Rex Romae proudly presents ‘Animal’, the first solo show in London by Borondo, one of the youngest, most prolific, most interesting and active artists.
The Spanish Gonzalo Borondo chooses a complex subject, which reveals a careful research and a deep insight behind his exhibition. He decides to focus on the duality human and animal, instintcs, domestication and our lives marked by technology. Through his works, he explores the relation between human beings and nature and how they interact, mingle, intertwine and reverse. He depicts the struggle between the allure of what is untamed and wild and the fear of it that ends up with subjugation and control. More than a simple exhibition, ‘Animal’ results in an immersive, intense and sometimes disquieting installation that invites reflection.
The journey is made up of eight thematic spaces, which present Borondo’s peculiar style and imagery along with video installations and painting animation in collaboration with Carmen Maín and sculpure installations created with Edoardo Tresoldi and Despina Charitonidi.
As soon as you enter the space, a sharp smell of freshly cut wood hits your nostrils. In fact, the floor is completely covered with pieces of bark and the room is immersed in darkness, apart from a spotlight pointing to the title of the show and another one highlighting the artist’s statement. The title, crossed by a dripping line, seems to indicate the constant alternation between the primeval ferality and its taming and negation. The drippings seem to symbolise the complexity and difficulty of constantly managing it.
The first room called ‘Prologos’, realised in collaboration with Carmen Maín, is a sort of explanation and antechamber. It presents three films introducing the theme of man’s alienation from nature and the struggle to control it.
‘The Passage’, in collaboration with Despina Charitonidi, allows the visitor to further penetrate in the subject matter, through a corridor whose walls are filled with trophies of death. Animal skulls made of wax with horns made of dry branches create an arch that recalls the flowery passages of sweet-smelling gardens. Here instead, the passage is bristling with a tangle of dry branches that both convey the human idea of showing the animal as a trophy and destroy it, through the reduction of the symbols of pride into simple arid sticks.
‘Entrañas’, which means entrails, in collaboration with Edoardo Tresoldi, is a fascinating stage of this journey. Borondo uses one of his most interesting and unique techniques. Using scrap window frames, he paints one side of the glass white and the reverse with bitumen.
Then he scratches images onto the front and back of each pane, creating two separate images that complement each other. Slide projectors show the double of the first image, illuminating the contradictions and meanings hidden in the transparent surface but clear in the shadow on the wall and revealing the constant play between human and animal, wild and tamed. The reference to the entrails is a clever one that invites the visitor to look beyond the surface and find out what lies behind and deep beneath, such as the lady who wears a fox fur only visible in the shadow, or the two hands pulling a rope that in the double image push two cocks to fight.
The fourth space, called ‘The Order’, is breathtaking and eye-catching. In the first place, attention is drawn to a huge pile of hay bales on which it is spray painted the image of a mother protecting her children. The ‘Fear’ of the title is that of the mother, an adult aware of nature’s uncontrollable and unpredictable essence, projected on the kids, which by nature are still fearless and have untamed insticts.
The beautiful ‘Control’ in collaboration with Edoardo Tresoldi is made up of a series of cages and some birds flying inside as well as outside of them. The cages represent captivity and the will to control. While the birds inside tend to loose their essence and appear not completely formed and a bit faded, those outside are free and well defined. The imposition of an order to capture and control often brings to destroy nature and its essence. ‘Captivity’, the last work in this room, presents a pregnant woman held captive like an animal. The tryptich of works composing ‘The Order’ follows a clear line of thought, which seems to suggest that fear of the untamed and unpredictable causes the need of subduing in order to have control. But this destroys irremediably the primal essence, bringing to a life in captivity.
Space number five, ‘La Carne’ (flesh/meat) in collaboration with Carmen Maín shows the projection of a girl who acts as a domesticated animal prowling in circle. Again the conflict between animal instincts and the will to dominate them is under the spotlight. By trying to control her instincts, she reduces herself to the prisoner of her own routines shut in an illusory box where she believes she has control. On the wall next to the projection, there are the painted single frames used to create the animation.
‘Eternal’ is a little room with the walls covered in grass, real grass on the left side and fake grass on the right linked by a wreath, which is half made of real flowers and half of fake ones. As time goes by, the real grass and flowers decay, contrasting with the artificiality of the rest and pointing out to the opposition between natural and artificial materials. The installation focuses on the passage of time, transience, mortality, the human desire of eternity, the fear of death and the hope of leaving a legacy behind.
‘Albeare’ is a spiral of small portraits scratched onto glass and organised as a hive hanging in the middle of the little seventh room. The light pointing at it highlights the hidden letters forming a circular sentence.
The last part of the complex journey offered by Borondo is called ‘Epilogos’ (epilogue) and is a big space displaying painted and mixed media artworks. Some of them depict human beings holding dogs or cats but ‘wearing’ attributes related to the animals, as in the case of the woman with a muzzle. Some others depict groups of human beings as opposed to single animals, dead, alive or dying, or they portray the opposite situation, as with the sheep towering on top of a pile of human bodies, or disturbing scenes with men and women who watch other human beings acting like animals.
The big panels in the middle of the room show hunters proudly posing behind their killed prey, but at the same time becoming themselves preys in the centre of the target. These works powerfully summarise the themes explored by Borondo in his exhibition – animals not acting like animals, humans taming humans, the relation between human beings and nature, the struggle between the untamed, the wild and control and order. They also convey a certain brutality arising from the possible solutions to these conflicts, which seem to go towards captivity and artificiality.
‘Animal’ is not a simple display of artworks presenting a settled subject and offering fixed explanations. On the contrary, the artist aims at inviting the public to reflect on their uncontrollable essence, their own mortality and the sequence of fear of the wild, control over it and the resulting captivity and through an immersive experience he aims at fostering more awareness on these issues.
The exhibition is on till February 26th in Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, E2 7DP, Shoreditch, London.
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