Between the lines
Our body is the only undeniable reality given to us. And what is strange is that, despite all inventions and amazing discoveries humanity has made, we still struggle to solve the mystery all of us face every day – the mystery of our body. The issue of corporeality has been one of the central problems in culture for thousands of years and nowadays it is explored at different angles. Yet most of them can be reduced to the classic and somewhat trite opposition of material and spiritual.
Idealistic philosophy, the traces of which are still visible in mass consciousness, used to be too austere, depriving body of the privilege of being sacred and turning it into a cage for more ‘sublime’ substance. Today we are gradually approaching seeing body and spirit as a single whole, completing each other in dialectic coherence and only harmony between them can lead us to happiness.
As all artists, Santiago Rueda is trying to unveil the essence of Beauty: what makes something visually alluring and captivating for our eyes and souls? For him Woman is a symbol of beauty, therefore exploration of this theme remains central to his art.
In Islamic culture, there are two terms – the Batin and the Zahir. The Batin defines inner or hidden meaning, whereas the Zahir refers to the outer, visible dimension. And female beauty emerges from the connection point of the two – of the inmost and apparent. How does the ‘Batin’ reveal itself though the ‘Zahir’? How does fragile bodily elegance convey the mystery, hidden inside the Woman? Santiago attempts to answer these questions in his “Between the lines” series.
Each piece in the series is a combination of two images – a female nude shot and a shot of a certain flower (or a landscape and texture). The lines with fragments of photographs interchange in such a way, so the integrity of composition remains unaffected. The author elaborates it, achieving the eloquent coincidence of shapes, which prompts our brains to bridge and complete the whole image.
One of the striking things about “Between the lines” is the balance between the provocative sensuality of the pieces and, at the same time, respectfulness and admiration towards the models. This is much more than another sample of erotic art, especially in the contemporary context, when this genre turned into a field of talking on social problems, like gender equality, personal space etc. No, the photographer’s works are not a manifestation but a contemplation, which makes them closer to artistic tradition of fin de siècle.
The subject – an artistic comparison of woman with flower – could have become another mawkish (if not to say plain) cliché, but Rueda manages to avoid it. Glamour is the result of shallowness and futility of the author’s view, whereas “Between the lines” is filled with intensive and candid emotions, uncovering the creator’s deeply personal concept.
One of Santiago’s sources of inspiration for the project was legacy of Georgia O’Keeffe – an outstanding American artist best known for her photos and large-scale flower paintings. The latter she saw as the metaphor of hidden passion: anxious, intoxicating and grasping, in all moods. Once the painter wrote about her works, “I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at – not copy it.”
Santiago follows the same direction and even develops O’Keeffe’s principle. He merges fragments of reality to get another one – his personal dimension and perception of femininity. And method of photomontage occurred to be the most suitable for that purpose. His images are built not on juxtaposition, like assemblage pieces of Robert Heinecken, but on a well-orchestrated consonance of motifs, lines and coloring. As the result, the models on the shots are abstracted from their individuality and turned into a sort of female archetype.
Another aspect, which was, intentionally or not, touched upon in “Between the lines” series, is one of the crucial problems of contemporaneity. Woman and flower as symbols of the ultimate perfection existing on the planet, remind us of the thirst for naturalness we experience nowadays. In the society where obsession with self-representation, artificial ‘canons’ of beauty and body-modification is alarmingly high, people need a message of inner and outer purity and self-acceptance.
Though saying Rueda’s works are very metaphysical would be an overstatement, nevertheless, it’s marked by the touch of enigma behind each portrait (it’s even doubtful whether we should call them portraits after all). Santiago succeeded in creating a very deep project, where each image is like a novel. And you just have to read it. Read between the lines.
by Oleksandra Osadcha
This body of work hasn’t been publicly exhibited in the USA. Images shown above renders how it would look in a gallery/museum. This work is available for exhibition. Contact the artist for more information and show opportunities.