’ the procedure
By deliberately placing myself in a beginner’s position with respect to certain disciplines, I try to discover the technical possibilities in the material itself, during its manipulation, and not on the basis of previous knowledge, tradition or baggage, external phenomena in relation to my own development. This leads me to ‘invent’ working methods with an own inner logic. Although sometimes the technical solutions converge and coincide with existing techniques, I believe that the ‘non-acquired’ way of accessing the technique endows the works with a specific character, a certain uniqueness.
Systematism and unpredictability
Quite often, I mark myself a series of restrictions or simple directions in order to be able to focus on the creative process discerning thereby elemental principles. Sometimes this leads me to adopt a certain systematic approach, which I try to apply into a very open framework. To my mind, within a making act understood as a way of knowing, unpredictability is an essential factor for the realization of the work.
These series review ways of making attained in previous stages, even before my artistic formation: I intend to re-take processes from moments of ‘not knowing’, from my own experience and memory. While reviewing methods that I remember and craft techniques, I set myself simple guidelines: compositional exercises, precision exercises …- and incorporate rudimentary techniques of textile works. It is therefore a step backwards, looking for the base, to simultaneously initiate an incursion into foreign fields.
In these works I take patterns of textile crafts as leitmotiv to reflect on learning based on a tradition. The distribution of visual elements refers to sample fabrics in which different tests are juxtaposed without compositional intent. I use physical processes of copying and dissolution in relation to processes of transmission of traditional knowledge, in which factors such as repetition and oblivion intervene. These factors are translated into each of the elements participating in the process: the use of non-permanent mediums, their application in superimposed layers of translucent fabric, the partial transfer between them, the subsequent overlays… all these steps are correlate of the effects of detachment and oblivion in relation to a cultural heritage. In this series loss is handled as a positive element, as it is actively integrated into the creative process.
Equating the creative act to learning implies, in my opinion, a questioning of the border between pure essay and finished work. The act of exercising oneself in a procedure is translated as the concept of the work. These series of works are situated in that uncertain terrain; a certain visual drift exemplifies the wandering and the undetermined attitude of the one who learns.
The grid, a fundamental element in both the graphic and textile fields, establishes a basis of order that I somehow try to transgress by using printing procedures that degrade, break, deform and open it up to randomness. Accidents are caused by the natural behavior of fluid matter. Each accident becomes present as a compositional element. After the printing of the grid, in several works (‘gestural grids’, ‘corrections’) I incorporate a second action: taking the printed grid as a guide, the gaps and irregularities are highlighted, marked one by one in a slow manual process. Through work processes in two phases, two rhythms of making, I aim to the confluence in the image of moments of precision and imprecision, the balance between order and chaos.
Under this denomination, works of diverse nature are brought together that have in common the incorporation of material waste originated during the production of other works, through processes guided by the will of playing and ordering. Starting from elements that have been originated at random, and approaching the notion of play as an organized system based on certain rules, these works sketch in a ludic way open systems of organization, in which order is posed as a possibility or ephemeral moment, in precarious balance with its opposite term.
In these works, proposed as a series of simple exercises, I experiment with procedures of diffusion of matter, sometimes combined with procedures that add a material substrate to the canvas, combining dense and ethereal qualities, materiality and immateriality.
This group of works develop working methods that, drawing up a logic of their own, focus on exploring the materiality of the support. By literally breaking the continuity of the fabric, it no longer functions as a ‘canvas’, the neutral base of an image, and becomes an object, a material element in space. These works arise through a sequence of manipulations, in different phases or ‘movements’: firstly, the tearing of the canvas, an aggressive, quick, but also precise act (the canvas opens in an orderly way, according to its structure, revealing a weft); in several of the pieces, a second process, the sewing, a mechanical but slow act, prone to deviations and errors; finally, the addition of colour to the fabric by procedures in which the lack of control is the main factor. An example of such procedures is the application of paint on the fabric arranged in a state different from the one in which it will finally be shown, causing displacements, breaks. Throughout the entire process I negotiate with different degrees of control over the material, over the painting in communion with its support. The resulting works could be understood as the confluence of different rhythms, levels and forms of organisation of surface and matter.
These series continue the tendency towards the object of previous works. This time I investigate the confluence of the objectual and pictorial qualities of the work, focusing on the process of folding and unfolding the base. I experiment with the application of paint in different stages of the process of contraction and expansion of the cloth. The final form of the works is determined by the moment in which this movement is interrupted: from pieces in the highest degree of contraction, to others in which the two-dimensionality of the canvas is recovered to the utmost; from the circumference to the plane. The folding principle is also applied in different ways: from the wrinkle of the compressed fabric to the clean, strict fold of the ironed fabric. All these states and aspects of the pictorial surface may suggest slight references to landscape and cartographic representations: terrains, geographical features, maps and spheres… references which I incorporate and emphasize, as they do not interfere with the primarily abstract character of the work.
These series are again incursions into textile disciplines, foreign fields in which I consciously place myself in the position of the beginner or the autodidact. In Looms I start an approach to another textile technique, in this case the loom technique, acquiring only a fundamental technical base, combining it with what is my initial artistic background: painting. The first works present only the warp, which serves as a support for an image created by pictorial means. Some elements repeat traditional textile motifs, replacing the weft with paint; in others the image follows a distinctly pictorial tradition. In a later series of Looms, fabrics woven on small learning looms are marked by a simple gesture with spray paint. I combine thus a technique with an age-old tradition, the loom, with the more recent technique of graffiti. Processes coming from distant, not to say opposite, temporal spheres also develop at different speeds: the slow process of weaving is concluded with the quick gesture of the tag. With both techniques I perform the same zig-zag movement typical of the loom, in opposite directions, in order to emphasize the confluence of two temporalities.
In Seams I explore tailoring techniques, moving away from the two-dimensional nature of the surface. Fragments of clothing are suggested, without being defined. The fabrics are printed manually, line by line, using a loose thread as a stamp: again a two-stage process, a contrast of rhythms.
This series of works is an example of the exploration of procedures based on physical processes, through which the work emerges to a large extent independently from my own intervention, from direct control. In this case I employ the natural process of evaporation, by which the remains of pigment accumulate and form a new surface. These works are also an exploration of the fundamental materiality of painting.
Relations / Gestures / Traces, meanders / Marks
In 2019 I start working on several series that move away from the object-oriented character of previous works, settling all of them on the image-level. In a way, the whole development described in my recent work could be understood as a sinuous movement towards a reformulation of the pictorial process. After a long series of approaches along paths alien to painting, by means that deviated from traditional notions of what constitutes it, in this last stage I end up focusing on fundamental aspects of the pictorial process, such as the action of the hand. The emphasis on the action of moving the hand over the surface, totally essential to the act of painting, makes these works primarily gestural, though not necessarily expressive. In relation to previous processes, the choice of a procedure that causes a high degree of unpredictability is maintained, in this case monotype printing. This method is an indirect way of painting, it is painting, and not. In a way, I avoid the way of constructing an image typical of painting: I withdraw from direct contact with the canvas. It is not the brushstroke on the canvas, it is not canvas, but cloth, and not the cloth, but a glass plate, the surface I touch; a base that facilitates the distribution of the painting in a fluid way, that liberates the movement of the hand from the act of composing an image, for not controlling it. This method enable me to investigate the gesture in a totally autonomous way. A gesture which does not aspire to define anything, which is only the trace of the action of spreading matter on the surface. At this stage it is more difficult to isolate works, they emerge like trails of moving matter, as ‘snapshots’ in a flow of gestures, the capture of fleeting moments in the ephemeral trajectory of the hand
Reflections about my work (2004)
Every object has a human component, as it gives answer to a necessity; by doing so it completes us. I am interested in those objects that, either due to their physical attributes, either through their use, relate to us in an intimate way; such objects help me to materialize subject-specific processes. The utilitarian character of the original object defines a certain connection with the body; when the object is manipulated its functionality is perverted, but not eliminated: a vague notion of use prevails, the body is involved but its role is passive. The resulting objects are instruments that may act as sensors, or as markers of psychical states around the question of the construction and expression of the individual.
Many of my objects are wearable on the body; this possibility is translated into photographic works that, beyond the simple registry of their use, try to investigate the direct relation that arouses between body and object. A relation that is placed there where the borders between different terms melt away: the boundary between artificial and organic, and between essential and accessory, in objects that may seem necessary as prosthesis but at the same time superficial as an adornment; the body in tension between beauty and imperfection, health and decay, sensuality and pain, self-protection and constriction, exposure and hiding. Duality is a constant goal in my work: I try to position myself in the limit between definitions, generate forms that would belong to the area of the undetermined, the impure. That border is to me the space of searching, of creation. I think that ambiguity is able to evidence the, in my opinion, unavoidable subjectivity of the gaze.
While in the photographic works my own body appears as only subject, in my drawings and paintings other feminine figures are represented, and therefore the notion of identity is handled in a more extensive manner. The character of the figures is defined through the clothes and the objects that they wear, and also by means of the gestures and postures that they adopt. By playing with these variables I try to sketch possible definitions of the feminine individuality, dealing with such opposite notions as sensuality, innocence, or violence, while depicting women who are in a life stadium in which identity is earnestly fighting to manifest itself, an identity clearly in process, on the edge and about to cross over into a new state, tending constantly to the undefined, to the limit.
Mónica de Miguel Rubio