To imagine memory

TO  IMAGINE MEMORY

The  “Rehearsal for a Retrospective” of Edgardo Catalán

Sergio Rojas

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.

Without her you would have never set out on the road.

She has nothing more to give you.

K. Kavafis; Ithaca

The artistic production of Edgardo Catalan can be read as a manifestation of a memory composed of images that return, searching for a visual body that will accept the distance that they bring. The bygone days return, but not like scenes demanding obsessively, rights over the present, but rather, they come the same way we return to those places we have never really left. A past that returns in the treasuring of its images it’s no other thing but the return to all that we owe the joys and sorrows implicit in the fact we have had a life.

The port of Valparaíso, the hills, houses wind and people, the promise payer with his halo of sadness, Bach and the iconography of his calligraphy, the posture of Monet, at the same time arrogant and tranquil, the skin of the form in the nudes, the eroticism, the postal envelopes and stamps, the paper boats, are some of the visual subjects that mark the itinerary of this “Rehearsal for a Retrospective”.

It is about a journey, but not the journey that is just remembered, like the proud tourist that shares his photos with those that stayed home, but rather the journey of memory itself which, with the strength of the imagination do not cease to move towards a Ithaca that dwells in the past, as if the beginning of everything were at the point of arrival. That which we do not cease to evoke, is that which we could never own, because after all, memory is not something we do, but rather something that happens to us.

Remembering the stations of a long itinerary we have discovered that we traveled in order to remember the trip, and in doing so, continue traveling.

The title of the exhibition tells us of a glance directed to the past. And yet, doesn’t the idea of a retrospective constitute the very essence of Catalan’s work? It could be said that many of these pieces are precisely a rehearsal for a retrospective, a reflection of the imagination in which the artist has brought a feeling, a texture, towards the visual focus of a scene. As spectators in the room we sense that the images in this retrospective contain, in every case, the dreaming coefficient of distance, of which dreams, remembrances, fantasies, desires, are made of.

Memory – like imagination- loves the distances in which it moves, and that is precisely what we see here: images in transit,

Scenes that no even for a moment could be catch without paper, color, or the stroke of the brush. That is why we also see in several paintings – also painted- the very same instruments used in the task of putting the past on images. On occasions we also see a  picture within a picture when some scenes are offered to us in the form of vignettes, as if by doing this the artist were telling us: “this is how I imagine what I remember”.

Two more recent series in the production of the artist reflect visually, other type of magnitudes: “Pompeii” and “Tsunami”.

Catalan visited the ancient roman city buried by the violent eruption of the volcano Vesuvius the year 79 AD. A double trip, to the Napoli province, but also to an epoch whose origins are rooted in antiquity and which is now part of the modern imaginary, marked as an event of unimaginable destruction. In one of the paintings, the mummified bodies suggest individuals trapped in an eternal sleep. “Tsunami” is also about the force of nature that rushes into the everyday human existence, making evident the fragile dwelling of individual’s dreams and desires.

As if the constructions were made of matchsticks, an unimaginable volume of water reduces the houses to splinters.

The analogy that the artist proposes in “Tsunami 1973” is clear when the historic processes burst out as if they were natural events beyond themselves destroying the order of things.

Perhaps memory is not after all a faculty but it is rather made of images that have stayed with us. In that case, we only have memories of that we once imagined, like that painting of a couple carried by the wind over the hills of Valparaíso, or Monet in the garden of Giverny, or the skeletal hand that touches the young body of the model. The images that we evoke know something about us.

All memories have something of homage. It is what we owe to the places, the faces, the things that one day, which is not today, kept us company.

Written as a presentation for the catalog of the exhibition held on November 2012 at Sala Viña del Mar of the municipal Corporation of Viña del Mar, Chile.

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