Carmen Reategui

Visual Artist

Death is also coming about

May nothing disturb you,
May nothing scare you,
Everything comes to an end,
God does not move away

Santa Teresa de Jesús

Two great torrents in the iconic flow of the Peruvian arts in the last decades. Violence and religion. And between them, as capillarity sometimes hidden, sometimes eruptive, a deep sexualization. Erotic and thanatic.

In all of this there is no contradiction whatsoever, but rather paradoxical revelation. And a constant flow of fluids, both sanguine as well as seminal. Two decades of civil war and dictatorship have finally, painfully, turned us into contemporaries of ourselves, as Mirko Lauer already prefigured in 1991. A new miscegenation that returns our existences to the primordial emotions: from certain perspectives, it is also a personal and cosmic drama the one that insinuates itself behind the historic (melo)drama. The agony of the planet’s alive body, our own corporal fragility.

But agony is not death, but rather a fight to the death with death. That is how Carmen Reátegui has seen it. Behind the public discretion of her artistic process, a complex political reflection peeks out, in always existential terms, almost always spiritual. Behold the perpetual actuality of that gigantic, assassinated tree which, towards the year 2001, she inverts as a chalice, elevating the clamor of its hurt dignity to the heavens. And now the esoteric silence of the great urn, ready for only a few petals. White. Synecdoche needs the crystal coffin that protects and exalts the impressive marble interpretation of the transit of Santa Rosa in front of her tomb at the temple of Santo Domingo.

This magnificent work of art was performed in 1669 by Melchiore Caffá, who is usually associated with the baroque reverberations of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. And there is a true link –also a difference- between the pre-orgasmic ecstasy of Santa Teresa de Jesús, just before being divinely pierced by the angelical spear and the posthumous languor of our patron saint, accompanied by the last caresses of the seraphim.

Within the intensity of this other transit, the reason for the paintings collected by Carmen locates itself, as an involving installation that confronts us with the erogenous interiors of thirteen (not twelve) moments in the vital cycle of the rose (precisely). From the lush bud to the withered petal, the corolla shows herself impudent, “gloomy in its beauty, but more humane, less flower”, in the own words of the artist. Progressive images of fecundity and menopause that paradoxically reaffirm life, passion itself, even in the apparent registry of its dimming.

Maybe that is the crucial distance with the celebratory exuberance in the genital floriations of Georgia O’Keefe. In the unveilings of Reátegui there is an element of vanitas and of memento mori, which is, furthermore, an intuition of the link between the mystical and the sensual experience. That impulse towards religion that also derives from the sexual drive.

From there the biblical association sought in the erotic expletive of the Cantar de los Cantares. And the organic association with the vulva as incarnate vortex of all of Nature. The origin of the World. (Courbet. And Lacan). And of Time: the numeric order of this exhibit alludes not to the stable solar and phallic calendar (Intihuatana) but rather to the movable lunar and female calendar (Paqarina). An astral drift associated to the most vast and most intimate flows. Oceanic and menstrual.

Tides of the earth and the body. A permanent mutation that nevertheless balances and sustains. Even it its extreme manifestations. And sacred: it is from the lunar cycle that even today Christ’s Passion is updated. The Easter Resurrection.

In its fall the flower spills the seed. And “love is as strong as death” (Cant. 8:6).

Death is also coming about.

Gustavo Buntinx