Javier Codesal

Galeria Estrany - de la Mota

A pioneer in the use of video in Spanish art, Javier Codesal could be considered a multimedia artist but for the dubious connotations that term has acquired. He is a creator who uses words and images with the same degree of intensity, without differentiating between them. He expresses himself through films, poetry, installations involving video and sculpture, and other media. At times he combines them, at times he doesn’t. Although not one of those artists who makes the medium an end in itself, neither does Codesal simply dabble; instead, he uses his various media rigorously, displaying wide technical and, as it were, grammatical knowledge. His words and imagery being complementary, each becomes charged with symbolic possibilities that end up coloring his work as a whole.

El monte perdido” (The Lost Mountain), 2003–2004, is an ambitious project consisting of several videos, an installation, and a set of photographs. On display in Barcelona was an ample portion of this project. Like most of Codesal’s recent work, the pieces shown here were charged with a complex symbolism whose exact meaning the viewer can only grasp intermittently, in fragments. The images allude to spaces related to his childhood: the natural landscapes where he grew up, his high school, and so on; always there is an autobiographical element. It is not difficult to consider “The Lost Mountain” a prolongation of earlier series in which the figure of the child bears a speculative relation to the adult. But never before in Codesal’s work has the relationship between child and man been as evident as in this exhibition. “The Lost Mountain” is permeated by the figure of the father, a figure that has always been important to this artist, but perhaps even more so now. Codesal’s father died last year, an event that seems to have imbued his work with a sense of mortality.

Several pieces in this exhibition directly allude to death—with images including cemeteries and the hands of a tailor making a shroud, and so on—but most do so indirectly, by giving considerable weight to the cycles of nature. Codesal has always been interested in the religious dimension in which nature is understood as something cyclical, involving existence and resurrection. This is manifested not only by his longstanding interest in Catholic iconography, but also in his admiration of filmmakers like Dreyer and Dovzhenko. Yet this dimension has rarely been as present in his work as it is now—above all in a series of photographs that show mountain peaks and a dark, triangular patch of sky, shot from a low angle as if the eye of the observer were so close to the earth it might be about to swallow him up and make him into part of nature—unless, on the contrary, this were the first glance one took upon leaving the mother’s womb.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.