Looking to see (Cristina Ramos, researcher and art curator)

¶ “… And that visibility that makes us more vulnerable is also the source of our greatest strength. ”–Audre Lorde. 1 With this quote, Nora Friedman wanted to begin her essay on the authority and influence of Hildegard von Bingen – 12th-century German Benedictine abbess, scholar, music composer, feminist and poet – best known for her relationship with the occult and the importance of her mystical visions. Likewise, Von Bingen developed a work as a linguist, conceiving the ignota lingua, a kind of invented medieval Latin that he used for spiritual purposes and in the writing of poetic passages, leaving us with a grammatical heritage that we are still trying to decipher.

¶ Mariana Sarraute also feels a predilection for hard-to-read images. This is how her process begins to constitute a secret and hidden language, that she uses with certain objectives such as research in the optical perception on observing a painting and the elements that come into play in this observation.

¶ The Open Source exhibition presents a series of materials and compositions through which the artist develops a new spatiality and depth that already appeared in her previous work The Voyeur Visionary (2016). Sarraute works directly on the walls with acrylic and spray, paints on canvases without a frame and uses the architecture of the space as a support, making the works create an environment instead of assuming a mere object roll. The compositional possibilities between the various elements and the colors that compose the exhibition are multiplied by adding an extra dimensionality to the paintings, resulting in a painting in moviment.

¶ The symbology used in the installation is part of the artist’s usual grammar: alchemical allegories, elements of Tarot cards, astrological representations, eye images and chemical formulas. While the novelty in this series is that the multitude of pictorial references appear more indefinite. Profiles, curves, lines and gaps are extracted, freeing them and freeing us from the figurative; facing the subsequent challenge of finding the right words to describe them.

¶ Sarraute begins from the white canvas impregnated with pearl color, the feminine symbol of the creator, of the flask where the pictorial elements are mixed – philosophical water in alchemical terminology. The pearl pigment also allows her to create glazes that make to the components appear and disappear, depending on the position of viewer. About this origin, the elements are arranged, sometimes accumulated or dispersed, and silent.

1 Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press: 2007. Quoted by Nora Friedman in Rare Authority: The Secondary Narratives of Hildegard of Bingen (disponible online).

Thus we can see our own eye as a creature of the sun on earth, a creature inhabited and fed by the sun’s rays, and therefore a creature that structurally resembles its brothers in the sun … But the creatures of the sun, the higher beings that I call angels, are eyes that have become autonomous, eyes that have a greater inner development, although they retain the structure of the ideal eye. Light is its element as much as ours is air” –Gustav Fechner. 2

¶ The title of the exhibition, Open Source, refers to a type of computer software whose source code is part of the public domain, which means that any user can read, modify and redistribute the code making it evolve and improve. This concept serves as a parallel to talk about the open element that Mariana Sarraute’s works have been developing in recent years. Umberto Eco writes in Open Work 3 about the aesthetics of this type of work which, instead of containing a definite and definite meaning, presents the possibility of being interpreted according to the individual perspective of each one. The poetry of the open work is on the interactive relationship between the subject who “sees” and the active work that returns the gaze.

¶ Sarraute creates an evocative pictorial space that invites the one who looks to be carried away by his own intuition, and to feel the interconnection between mind and matter: establishing a relationship between inner sensory experiences and events belonging to the empirical dimension. The artist’s practice is revealed in this way as a kind of contemporary alchemy, in which the works are in continuous transformation under the look of the observer.

¶ Alchemical texts have always been difficult to read; In addition to being often written in Latin, these books use a hermetic language following the tradition of the secret of esoteric knowledge. Works that revealed both metaphysical and physical principles and that contained images with the practical objective of helping the reader to follow the process described in the recipe.

¶ Perhaps the most evocative of Mariana Sarraute’s painting is that her symbology is unknown to us. It may be best not to try to translate their language and feel captured, while we are looking at it, in the flash of an association that we are not able to express.

Cristina Ramos, researcher and art curator