Exhibition by Ketty Rodríguez Quevedo. Gallery Collage Havana, Street San Rafael Nr.103 between Consulado and Industria, Center Havana. April-May 2017
THE UNFATHOMABILITY OF A GESTURE...
by: Hamlet Fernandez
The viewer's visual perspective has been situated at an imaginary point. We look at the scene from a frontal angle, we can observe the whole, have full control of what happens. Our visual presence is out of danger, it exists in a metaphysical limbo, in a more here of time and space of pictorial reality. It is precisely this positioning that provides delight. From that quasi-divine place we extend our sight towards the dark horizon, there are clouds, storm atmosphere, it is night; a source of light slides over the surface on which the water begins to impact, the earth becomes intense, of a resplendent yellow. Another source of light enters from the left, from the top, reflected in the current that precipitates. And there is a reason that the gaze does not understand: it is the anachronistic presence of two armchairs, arranged in front, as in attitude of reception, of the maremagnum.
This is how Ketty Rodríguez Quevedo places us in front of a very peculiar type of painting, a painting that wants to awaken in us ancestral experiences. The perceptive challenge in the face of the vastness of the surrounding environment. The physical insignificance of man, the immeasurability between his scale and the magnitude of the world that is given to him. Its weakness in the face of nature's blind energy. Their horror, at the gain of consciousness of such phenomena. His anguish, at the impossibility of dominating life, what happens and subsumes him. Its enormous energy, deployed in time with urgency to transform reality into its image and convenience. His magic, his imagination, his metaphysics, his symbols, his increasingly sophisticated intellectual structures, in the face of the unembraceable, unnameable complexity of the universe.
Once some of those reminiscences of an existential state, as primary and original as human existence itself, appear, it is because we have been placed before the limit of some of our capacities and competences: sensory, intellectual, moral, etc. That is why Ketty's painting is fully in keeping with the tradition of an art of the sublime, in the sense that it acquires category within the framework of 18th century English aesthetics.
For Edmund Burke, experience of the sublime is everything that provokes fear, danger, terror, everything that refers to objects and phenomena terrible for the sensitivity of man, provoking in him the strongest emotions that he is able to resist. The sublime is, for Burke, a phenomenon of physical magnitudes that crush man: vastness, infinity, darkness, energy, power, deprivation, magnificence, colours, sounds, etc.
For Kant, then, the sublime will become a problem of rational representation. That which exceeds man's capacity for understanding and mental representation is sublime. Therefore, complex ideas such as that of infinity, God, existence, would enter the realm of the sublime, because their representation, their exact exemplification, would always be insufficient, so they remain unknowable to some extent. Still, man tries to appropriate them, and understand them.
Romantic art imports these notions of philosophical aesthetics, and anchors the empowerment of an aesthetic experience of the sublime, especially in the landscape genre.
The landscape as an environment in which the magnitudes of nature become mystical forces that cause awe in man. But the aesthetic theorization about the sublime has not stopped, nor has art stopped appropriating its horizon of problems.
Ketty, intuitively, guided by personal reflections of a representational nature, sought with her painting to achieve effects of perceptual estrangement, capable of triggering both a psychological estrangement, a destabilization of the empirical certainties of the spectator.
Therefore, when Ketty discovers and studies the theoretical and artistic tradition of the aesthetics of the sublime, he feels that his painting had deep antecedents in the History of Western Art, although the same cannot be said of the national pictorial tradition. A painting of the sublime has never been a clearly identifiable trend in Cuban art. Neither before nor now. Hence, Ketty's proposal is remarkably original in the national context of this minute.
Unlike the romantic landscape, his painting is fully inscribed in the postmodern logic of a type of self-referential representation, which does not dispense with iconicity, but which also does not refer to a specific reality or referent that is external to art. Therefore, it is a painting that is representation and referring to unison. To this Ketty adds the type of effect, of aesthetic experience, that he wants to provoke with his paradoxical inventions, and that is where he connects and raises awareness of his affiliation to the sublime.
He works with nature, its strength, its magnitudes, put in relation with metonymic signs that refer to man. But it is a purely imaginative relationship, more analytical and conceptual than naturalistic. There's no verisimilitude in his landscapes. There are, of course, anachronisms, paradoxes, impossible. And that's what bothers us, disturbs us, causes us anxiety, and delight. Nor has he been interested in the technological side of postmodern theorization, at least for the time being.
Ketty has been building his own principles of sublimity.