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Limerick City Gallery of Art.Limerick. Ireland.

July/August 2015

the Infantile Art of Vanessa Donoso López (3)

Ross Birrell


In their bewitching play, art works know more about our being-in-the-world than we do. That is why art works arrest, appeal, appall, beguile and bemuse, stir, stun and silence. Art can be demanding or domestic, democratic or defy description. Individual works may appear intricate and intellectual, intoxicating and insane, sacred and inscrutable. But these ineffable veils are only so many disguises adopted to mask art’s true identity: a doll’s house for devilish children to play in or destroy. Art is an impossible child born of the infinite, the demonic and the divine. An irrepressible imp, eternally at play. Only in this sense can we truly say, art is infantile.


White paper discs form an arrangement of sorts across a studio wall: an experimental archipelago. From the centre of each radiates a watercolour stigmata: marine blue, organ pink, blood orange. Floating wild flowers. Each possess a central stamen or filament. Are they samples, specimens, or scars? Are they breeding? A co-evolution of colour? Some are cut and spliced in latticed rounds. Colour interweaved with its own origin. Is there a finite pattern emerging here? Or merely a fragment of infinite play? Multiplied they might resemble a frenzy of children’s party plates, a game invented and performed for an infant’s own amusement, remnants of a self-perpetuating pleasure principle. In their autonomous intertwining of theme and variation they present a chromatic echo of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s description of chamber music ‘which seeks to be more authentic music-making in being performed for the players themselves and not for an audience’ (Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, p. 110). We cannot easily assume we are the intended audience of such a display. It is performed for its own sake. We have merely interrupted, momentarily, the proceedings, untimely intruders upon a predetermined ritual: a silent and mystic synaesthesia. But such bewitchment is also a form of beckoning, as can be witnessed in the room-sized installation and miniature assemblages consisting of perpetually overflowing porcelain, rotating cut-out dolls, dancing magnetic toys: a mise en scène of baroque automata. They attract us, draw us into their intimate world but ultimately ignore us as they and their universe dance to an indifferent tune. Yet, as Gadamer reminds us, art is ultimately made for the beholder just as all play is a form of presentation, even if no-one is there to receive the gesture of its gift. Herein lies the final predicament of art, its precarious existence in the face of its own ‘infantile utopia of play’ (Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History, p. 53).


There is a small pencil drawing by Vanessa Donoso Lopez titled, Join the dots. If you wish. (2012). In its open-ended and incomplete structure it could be said to resemble Warhol’s Do It Yourself series. A comparison furthered in its ambivalent tone – an invitation delivered with on an off-handed disregard. But there is something more vulnerable in this precarious economy than the deflationary intent of Warhol’s ironic transaction. In its direct address to the viewer as fellow player it foregrounds its contingency on the volition of another as yet unknown and unseen. Precarity is, therefore, the very ground of the field of play. As Winnicott concludes, ‘Playing is inherently exciting and precarious.’ (D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality, p. 52). ‘If we fail to understand precarization,’ writes Isobel Lorey, ‘then we understand neither the politics nor the economy of the present.’ (Isobel Lorey, State of Insecurity, p. 1). Lopez’s drawing understands the present - in both senses of the word - as a precarious field of play, which creates a space of potential where art accedes again to its infancy.


Ross Birrell, May 2015


(3) In response to HERBERT 1 and 2 rooms.

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