A MIRROR IN NATURE’S GARDEN
Early in her career, Cristina Iglesias began working with architectural elements such as walls, columns and roofs as the basis for her sculptures, pursuing an interest in how spatial qualities are able to serve as sculptural elements. In collaboration with architects, she has made works based on specific locations.
An important development along this creative path is seen in the work installed in Moskenes where a pair of aluminum walls are formed as two large hedges of laurel leaves and define a space between two tall stone faces that create a natural alcove. Inspired by the art form’s potential to mark lines of rational order in nature, Cristina Iglesias redefines the space between these two vertical and distinctly geometric walls..
A number of dichotomies work together to reinforce the respective characteristics of artwork and surroundings. The metal walls with their surfaces, straight edges, and consciously prismatic forms create a dialogue with the free and rounded contours of the stone. The distinctly industrial quality of aluminum becomes a foliage pattern of laurel leaves whose uneven texture mimes the cracks, holes, moss and lichen from stones sculpted by time, ice, water and wind. The artwork thus emerges from the dialogue itself, from the juxtaposition of both man-made and natural artworks: the one intentional and the other causal; the one realized through human will and the other through nature’s blind insatiable greed. In this dichotomy, the conjuring of geometric characteristics by the human spirit represents a world of culture in dialogue with nature’s elements; yet, this dialogue is not confrontational. Cristina Iglesias’ work is neither pitted against the landscape nor a sign of humankind’s dominance or triumph over nature. Rather, the work assumes the semblance of the stones against which it is placed, a harmonic juxtaposition in the garden emulated by this hedge of laurel leaves.
From a viewer’s perspective, the gaze traces a path from the metal surfaces to the stone mass and hence to the surrounding vegetation, air and ocean. Thus, the hedge not only forms a room, a kind of free zone delimited by a spatial structure, but also recalls Vitruvio’s description of a mystical and primitive shepherd hut. The work is transformed into a lookout point, an observatory from which one may admire and contemplate nature and its aesthetic phenomena. One then discovers that these walls of leaves function as mirrors, reflecting nature. The walls are not mounted on the site as lifeless volumes in order to challenge the harsh climate or change of seasons with their presence. Not unlike tide pools, they are living canvases that reflect the environment around them. As in other interior works by Cristina Iglesias, this mirror expands the surrounding space and allows for a world rich with metaphors.
Reflections on a Laurel Grove
From the cruise ship’s bar window, Lofoten offers a stunning skyline. The special effects – the contrasts between darkness and light, land and ocean, snowcapped mountain and turquoise beach – are stupefying. The casual visitor will – if he is very casual – be surprised to find that those who live their lives in front of this scenery pay little attention to it. The Northerner even seems to take pride in his lack of visible response to the abundance of visuality that surrounds him. In the presence of vastness, there is an absence of closeness. In the face of the roaring elements, the silence is deafening. In these parts, the only lack is one of density, the only scarcity one of words.
The identity-boosting ideology that tries to turn this lack of human density (or culture) into a surplus of unspoiled environment (or nature) was invented a bit further south; in the national capitals, themselves placed at a less than comfortable distance from the densities of continental Europe. To regard the natural backdrop as just a backdrop – much like those fishermen or farmers who make their living from it – is not politically correct. The official line is that silence is our eloquence, and nature is our culture. Our landscape has soul. Our people are genuine. Failure to define “nature” as something more than the absence of “culture” is rather a serious transgression for those born and raised up here, in the Nordic countries.
On the other hand, this Great North has long been suffocating from its unanswered love for the distant, radiating South. Repercussions of the sociable, communal, cultural rustle and bustle of life in the southern city have reached as far as Lofoten, not unlike the traveling noises of family dinners under open air that provoke such melancholy in the Germanic tourist walking the streets of Rome after dark. How many loggias, pergolas and olive groves have not been mimicked in the North, as rapidly de-composing decorative carpentry or artificial clusters of alder bushes cut to shape by the municipal authorities every five or six years. “Columns, what are you doing here?” exclaimed the Swedish admiral Carl August Ehrenswärd as he rode along the Unter den Linden in his upholstered carriage, heading home from Italy two hundred years ago.
How refreshingly problematic, then, to stumble across these two foreign bodies newly implanted into the age-old granite of Lofoten. Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias seems to have folded a whole Mediterranean grove into sheets of clay. Is there a more “cultural” tree than the laurel? Its leaves are used for triumphal processions, academic festivities and meat stews. The imprints left by slender, muscular twigs and pointed tongue-like leaves have then been transferred to that most “artificial” of metals, aluminum. The process echoes that of early phonograph wax rolls: the concerts once played by lukewarm winds in dusty foliage are vibrated into the relief. The beholder at Moskenes, first struck by the dissonance (the “sublime” dissonance?) of silent primeval rock and loud light metal, soon re-composes an audible image of the invisible orchestra by himself, all alone at the far end of this unlikely transfer.
If naming had nothing to do with this displaced, elaborate display of site, material and natural metonymy (the imprints being pre-metaphoric elements, not quite becoming images), Cristina Iglesias’ work could be about this: the victory of sound over silence – imaginary sound and silence, of course – and even of “culture” over “nature”, of Southern Comfort over Northern Exposure. But at the moment we discover what the locals call this carefully selected setting, then the balance between art and landscape, guest and host community will shift. The sculpted sheets hang at the entrance to a cavity inside the granite fell, a hole once drilled by stones in running water – The Devil’s Churn. In such proximity of a pronounced Evil, even a rustling laurel grove must sound another, less self-confident and less triumphant note. The imported finery becomes, at once, more textile-like, a patterned tapestry or an imploring embroidered inscription: Think twice before you enter here, but if you do, we will be doing what we can to protect you and to wrap you up, softly.
In the final count, this sculpted guest-performance is marked by arrogance as well as by humility. It is defiance and deference in the same gesture. It offers both comfort and exposure for the price of one public work of art. This is all according to agreement. In the sparsely populated everyday, however, unwelcome questions will be asked: Are the filigree finished goods more telling now than the ancient uncut gem – the grotto – used to be on its own? Who listens to the silvery, soothing rhythms of make-believe laurels in this panoramic wilderness? Will aluminum landscape panels in a granite scenery ever count as more than a backdrop to the backdrop? In the Great North, can the Southerner ever become more than a casual visitor?
Moskenes sculpture hidden in the pebbles of the low-tide
What should we make of this? We were honestly a little disappointed at first glance.
A jewel in natural surroundings.
Nils Petter Lydersen
A wonderful experience. Exciting to look at, and it also makes one curious. What is behind it? It simply must be seen.
Just beautiful, and the color works so well with the landscape.
Anne Marie Hagerup
If you are confined to a wheelchair you may as well forget the art altogether.
Nordlands Framtid 10.09.94
Bay leaves have been added to stones that were boiled millions of years ago.
Boiled rocks in bay leaves.
Headline in Lofotposten, 29.08.1994