In irregular confidence


David Mateo

March 4, 1997
© LA GACETA DE CUBA Magazine, No 2, March / April 1997, year 35, p. 50-51.v

… Not a single word of anticipation or impatience. She knows that she is the main reason for this conversation and yet she waits patiently for Segura to finish explaining her sculpture project to me. I have the impression that I have seen her many times in that same deferential attitude, lavishing everything as if everything were superior to her.
I do not even know if it is by adhesion or remembrance that I have come to think that his serenity has nothing to do with a marriage courtesy, but that even condescension continues to be his second virtue after colographies.

“It seems that your work aspires to become universal, I tell him, as he hands me a group of matrices on a small table in his apartment in Alamar. The first one represents a fish woman, beginning in the spiritual world of one between two Jicoteas women; but the poetic atmosphere that the relationship between each one of them acquires is so moving that the allegory of the Abakuá legend and its particularly liturgical iconography almost seems to diminish; I had already noticed something similar with the inclusion of the Holy Spirit in one of the winning works at the Maastrich International Biennial.

To some extent I have always been distant from the Abakuá mythology because my position is rather that of an observer. Distance is precisely that perspective in which I place myself to establish analogies and incorporate any universal experience into the particular logic of myth. I could give you the example of the work Repentida, which was one of the winners in the recent Engraving Meeting, in it a woman appears tearing her skin as a symbol of the ambivalence between what we want to be and what we really are. It seems to me that the Abakuá theme is going to be the starting point for a long time, the pretext for comparisons with life. The universe that its characters and incidental narratives enclose is enough by itself to prefigure any reason for human existence, an equivalence that I have begun to glimpse much more now with the relationship studies that I am carrying out between the mythical Abakuá and Christian religiosity. , for the purpose of creating something of a kind of personal holiness.

-But won't you deny me that this process of interlinking between the specific circumstances of the myth and the social cosmogony is produced through a merely female speculation? Do you remember when I told you that you insert a feminine ideal where there never was?

I have never thought that my work is feminist. I've never had that built-in calling. The first person who tried to draw attention to this aspect was the critic Eugenio Valdés, and it may even be that there is some reason that my work induces a certain femininity, because it reflects my own existential uncertainty; but I have not conceptualized it that way. The legend of the Sikán is a theme that I have been working on in my engravings since San Alejandro and what has always caught my attention is the condition of victim of the female character, but from a rather generic position, weighing the connotations and the analogies that could be derived from such a situation.

And why then your insistence on self-representation?

It is true that I am the model of my figurations. They shift with me from one state to another continuously, and even lose weight along with me. They are characters that I submit because I like the idea of ​​deciding their destinies. They are the only alternative of revenge, or correction, lightening the term a little, with which I can count in reality; however I live a less mythical life, I exist from a much more objective perspective, much more objective.

The imposition of destinations should consequently alter the meaning of the Abakuá fiction that you allude to. Aren't you afraid of offending the legend? What do the believers you have come in contact with think of that?

The Abakuá who have valued my work are mostly intellectuals, and in one way or another they have identified with the project. So far I have not found any detractors. The very mystery of the legend, how hidden some of its meanings have been in the historical development is what has given me precisely the opportunity to make certain speculations, but my position has never been to recriminate the brotherhood, but for the contrary to respecting it and promulgating it in its broadest cultural sense.

In this part of the conversation we have already reviewed about six or seven matrices, meticulously delineated with synthetic material, sandpaper, carborundum, gesso and all kinds of rare products in the colographic tradition. It occurs to me to ask Belkis what could happen if all those singular montages that are already ready to give the effects that she has been anticipating, had been drawn or painted on a canvas, and that is when her frankness turns into stupor:

I have always been a very bad draftsman. Perhaps because they never demanded an Academy in the Elementary School studies, in the end I decided on engraving. Without realizing it I was creating a kind of trauma with drawing and painting and so I began to look for a type of image that was credible but did not emphasize anatomical delicacies. Then I discovered that with this synthesis of details I protected the mystery of the images more, and that I had to continue emphasizing poses, gestures, and gaze, trying to avoid certain definitions. I may one day get over the trauma and start painting, but I haven't thought about doing it yet.

What in your opinion are the immediate antecedents of all this form of representation of yours?

I really liked Russian Byzantine icons. I spent a good deal of time looking at them in art books, until one day I discovered that they were perfectly comparable to all Abakuá imagery. I remember that it was a time when I was researching Afro-Cuban cults and specifically the Anafouranas when something curious happened to me: I was in a class in San Alejandro trying to make a kind of dancing devil and Pablo Borges, who was my teacher at that time, told me with the spirit of being impressed, that what I was doing could bring me serious implications, and it was from that moment that I became interested in this type of representation; although in those days my approach to the matter was purely esoteric. In the libraries they denied me the information and enough I had to ask for a letter of authorization in the School. As far as the Legend of the Sikán is concerned, I consider that the reading I did of the book "El monte" by Lidia Cabrera was transcendental, although my awareness of the episode was total when I studied "Los Ñañigos" by Enrique Sosa.

I have been about to comment to Belkis about two categories of the Canadian critic Northrop Frye: myth and commitment, which, although they were not issued specifically for the field of Plastic Arts, through them an approximate allegory of his work could also be attempted artistic.
But I have only been on the verge of doing it, because in the end I have reserved it for myself, procuring a few more reasons for the literal intervals of this parliament. Something that may even run the risk of forced matching and that goes something like this:
"The engravings of Belkis Ayón could be interpreted from the maxim of the critic Northrop Frye, in which he assures that art is" a laboratory where new myths of commitment were prepared, released. "
Fabular selection occurs in her case by way of visual and epic identification, mediated almost entirely by a deeply feminine aesthetic rationality - which apparently does not mean the same as feminist, although it is an approach to a deeply macho myth. -
We would say that your work assumes a story in which an unequivocal value judgment is represented, from the point of view of the sexual nature of the person who stars and transmits it, although that judgment provides or alludes to cosmogony phenomena such as good and evil, betrayal and sacrifice and the confrontation between victims and perpetrators, and it is precisely within those limits of chaos that she incurs, restoring patterns of behavior and imposing alternative roles. If it were allegories of Frye's notions, his "new myth of commitment" would lie in the fact of opposing a sense of critical analysis to the hermetic interpretation of the mythological event and also in the additional purpose of extending those same collation experiences towards other manifestations of the interhuman bond.
Short tense ending and clearly blessed, where the speculator is relieved of his guilt complex:


Belkis, it is one thing that I believe in the conformity of all our irregular conversations or our considerations about the plastic arts, and another that I go around commenting on vindications in Cuban engraving, relying on the work of 6 or 7 artists, among which I intend to include you by the way, without even having consulted you before. That is why I take the opportunity now: Am I or am I not right?

I believe that important technical concepts and principles are currently being revitalized in Cuban engraving. In my particular case, I would tell you that I am very interested in the level of discursive and aesthetic credibility that matrices can achieve in their final printing, and therefore I try to generate value effects, including color, by experimenting with novel materials. In other young engravers, the tradition has also been altered from many points of view, fundamentally with the experimentation of new supports, with the flexibility of the criteria on seriality with the dynamization, and sometimes even challenge or parody, of technical methods. habitual and in the very consolidation of the ethics of the trade ... and if all this can be called renewal, then I do not think it is bad that someone like you continues to comment on it.