Former staff and student Javier Gómez Rodriguez visited the school last week and showed a presentation of his art collage work on Tuesday evening. Below is what he wrote a few months ago about what he calls “this simple artistic exercise” that he describes as “a way of mirroring the interface between the outward or social stream and one’s own inner sense of meaning”. Together with his writing you will find a few pictures of his work too.
In the Wake of Progress
Keeping the meaning alive: Richard Hamilton, Ion Barladeanu and me.
by Javier Gómez Rodríguez
I write this somewhat tongue in cheek. The very title brings first a smile to my face and then fires a laugh into the bucolic atmosphere of this pleasant sunny afternoon on a dike somewhere in the waterlogged Netherlands. It is about collages, pop art and tons of rubbish. It’s about the fictional world of consumerism and the stark realities of history. Well, something like that is at least my meaning. And it is meaning that is rather central, as it could hardly be otherwise. But let me see if I can give some substance to this abstract beginning.
The Ascent and Descent of Man
During the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) last November I had the great delight of seeing a Romanian documentary on a homeless drunkard by the name of Ion Barladeanu who turned out to have in his possession a collection of collages he had made over a period of some 40 years out of the images he extracted from the magazines people threw away with the rubbish. He was allowed to live in the garbage dump of an apartment building in exchange for managing the refuse and doing all sorts of maintenance jobs for the tenants. He lived like a stray dog, sleeping on an old stained mattress and sheltering under some plastic covering from the bad weather in that dirt backyard with a cat or two for all company while bags of rubbish and other refuse rained from above. He drank and smoked and was a worthless fellow to almost everyone who knew him. So nobody could quite believe that he was the great artist that the gallery owner who discovered his work was saying that he was. This young chap realized that he had come upon something original and of great quality whose significance was not merely aesthetic but also social and political, as it reflected the troubled history of the recent communist past. So he provided the old man with a more decent place to live where he could continue to work on his collages undisturbed by falling garbage bags.
Dreams of Innocence
Ion B had run away from his native village to escape the violence and repression the communists imposed and, more particularly, the brutality of his own father, who was the communist leader in the area. Ion hated the communists and in his work reveals his subversive views on the Ceausescu era, depicting the communist leader as an inmate of an insane asylum or of a concentration camp, i.e. as the victim of his own regime, which he finally was. Fascinated by the movies, his works are his way of making his own cinematic scenes of the reality he happened to be living in and with the meaning that as an outcast he saw in it. And this was one of the most touching things about this documentary, namely the perception that meaning wins out in the end, even against the most repressive and demented of dictatorships. And such seems to be a central purpose of art, namely to keep meaning alive no matter how power and circumstances might threaten to undermine it.
Composition in Green