Salomé Cuesta

Galeria Antoni Estrany

Salomé Cuesta’s strategy is one of representational suspension. Her installations present us with mute, almost empty spaces, barely punctuated by a series of elements with so little material presence and objective character that it becomes difficult for us to categorize them as sculpture. In fact, the elements that make up the vocabulary of her research, and which we somehow recognize as the “works,” are really nothing but mechanisms that work with light—the true, although volatile, inapprehensible, material element of her work.

Somewhat in the tradition of James Turrell’s ’80s series, “Dark Pieces,” Cuesta constructs laboratories in order to experiment with light—to examine its incidence in the space of conscience and perception. Thus, her installations seek to confront the viewer with what could be termed the limits of naked vision. In some way, what the spectator is invited to see in Cuesta’s installations is the actual “act” of vision, of contemplation. In general terms, these installations can be understood as metaphoric mirrors of the viewer in the act of observing.

Until now, that objective of reflection on the act of vision had led her to produce radiant installations infused with a clear, luminous, full, and neutral light. In her recent installation, however, her strategy had been inverted—here she worked with exact beams of light, manipulated in a dim environment. The gallery for this exhibition was converted into a sort of camera obscura, penetrated by only one ray of light which was subjected to diverse games of reflection and modulation through different lenses. Because of the darkened gallery, not only the final focus projected onto a wall but the light ray’s entire path through the vacant interior of the space was visible. In this subtle way, Cuesta fore-grounded the general law of vision as if to say that vision is only possible when all light has been excluded, in the very bosom of darkness that light never eliminates, but, rather, “traverses.”

As in her previous works, this “logic of vision” was also presented as a reflection on the naturalness of time and the event. The perception of light is, in effect, inseparable from its occurrence in time, to the point of nearly proposing itself as its real progenitor. Of course, this idea is inseparable from the theory of relativity, which conceives of time as a variable relative to the speed of light. But for Cuesta, it is a poetic vision which permits her to examine the link between light and temporality. In her presentation of the work, she cites Rilke’s verse: “the first word was light/and it became time.”

Time was registered here, in its relation to light, in a more direct way than in previous installations. Certain “false mirrors” made out of polyester resin enclosed photosensitive paper in such a way that the light present in the camera obscura was picked up inside them, changing the coloration of the paper. Each day the mirror was replaced by a new one so that, once the exhibition was finished, a calendar of the event had been produced, made concrete in the 32 “mirrors,” leaving a testimony of time’s passage through them. The result was a profoundly poetic exhibition that may surely be counted among the most suggestive of this season’s exhibitions of young Spanish artists.

José Luis Brea

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin