Adriana Duque

18/Mar/2014 – 12/Apr/2014

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    Being an artist implies, among other matters, seeking one's own path of expression amid an ocean of references to works, schools and other artists. Certain artist and works possess the power to catalyze and synthethise given points that might help other artists create concepts and aesthetics for their own future works.

    Adriana Duque is conducting a project in which photography emerges umbilically connected to the history of painting. More specifically, to Dutch baroque painting. “I once visited the Groeninge museum in Bruges, Belgium. I had the chance to see the original paintings of painters like Jan Van Eyck (c.1390 – 1441) and Hans Memling (c.1430 - 1494). It was one of the most sublime and motivating experiences, which has had an influence on all my photography work ever since," Duque says.

    The challenge of drawing on such demarcated references is always the same: in the scope of her work, will the artist manage to dilute such references to the point that they are so well amalgamated into the organism of her own work that they practically disappear, thus creating an offshoot with new assumptions?

    There is a tenuous and dangerous boundary between the reference that is diluted and strengthens both artists, and pastiche, in which the ghost of the reference artist still haunts and sucks out the energy of the work he or she has inspired.

    Duque ventures into this territory tackling the challenge with another historically complex factor: photography that once again unashamedly cites painting. The European avant-garde movements of the early 20th century sought precisely to gauge their autonomy in photography as a language, making a brutal effort to separate it from the tradition of academic painting. Since then, any author who again photographs following certain pictorial canons must do so based on this so widely propagated deconstruction in the history of art. Duque's work might be seen as a brave citing of this clash.

    Between the explicit allusion to a certain period of painting and the dilemma of photography’s relationship with painting, Duque creates an original path that results in a series of works which highlight the substantial visual impact that emerges precisely from the meticulously articulated imbrication at the boundaries of representation between both languages.

    But her portraits go beyond this: after creating the ambience, the light and the pose, there are references to her own subjective and infantile universe that invade the scene, counteracting the posture and atmosphere of the characters invoked by the Dutch baroque painting.

    This is usually a case of borrowing the ambience suggested by the baroque pictorial construction so that the artist can then have the experience of transporting herself to that place through little girls who she elects as a kind of alter ego of herself.

    Duque’s work, therefore, also attains the dimension of a performance, a gesture that should be experienced organically, like an attitude of transference whereby her princess fantasies are echoed, recorded in the subtly ironic form with which she rehabilitates the air of nobility in the representation. “My work consists of situating in the scene my memories, dreams and, why not, my frustrations,” the artist states.

    Observing Duque’s photographs can lead, at first glance, to the mistaken finding that her photographs attempt to imitate to the maximum the light, adornment and pose of the paintings to which she refers. However, it is from this game of illusion, from this almost total similitude, that the artist interjects disconcerting information and updates her portraits. Her Marias possesses a strange and seductive adornment that covers the head and ears of her little princesses. Studying in detail the clothing of the characters in encyclopedias and museums, Duque found crowns whose shape resembled headphones that in the modern world have become an almost compulsory accessory to the young generations.

    Now, the headphones used nowadays in public spaces block out the surroundings of the user, a kind of denying the presence of, or keeping others away. It is the guarantee of a non-presence and of an intended internalization.

    Duque connects this contemporary behaviour to the aura of fearlessness and natural isolation of the infants who inhabit the walls of museums around the world. These revisited crowns, or kind of headphones that are bestowed with baroque adornment, serve the same purpose as the bone that the monkey throws into space in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. A powerful metaphor that connects all generations of humankind, regardless of the era and customs which they lived. This is just one among many of the details through which Duque cunningly infiltrates codes that destabilise the apparent and false submission to an aesthetic and behavioural standard of another time.

    By uniting references with autobiographic citations and suppressing the boundaries between painting and photography, Duque creates a large-scale work in which rich symbolisms are detached from the painting to create an instance of fecund reflections and enigmas.

    Eder Chiodetto

    Journalist, teacher, curator and photography researcher, has chalked up more than 60 exhibition in Brazil and abroad since 2004. He has also been the curator of the Photography Collectors Club of the MAM-SP since 2006. He is the author of O Lugar do Escritor (Cosac Naify); Geração 00: A Nova Fotografia Brasileira (Edições SESC); Curadoria em fotografia: da pesquisa à exposição (E-book, Prêmio Marc Ferrez / Funarte); and German Lorca (Cosac Naify).

    Critical essay