Madrid

Perejaume, Exvotos (detail), 2011, wax; twelve elements, depicted, from left: 13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 13 3/4“, 7 7/8 x 25 1/2 x 7 7/8”, 26 5/8 x 7 x 5 1/2“, 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/4”.

Perejaume, Exvotos (detail), 2011, wax; twelve elements, depicted, from left: 13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 13 3/4“, 7 7/8 x 25 1/2 x 7 7/8”, 26 5/8 x 7 x 5 1/2“, 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/4”.

Perejaume

Galería Soledad Lorenzo

Perejaume, Exvotos (detail), 2011, wax; twelve elements, depicted, from left: 13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 13 3/4“, 7 7/8 x 25 1/2 x 7 7/8”, 26 5/8 x 7 x 5 1/2“, 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/4”.

Born not far from Barcelona in 1957, Perejaume is by now considered one of Spain’s living legends. And yet both the artist and his work are located in a realm of withdrawal, hidden in some corner of nature far beyond reach. This sense of remoteness constitutes the thread that ties his oeuvre together. Over the course of what is now a nearly thirty-year career, this rara avis of contemporary artmaking has whetted his solitary fascination with the understated poetry of the ties that bind nature to culture. His artistic identity is deeply rooted in the soil of his homeland, Catalonia, and in the Mediterranean Sea. Using drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and video, he invokes a stage of perception that precedes that cultural construct we call “landscape.”

Perejaume has been showing his work regularly at Galería Soledad Lorenzo since 1991. In his recent exhibition there, “Exvotos,” trees were a recurrent motif with a powerful metaphorical import. One video was called Surar, 2011, a Catalan word that can be both the verb “to float” and the noun “corn oak tree.” The work is a linear narrative about the removal of a corn oak tree from a forest and its ritualistic transport by foot to the Mediterranean shore, whence it is launched into the sea. The tree drifts aimlessly, like a bottle with a message whose recipient we will never know. Surar sums up many of the ambitions that have impelled Perejaume from the very beginning. Influenced early on by the playful and poetic Conceptualism of Joan Brossa, one of the most captivating figures in twentieth-century Spanish culture, he took on language as weapon while disguising its dryness through his compelling command of the visual. Perejaume soon wished to acknowledge the genuineness of the images produced by nature. He wanted to find the gap between its fundamental internal rhythms and those that are culturally derived. In another video, Feia foc davant la font per veure com la font resplendia (Lit a Bonfire by the Fountain to See How it Shines), 2011, a static black-and-white shot is used in place of linear narrative to conjure the magnetism of the symbolic. It is an engaging yet abstract work depicting an unadorned but eccentric dialogue between fire and water: a small bonfire next to a waterfall. The stillness-within-motion of both elements leads us back to their primeval essence, which can be as simple as water falling and fire burning. Much of Perejaume’s work merges his Romantic and mystic vision with the starkness of elemental ideas in a duality that echoes others, like purity and artifice or narration and abstraction.

Trees were the predominant motif in the main space of the gallery, where the idea of the ex-voto was best portrayed. Three large-scale photographs, Alzina, Percussió, and Palmons (all 2006), represent an offering to nature in the most straightforward manner: Perejaume has embellished corn oak trees with various ornaments. There were also a number of three-dimensional works, of which Exvotos, 2011—twelve remarkable wax pieces representing fragments of branches and cross-sections of mountains—was particularly notable. These meticulously shaped forms seemed to float in space; they were fixed to the wall with long and robust aluminum nails and were among the best works in the exhibition. In spite of their literal immediacy, it was clear that they belong to the domain of abstraction. They offered a parallel meaning to the word ex-voto, which relates to making a promise or taking a vow. As such, they are somewhat vague and ethereal, and may leave an imprecise trace in our memory. They make us wonder: What will remain of them?

Javier Hontoria