Isabel Croxatto Galería presents Lovesong, solo exhibition by the artist Wladymir Bernechea. The show, curated by Chilean researcher Sebastián Valenzuela-Valdivia, gathers 24 recent paintings that transit between loneliness and longing in a silent battle between black and white, to be presented online starting 28 April in the virtual space ICG+.
The exhibition title, Lovesong, is a direct reference to the song of the same name by the British band The Cure from 1989, coincidentally also the year of the artist's birth. 'Whenever I'm alone with you, you make me feel whole again... However far away, I will always love you' sings Robert Smith, the band's frontman, over a dark pop-tinged melody. In the same way, Wladymir Bernechea explores recurring themes in his production, such as loneliness, melancholy and introspection, through faces, figures and blurred landscapes that silently appear between the sublimation of the whites and the gloom of the blacks.
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LOVESONGCuratorial Text by Sebastián Valenzuela-Valdivia
The pictorial matter amalgamates these references that wander in loneliness, melancholy, sadness and introspection. Feelings that nowadays become stronger and stronger due to the political, social, economic and health contexts that force us to withdraw and isolate ourselves.
In May 1989, the established new wave band The Cure released their eighth album, Disintegration. This record is reminiscent of their darker past; with high melancholic overtones, the use of lengthy silences, high demand for melodic listening without vocals and a clear move away from pop melodies. Years later, the album was catalogued by the specialised critics as one of their masterpieces, becoming their most popular to date. Within the album, the most optimistic and pop-oriented song was Lovesong. In it, we listen to a masterful mix of love, sadness, nostalgia and the duality of loneliness. It is precisely this panorama that has accompanied the imaginary and visual production of the Chilean artist Wladymir Bernechea throughout his career, who was born the same year as the release of this album and, in turn, within a generation characterised by full immersion in globalisation, by the high flow of information and the deterritorialisation of imaginaries, all this in conjunction with a high interest in subjectivities and their diverse affections such as love, sadness, hope, loneliness and pessimism.
With a career spanning a decade, Wladymir Bernechea has shown us his vast imaginary articulated by direct references to the history of painting, Japanese culture, manga, anime and the Asian world, as well as autobiographical and local imaginaries. In each of these, he has masterfully employed painting through the use of colour - black and white -, stain, light, shadow and pictorial matter, elements that could be defined as part of the "pictorial feeling". This term refers to the ontology of painting itself: what is it and how is it done? To answer these questions, we should focus primarily on the painter's work, on how his craft is constituted and how the transfer from idea to form takes place.
When we enter fully into Lovesong, it is possible to observe an immanent relationship between the form and content of the paintings. In other words, we can observe and interpret the images in them, as well as feel and experience through the arrangement of the paste on the canvas; its textures, weight, roughness or smoothness.
Through these paintings, Bernechea shows us his insistence on pictorial technique, rescuing its classic elements to introduce us to a series of characters who are portrayed individually - or in groups - but, at the end of the day, silenced by the absence of faces. This silent quality is enhanced by the abandonment of contour lines, by the blurring of the pictorial paste and by the union of black and white. These formal conditions mean that the bodies on display have blurred, ill-defined and ambiguous faces. This last category would allow the feminine and masculine binomial present in the depicted figures in the exhibition to fade away. Alongside these faces, there is also a series of landscapes that wander between abstraction and figuration. The tension between the two languages again lies in the use of pictorial paste. In some cases, the blurred skies and grounds are only constituted by the pasty and monochromatic condition, and in others, the brushstrokes and the interest in figuration would account for those forms.
The imaginary constructed by Bernechea in Lovesong is characterised by a strong presence of global popular culture, through clear references to the world of cinema, anime and, of course, music. Each of them is contemplated in the poses of the characters in the scene, the evocative elements (typology of school uniforms) or simply through the title of the pieces. It is impossible not to classify this imaginary as "obscurely pop". The pictorial material amalgamates these references that wander in loneliness, melancholy, sadness and introspection. Feelings that nowadays become stronger and stronger due to the political, social, economic and health contexts that force us to withdraw and isolate ourselves. It is for this reason that it would be significant to ask ourselves in what way we see ourselves represented in these works or how do they challenge us? In seeking an answer to these questions, we could gradually gain access to the interstices of Lovesong's tones.
Sebastián Valenzuela-Valdivia, curator and researcher
Perlino, 2021Oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
The absence of faces in Bernechea's paintings invites us to give meaning to those identities. Identities that are diffuse, blurred, unclear, and obliterated by the white pictorial paste.
In this piece, the two subjects present could wander through any genre. Bodies in scenes are united and inseparable by the black color that unites them. The pictorial matter or stain allows the unification of identities.
Tango, 2020Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm
Masterfully, the mixture of black and white articulates two clearly masculine bodies. Their bodily disposition -gestured by the pigments and their density- evokes the movement of both. It would even be possible to hear the dance of those silent subjects.
Painting has always taken me to uncertain and sentimental places, as living spaces -materially- that exist on the basis of emotion. Bodies blur, merging with the background, identity becomes ambiguous, and landscapes become like solid matter.
Growing up in 1990s Chile, the artist belongs to a generation whose childhood was fully immersed in pre-internet globalization, later influenced by high information flows and the deterritorialization of imaginaries. Pop, as well as Japanese culture represented in the West through anime and manga, are cardinal references in Wladymir's work, who portrays his characters by incorporating their shapes, physiques, and costumes.
His landscapes, meanwhile, are especially tributary to Soviet architectural brutalism and postmodernism, invoking scenes of large, abandoned and desolate buildings east of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe.
Bernechea's work not only wanders and experiments through portraits, but there is also an inquiry into space, territory, and landscape. In Lovesong, the artist elaborates a series of monochromatic landscapes that zigzag through abstraction and figuration. In these paintings, the pictorial paste that has formed subjects is also employed to make solid blocks, and diffuse landscapes appear on the canvas.