The Max Estrella gallery is currently presenting El Baño de Diana [Diana Bathing] by Bernardí Roig (Palma de Mallorca, 1965). The exhibition showcases the artist’s work dating from the last two years, a further mutation of the ideas on view in the artist’s previous solo exhibitions Silence-Light Exercises in the Lipanjepuntin gallery in Trieste (May 2004) and Frost at Galerie Academia in Salzburg (June 2004).
Sculptures, drawings, texts, photographs and a video explore, challenge and ultimately silence the question of the gaze and desire, in an attempt to fulfil the narrated event.
Underpinned by Ovid’s Metamorphosis and Pierre Klossowski’s transgressing and piercing gaze, Bernardí Roig advocates the symbolic fact of the gaze as the absolute guarantee of the event. And for this reason, the whole project was conceived expressly for the gallery space, outlining a specific route which builds a powerful narrative tension between the visuality of each individual work and their mutual interdependence. The relationship among the pieces is in fact construed by the beholder himself as his gaze involves him fully in the unfolding story.
“This narrative thrust is rooted in a theatrical poetic coupled with a desire to construct a new channel through which a plethora of inherited fragments can circulate.”
On one of those sweet-scented days when the sun invites rest and stillness, Actaeon goes hunting. Against the same backdrop, Diana, the chaste and virgin huntress, weary from her adventures, has just arrived at a spring of pure water. Actaeon, aimlessly wandering through the forest and piqued by his curiosity, in an act of daring, moves aside the branches of the grotto and catches a glimpse of divine nudity. Surprised naked, Diana, the hater of seed, violently splashes the water caressing her body against Actaeon’s face. The hunter is immediately turned into a stag and is chased and devoured by his own hounds.
The exhibition is structured along a linear visit on three fundamental axes, in the three rooms at the gallery.
In the first room, and providing a sonorous welcome, is Diana en el diván [Diana on the Couch] (2005) reconstructing a part of the banal dialogues from John Leslie’s X-rated movie The Chameleon (USA, 1989).
“The exhibition starts at the end. This is the moment of reflection. Extremely unsettled, Diana analyses her path as great seducer. From her transfiguration as unimaginable goddess to that of a desired woman, brimful of carnality and able to produce fatality in the lost gaze”.
In the same room, a life-size polyester resin figure, Actaeon (2004) is brutally crushed against the wall and a fluorescent light at eye level which definitively forecloses the gaze.
“It is the instant existing between glimpsing the naked Diana and his transformation into a stag. It is the moment of infinite incommunicability. It symbolises the ultimate bankruptcy of the word, and opens up the decisive disruption of language. Actaeon has seen what he will never be able to tell, and is trapped in absolute silence. He sees because he cannot say what he is seeing; if he could say, he would stop seeing. As such, he can only create equivalents. This is the fundamental substance, the matter from which all intentions in the creative process are made.”
The second room is dominated by a large drawing “Alicia ante el espejo de Balthus (1933), en la habitación de Jean Jouve de la rue Tournon de Paris” [Alice in front of Balthus’ mirror (1933), in Jean Jouve’s room in Rue Tournon, Paris] (2004).
“It is the only drawing in the show, working as an incident on the threshold of visibility which can generate other invisible images with its complex mechanism, images that representation would betray. What intrigues here is the insertion of an image within an invisible association of possible linked images.”
The second room also contains the exhibition’s core piece, Diana and Actaeon (2004-2005) a 150 x 50 x 66 cm polyester resin figure, inspired by drawings made by Klossowski in the 1970s, and which we see on a wooden table.
“It is now when Actaeon, half way in his metamorphosis and when his body still has human features, although his head is already that of an antlered stag, violently mounts Diana from behind. With one hand, the goddess has just thrown water at Actaeon’s face, yet while uttering her sentence she was already withdrawing the other hand from its place between her thighs, unveiling her secret lips and access to her pink vulva.
Like Actaeon, some are lucky and will be devoured by their hounds. Others are condemned to the spiritual, incommunicable, irreducible inexpressibility for which we are forced to create equivalents. This is what representation is all about. Hence, representing is an idea bound to fulfil the demonstrative function of uncertainty.”
And finally, a DVD on plasma screen in the third room shows Después del baño de Diana (d’aprés Bergman) [After Diana Bathing (after Bergman)] (2004), a re-edition of a number of linked scenes from Bergman’s film Cries and Whispers (1972) from which the male characters have been eliminated and to which a new soundtrack by Heinrich I. F. Biber (1644-1704) has been added. They are the scenes where Ingrid Thulin (as a repentant Diana) brutally mutilates her genitalia.
“This could even be the imaginary construction of the scene following Diana bathing, just after Actaeon is devoured by the hounds. In this case, plundering Bergman’s film responds to a need to incorporate into the narrative plot already existing material capable, in its new formulation, of raising new semantic possibilities.”
The exhibition ends with Sound Exercises (2005), a life-size polyester resin figure leaning in physical exhaustion against a panel of neon lights.
Sound Exercises is the exhausted narrator who has already told everything. It is a piece with an inner sound, expressing absolute fatigue and tedium… A man leaning against a wall of light with his back to the world. A world that would not have been possible, however, without the narrator’s voice.
And all this narrative drama is developed against the immensity of white.
“I wanted white to imply the absence of an empirical scenario; that is, the disposition of a place exclusively belonging to the nebula of dreams; a place that does no other thing but advocate the forbidden. The link between desire and the gaze is what Eros builds in the image, and that is precisely the origin of the unbridgeable abyss between solitude and the communication of the process of construction of images.
It is obvious that we love what unsettles us and that is perhaps the reason why we invest all our energies in embracing our obsessions.”
Bernardí Roig has his second individual show planned for the Claire Oliver Gallery, New York Smokebreath (The Monologue) and the one-person show Paupieres de Marbre at the Artiscope/ Zaira Mis gallery, Brussels.
He has also taken part in group shows including SOUL at the PMMK, Musee d’art Modene de Osteende, Barrocos y Neobarrocos at the Domus Artium in Salamanca, Paradiso e inferno in the Mario Mauroner Contemporary Art gallery, Vienna, European Contemporary Painting at Frissiras Museum, Athens, ART Report (2) at Fundació Sa Nostra, Palma de Mallorca, and the International Sculpture Symposium (SEA) at Castillo de Santa Bárbara, Alicante.
For 2006, a big exhibition is being co-produced by the Kunstmuseum Bonn and Domus Artium of Salamanca with a selection of works made by the artist over the last four years.