This entry is a translation into English, by Paloma Gil Quindós, of my text published in Spanish on the occasion of the exhibition Chema Gil. Art Fatale, held at the Polvorín, Ciudadela de Pamplona, from 19th January to 4th March 2018. The exhibition catalogue published the text both in Spanish “Hogar Exilio. Palabras para el último proyecto de Chema Gil”, and translated into Basque language “Deserri Etxea. Hitzak, Chema Gilen azken proiekturako”, by an unidentified translator.
Exile Home. A few words on Chema Gil’s latest project
Chema Gil (Palencia, 1960) works with photographs and in the field of art installation. His work lingers on intimacy, using the same restraint and humility with which he addresses his exhibitions – bearing this in mind, it should perhaps be recalled that exactly one decade has passed since his previous solo show Artymañas, held at the Pabellón de Mixtos at La Ciudadela (Pamplona).
On this occasion, Gil presents Art Fatale, a series of colour images printed on matte photo paper, all created between 2010 (Bath) and 2017 (Up & Down and Untitled), and made in only two sizes. The larger ones – 140 x 90 cm – are vertical, while the smaller ones – 36 x 46 cm – are horizontal.
Formally, many of Gil’s images show a keen interest in geometrical volumes, often placed in the foreground. Similarly, windows draped with translucent fabrics build shapes of light that point to an awareness of photography as a window open to the world – a precept taken from the art of painting and its Renaissance definition as a discrete subject.
This exhibition follows Gil’s personal poetic sensibility with an exploration of domestic interiors through which he invites the viewer to reflect about the home itself and the way we relate to our memories, to mementos, objects laden with a temporal bond – like photography itself. Thus, one of the images captures a shelf on which a miniature zoo is displayed: pieces made of diverse materials (ceramics, metal, wood, plastic), a sort of inventory, a collection that attempts to order the world. Nevertheless, the home as a physical space leads Gil to treat it as an essential space, an epicentre of emotions – lacking for so many forsaken people.
Gil also offers a sensitive reflection – without theatricality, ostentation or morbid curiosity – on forced migration, on the exodus of a world that has knocked down borders for the sake of a fluid extreme of hyper-liberalism whose political limits are obstinately perverse. The exodus from Syria sparked some of these thoughts. A photograph taken from the digital press that shows a camp of these refugees has been used in two images. In Relatives (2016), Gil has digitally manipulated the image replacing a family photograph – hence the title – with a photo of these outcasts, thus giving them access, even if only symbolically or as a show of affection, into his own home. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto (‘I am a man, nothing human is alien to me’), agrees our artist with Terence.
In Trayecto II (2016), two large fragments of the same photograph have been digitally introduced into the corridor of an office building, or a hotel – in any case, a space unsuitable to be occupied by the banished, as if Gil wanted to create a disturbance or, perhaps, to visually prove that victims are needed for maintaining this order that, for the time being, governs our lives – an order which is atrociously dehumanizing.
In some of Gil’s works, there are also visual loops such as photographs within photographs. One of his most poetic images uses one of his own works to tackle, with admirable subtlety, the same reflection of the need for a home and our feeling of living in exile. Thus, At Home IV captures a fragment of a tent in the foreground, while the background is woven from myriad photocopies that are part of one of his most iconic pieces: To Kim Ki-duk (2007, paper and wood-based print, in variable sizes), a work that he showed in Seoul – the city in which most of the films by the South Korean director honoured in this work are set – and in Pamplona at his former solo exhibition.
However, the arrangement of the repeated images in At Home IV, mimicking tiles on a wall and which appear stuck to adhesive tapes stretched between trees, is not complete. Gil shows – with commendable poetic sensibility – the contradiction between the ephemeral and the stable, between fantasy and certainty, insisting on the illusory quality of certitude, as much as on the pressing need to keep hope alive in a world that is collapsing.