Before the Sea

Nona Garcia

October 9 - October 27, 2012

Gallery 1

If the world does reveal the absolute—in truth, in beauty, in the most authentic of all realities, the most sublime in all art, then where does it succumb to? Is it always hidden before us, always tucked underneath? At the end of an alley, or down the gutters, washed away into the shore or drifting into the open sea? Or has it sailed beyond the horizon? Or is it maybe just riding the tip of the artist’s paintbrush? And when does it reveal itself to us? Through meditation, prayer, during daybreak or when night falls? During the hundredth of a second when the camera’s shutter opens? Or maybe once the artisan or craftsman is called upon to deliver his work—then he only sees the final design from a once vague blueprint? Or when a painter hangs her painting, and the marriage of bare wall and canvass is complete? Or when the poet or writer is kept awake at the eleventh hour due to an imminent deadline does he only see the perfect sentence, and the punctuation marks fall perfectly into place? When do we say, at last, here is a piece of eternity we can touch, see, or taste? And that it has achieved its final state, immovable thereafter?

Outside idealistic thought and Hegelian assumptions that the world unfolds before us in increments and through destiny is the materialistic nature of art which can only be attributed to actual processes involved. An example of which is Nona Garcia’s:

“My work has always been involved with the process of painting photographs, and for this particular work I return to honor that essential aspect, of focusing on the process itself. Given a particular space I choose to consciously fill it with that process, of painting a particular picture, may it be sky, sea, or any other view, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that this stretch of wall has been tainted not by a particular subject, but has been embedded with an act of transference. The final work could just as well be the whole room and how it has transformed.”

Photograph and painting have always stood against each other in the course of revealing nature. As in portraits and still life, where it has been said that the act of representation exclusively belongs to painting rather than photography which merely captures and freezes the moment. And at a juncture between the debate on art’s transparency came the photo-realists, super-realists, as well as new digital technology where new questions emerged like, ‘Is it an aid for more accurate representation, or is it nothing more than a painting of a certain picture?’ But here we can argue that the photograph/painting does more than capture as it also gives structure to the space. By being captured, it has been laid with corners and is bound by a frame. Even the vast horizon of the sea, how limitless it may seem, now answers to a specific dimension: 6×20 feet, a size which corresponds to the wall where it is mounted, the room becomes the structure for this particular seascape. One may even suspect that this has long been preordained considering the small sculptor’s maquette which is also on display, given one has no idea when this part of the gallery existed. Which is the scale model of which? We ponder as if it has progressed from a mock, to an actual size, and then blown-up to the real thing.

And by maintaining that yes, there is an absolute finality to a piece of artwork we can then ask: Where do we find it? Is it in the painting? In its print? Or is it the room itself or its maquette? Or does it encompass everything that we see before us—the sea, the representation of the sea, the photograph of the painting, the structure, or the representation of the structure? Whereas prior to that there was only the machine of process, cranked and grinding with an undesired end, letting all the other variables fall into place: image, space, and even the sound of these words: Once, a room was built to occupy itself, the open sea, the horizon, that little corner of the world.