Tres noches y dos días de pausa en el Konvent. Por mal tiempo, anticipo de un día la subida a la Serra d’Ensija Break. Three nights and two days at Konvent. Due to bad weather, I anticipate one day the climb to the Serra d’Ensija
My perception of time and space changed profoundly during the Pyrenean crossing of the Spanish-French border that I carried out in the summer of 2017 during the development of my On the Border project. On that occasion I discovered the creative and healing power of walking and its power of liberation. In the Pyrenees I learned that to walk is to surrender oneself in order to appropriate time and space.
It is on this postulate that La entrega was born, a project conceived as a set of actions where walking, understood as an aesthetic and creative practice, is the primary motor. The title of the project voluntarily refers to the idea of consignment and at the same time to the idea of abnegation, a characteristic common to both artistic practice and walking.
The work presented in this dossieris the result of the first act of the project, carried out between September and December 2018 thanks to the “Arte i Natura” grant from the La Panera contemporary art center in Lleida, together with the Centre d’Art i Natura of Farrera (Lleida).
This first act consists of two main parts. The first, a journey of 350 km3, walking for 21 days from my studio in Barcelona, located in the Piramidón contemporary art center, to the Centre d’Art i Natura of Farrera, a small village in the Pyrenees of Lleida, 1,300 meters above sea level. The route was developed “uniting” six art centers4 and crossing 8 counties, from sea level to the mountain, reaching a maximum height of 2,500 meters5. During the trip I dedicated myself to making a kind of inventory of the territory, collecting material, recording videos and taking photos (digital and polaroid snapshots), drawing landscapes, maps and routes, experimenting with liquids and matter. At the end of each day’s journey, the delivery was certified and stamped by the place where I chose to spend the night (shelter, refuge, private house, etc.) in custom-made booklets, inspired by the Pilgrim’s Credential of the Camino de Santiago.
All this material was, therefore, the object delivered and at the same time the testimony of the artist’s dedication, of the time dedicated by him and of the space travelled.
The second part of the project was developed during the residency at the Centre d’Art i Natura of Farrera, where I did most of the work based on the material collected and produced along the way. The main support of the entire production is paper, prepared in different sizes between 50×70 cm and 140×200 cm and folded as maps are usually folded. Some of the material I took with me during the trip, blank maps to use as travel logs or logbooks, while the rest I dedicated to the work I did as an artist in residence at the art center, deepening the research done during the journey.
The project, based on a strong experiential component, is characterized by a broad stylistic register and by its experimental vocation. As in the case of On the Border, the journey is the end but it is also the means, a key reading to understand what exists and a fundamental part of the creative process in which the artistic product is an indispensable component. The particular state of trance induced by walking for long periods of time was therefore the means to explore new geographical and emotional territories of which the work of art is cartography and, at the same, discovery and trophy.
Thank you, with love: Kati Riquelme, Andrea Leria, Andrea Barello, Kike Bela and The Good Good, Hugo Vázquez, Joana Cervià and Josep Rubio, Rosa Lendinez, Jordi Martínez-Vilalta, Alicia Calle, Konvent, Miquel Martínez-Vilalta and Anna Motis Berta, Marga Bruna, Javier, María and Nacho Pagonabarraga, Natalia Carminati, Paula Bruna, Marc Badia and his whole family, Claudia Karina Godoy, Carlos Puyol, Lluís Lobet and Centre d’Art i Natura of Farrera, the whole community of Farrera, Antoni Jove and Roser Sanjuan, La Panera, Jia-ling Hsu, Pau Cata, Sole Pieras, Ivan Franco Fraga, Aida Mestres, Andreu Dengra Carayol and Centre d’Art Maristany, Sophie Blais, Sarah Goodchild Robb and Can Serrat, CDAN of Huesca, Raül Maigí and the Montserrat Museum, Josep Estruch and Montserrat Rectoret-Blanch, Mireia C. Saladrigues, Fede Montornes, David Armengol, Alberto Gil Cásedas, Pilar Parcerisas, William Truini, Guillermo Pfaff, Josep Maria Cabané, Sandra Sanseverino, Montse Bonvehi, Club Excursionista de Gràcia, Piramidón…
In the summer of 2017, Noris walked the 290 km of the Spanish-French border in the province of Girona, through which the principal routes of the republican exile ran. During the walk, the artist painted a work corresponding to each of the 198 milestones that mark the border. To walk and paint, joining together points along the border, as though balancing on that invisible line that divides in two that which is one, making visible what is invisible and opening up in this way a new stage for memory.
Over these past four years I have been working with the landscape as a stage and as a border, but always from the comfort and distance of the studio. The need for direct experience, to put myself out there and confront the real without any filters, is what led me to undertake “On the Border”. The project involves walking the entire Spanish-French border in the county of Girona and making a small oil painting at each of the 198 milestones that mark the limit between the two countries. It will not be a visual documentation of the milestones (which have already been photographically catalogued), but rather an emotional recording of the environment, according to whatever the geographical and environmental conditions may be. For this reason, the extreme connection with the environment and the present moment that open-air painting permits is fundamental to allowing the project to acquire a strong experiential value. In this sense, the pieces are not the objective of the journey: the experience itself is the goal, the experience of making and being the border, the introspection of a long walk in nature, the journey and its difficulties. To paint pieces as if they were markers and to walk joining together points along the the border, as though balancing on that invisible line that divides in two what is one, is to make visible the invisible and thus open up a new setting for memory.
Muga (“border stone”) is a word of Basque origin used in the Catalan Pyrenees instead of mojón (or hito, in Spanish) and fita (in Catalan). Here is an article written by Josep Estruch for “On the Border” on the etymology of the word.
Rivesaltes (Ruins I) – 2013 – 19×33 cm – Oil and bitumen of Judea on canvas
A few years ago, during a visit to the Exile Memorial Museum of La Jonquera (Museu Memorial d’Exili – MuME), I read for the first time about Camp de Rivesaltes, also known as Camp Maréchal Joffre, a former concentration camp in the south of France which was first opened in the 1930s to accommodate Spanish exiles. The camp remained open for nearly 70 years, and Among other uses, it served as a concentration camp during the Nazi occupation and then as an internment camp for Algerian Harkis. The dramatic history of Rivesaltes runs through the entire 20th century, which is why it is used as a guide to research the most tragic events of Europe’s recent past. Rivesaltes is not exclusively a geographical location; it is also – or especially, now that its ruins have made way for memory – a collective emotional space.
This work emerges from the debris of the camp, the executioner of and witness to the horror of Nazi deportations and the drama of the exile of thousands of human beings. The memory of Rivesaltes is alive and is today linked to the current camps that worldwide and at the gates of Europe accommodate millions of lives, millions of refugees, millions of dramas: the ruins of the camp are the past that connects with the present and with current EU migration policy. Nevertheless, this is not a work about Rivesaltes. Neither does it intend to be a piece of historical research. History acts here rather as a guide to a journey through collective emotional memory, searching for the universal nature of the individual experience, beyond eras, boundaries and nationalities.
The word refuge has its origin in the Latin word refugium, a word that was used indistinctly to refer to the place towards which one flees as well as to the “escape route”. In other words, to a place safe from danger (not necessarily physical and immediate) or a means to escape from a dangerous situation. It also meant “return”, “arriving back”, as opposed to “desertion”. The plural –refugia– referred to hiding places in Roman houses where the father of the family could hide his possessions in case of an attack by enemies or a fire.
Protection, escape, retreat, exit. Terms that indicate both a withdrawal and an outward movement, whichever the case, a permanent state of transit and danger.
The work presented in Refugium, refugia portrays the physical and emotional places of uprooting, places where burial frequently follows exile, where the need for shelter is accompanied by its denial and where the solution to the tragedy is only the lesser evil. The camps are at the same time refuge and condemnation and certify the loss of dignity and identity of refugees, broken, separated from their roots, from their land, from their past. Mass graves, pits, burial mounds, boxes… real or symbolic shelters, cynical alternatives to cynical European politics. The refugee as an intrinsic condition of the exiled, where the impossibility of returning home points to the absolute and definitive impossibility of having a new home, because uprooting is an irreversible trauma that affects the very fundaments of the human being.
“Refugium, refugia” at MuME, Museu Memorial de l’Exili (La Jonquera, Spain), installation view 2019. More info
Sometimes, it is sufficient to add something to an image so that what we perceive as a landscape is converted into a scenario and not in the portrayal of the illusion of the observer. Therefore, to speak about a scale in relation to a landscape would be like talking about the distance that separates the viewer from the image. And to speak about the distance between the viewer and what they see would be to speak about intrusion in a never-ending story.
Because there is no end to painting. And yet, it invites you to take a closer look.
Marco Noris says that for him, painting – particularly oil painting – is the language that best enables him to engage in emotions without overlooking intellect. He also says that it is the language that, thanks to its traditional visual codes, lets him pry open the conscience of the viewer, as a pivot between omen and mourning. A temporary distortion, he goes on to say, with post-apocalyptic scenes, ruins from the past, hints of future disasters and memories of tragedies that merge together and intertwine forming a kind of genealogy of the catastrophe. A study of the future of the human race which, far from nostalgic grieving celebrations, it speaks about the personal and collective journey of acceptance and atonement, in the centre of which is always the individual who is not in charge of their destiny: the viewer. Alone. Facing their mortality.
Or as Noris calls it: the triumph of defeat.
Focusing on the desire to insinuate rather than on the desire to describe what, in the eyes of the observer, opens up as an exercise of introspection based on arguments as broad, as meaningful and as reflexive as memory, oblivion, absence and expectation, Noris’ work is a type of balsam which, invoking a more than necessary suspension of time, allows anything to happen because in this work everything is eternal, extended, expected and abandoned. It is a decision which, placing the observer on the margin of the bustle and noise, permits a connection to be made with the part of the individual that wonders what is behind the narrow reality that we can see as he knows that this is what is blinding us from what we really need to explore.
Beyond the veil covering our eyes, we can find out why we are all here.
The exhibition “No era el sol” [It wasn’t the sun] shows numerous pieces of Noris’ work developed around the disappearance in the mass graves, the cruelty of borders, the civil war, and exile and uprooting; it also presents environmental matters – used as metaphors for both our material and moral ruins – and interpretations at a more introspective level, all of which are employed as a first and unavoidable step towards accepting denial and shadow to deal with the escalation in technology, excessive consumption and entertainment that obstruct our vision. It is a type of conceptual manhole conceived not so much as to end with the human species but to show that following what appeared to be the sun did not come a night of rest but the desire to find a light beyond impatience. In other words, beyond ourselves. This is why, rather than a journey to the exterior and through territories of which everything is constructed, Noris proposes a journey into the interior of each individual along the path of his brushstrokes in oil, the surface of canvases, layers and layers of discarded cardboard, the dimensions of a painting and the steps that we should follow to tear away from this wretched world, to recover the essence of the human being, become aware of our identity, revive our values and see it all from the distance that allows us to understand painting, his painting, also as a matter of scale.
The denial of darkness and mortality is characteristic of our era. Surrounded by cracks and ruins, incapable of facing their fears, the somnolent ultraliberal humanity, through technological escalation, seeks refuge in consumerism and entertainment. For this reason, I decided to explore the distressing and tragic territories of denial and shadow through painting. Mass graves, beaten up violators, accidents, waste and dumps, police victims, destroyed effigies, refugees and mutants… my work is a compendium of demise, a collection of material and moral ruins. Therefore, in this context, (Un)refuges, my project on exile and uprooting, was conceived from the debris of a former concentration camp and speaks about memory and oblivion and the annihilation of human beings, their identity and their values.
Since then and up to very recently, I was convinced that the ruin was the main concept around which I had been building my imaginary. Not so long ago, I realised that in reality the ruin was not the ultimate goal in my research, but a means to light up the dark journey of defeat. Defeat here has two slants. The first is the tragic aspect: the historic defeat, and with it the political, moral and environmental defeats. In the private sphere, we can also include personal defeat, intrinsic to human existence. The individual’s defeat and their concatenation of surrenders takes us to the sublime slant of this journey, where the defeated is celebrated, a condition that requires the force of courage. Finally, at the peak of this itinerary is the defeat of the ego, the last stage of this journey and possibly the start of what will come next.
Apart from some forays into the world of photography, collage, installation and video, my experience is mainly in the field of painting. I find pictorial language an ideal tool for managing emotions without overlooking intellect. The traditional, almost archetypical, visual codes of oil painting allow me to pry open the conscience of the viewer, as a pivot between omen and mourning. In this temporary distortion, post-apocalyptic scenes, ruins from the past, hints of future disasters and memories of tragedies merge together and intertwine forming a cyclical genealogy of the catastrophe, in the centre of which is the viewer, alone facing their mortality.