The work of Concha Martínez Barreto (Fuente Álamo, Murcia, 1978) is an intense reflection on the fragility of memory and, at the same time, on one’s identity, intergenerational connections, death and oblivion. Through different means and techniques, she enquires about the past, not by attempting an impossible reconstruction of what is lost or empty documentation, but as a task that accounts precisely for the difficulty of all remembrance, for the importance of showing the fragments, the traces left over time.
Polyptych of 12 pencil drawings /paper 119 x 89 cm e/u. 2014 – 2015.
The encounter with some old family photographs led me to lay out Los Nombres, a polyptych of twelve pieces conceived as an intense reflection about the fragility of memory and about ones identity, the connections between generations, death and oblivion. Meticulous, and at the same time fragile drawings, helped me realize the effort to remember and the failure in that effort; about how inherited memory is full of ellipsis, interrogations and doubts. But while they speak of disappearance, I celebrate with them the joy that comes from looking at those little photographs when drawing them, poring over these familiar, but at the same time, strange images: photos of parties with groups who celebrated something, from people posing or sometimes, it seems they want to escape without even knowing their names will disappear very soon. Images of that fleeting moment that is called life. My interest in this piece is not the drawing itself or the technique, but the time: obsessively delaying in the meticulous contemplation of those forgotten faces, accompanying them, stopping to contemplate.
_STEVEN JOHN. 2 WEEKS OLD
Photograph / dibond. Edition of 3. 130 x 130 cm. 2015
The acquisition of an English family album from the 40s led me to create the work about memory and bonds. From the 48 photographs that form the album, only one refers to someone: Steven John, two weeks old. The encounter with that image led me to make Steven John, 2 weeks old, a piece in which in the back of the photograph the name that titles the artwork is shown, along with 48 different addresses of Steven John´s, chosen according to age, criteria and geographical proximity of the album’s origin, documenting in a way of trying to restore every image, in a frustrated attempt to repair the memory. This work talks about the impossibility of fixing what has been lost as a paradoxical strategy which at the same time shows and hides that which is spoken. We don’t see the image of the child, but on this occasion, however, we know the name – differently from what happened in the polyptych, Los Nombres. But this name, in fact, doesn’t allow any research, but only access to a labyrinth, an impossible dilemma.
Steve John. 2 weeks old. Fotografia-dibond. 130 x 130 cm. 2015
Video 2’16’’. Edition of 5. 2015
The work with an English family album from the 40s led me to create a work about memory and bonds. Alongside Steven John, 2 weeks old – a piece that documents the action of rebuilding what has been lost-, I made the video, Steve John, in which I use sealed time to generate a feeling of expectation and impatience in which one hopes for something we know is not going to happen, showing the strain between memory and oblivion. A video that is a photograph, a photograph that is a map: as if it wanted to slow down the speed and ease of a temporality in which the instance is both fleeting and permanent.
Graphite / paper 77 x 103 cm. Audio 9’58’’. 2016
An audio in which I read the scene from “Bambi” (by Félix Salten) regarding the death of his mother, giving a voice to the image of “frozen life” from a graphite drawing, talking about death and bonds, about time and childhood – that seem paused -, about the pain of life, about the fear of loss.
_PADRE / MADRE
Roman Pondus, oak wood, cloth and glass. 32 x 26 x 28 cm. 2016
Using two ancient weights from Roman looms – in their origin used to keep the threads tense -, I made this work which looks into family relationships and how time fills them with nuances. Padre/Madre is an artwork about affection and bonds but also a silent fight about contradictions. The weights, which barely manage to keep balanced over the cushion – one of them manages to with a small bar of glass -, are at the same time the symbol of burden and totem. It is a work about ones own identity, relationships, time and its traces. An artwork that speaks of the need of balance, of the wounds and reproach, but above all, of love.
_AJUAR (Flores para un inicio y final)
Photograph (diptych) 95 x 260 cm. Edition of 5. 2017
From two anonymous and strange photographs from the 30s – doubtlessly taken by the personal implication that the authors must have had with those flowers – I built a diptych about life and evanescence, about the acceptance of death and the slight trace that it leaves behind. In the western culture, the bouquets are full of ambiguity, cheerful and also elegiac connotations: they celebrate life when it arrives, and they are used at the same time to mark its end. The photograph is a symbol of shortness, life’s fragility, and memories.
_YO ESTUVE AQUÍ
Neon 17 x 132 cm. Edition of 5. 2017
Yo estuve aquí is a sentence that can be read in numerous graffities, as if with them, mankind would have wanted to leave testimony of their passing through life. With its light, this piece paradoxically talks about the possibility of darkness and silence, about the shutting down of memory and the body.
_Serie S /T
Oil / linen. 40 x 50 cm. 2016 – 2017
Based on my interest in memory, I made this series about identity, affection and the passing of time. Built through old photographs, these paintings turn into a kind of archive or family album, in which the deformations, the differences in scale and the impossible shadows show the seams of the view. It shows how much impossibility there is in remembrance. People who appeared in different photographs now coexist, forming strange groups; in a scenario in which there´s something that doesn’t fit, realizing not only about the rarity that is the passing of time, but also about what cannot be deciphered. These are images that talk about childhood and life, about the speed of time that goes by, about loneliness and the gestures with which we try to avoid it. And at the same time, about the painting itself as an exercise of love, as if through it, those lives that tend to separate each other were kept together.
Projector Kodak Carousel 1010 rectified. Loop of 80 slides. Edition of 2. 2016
The existence of a photograph of my dad boarded on a cart in his childhood and the coincidence that my own children posed in a similar way – 80 years later – led me to create Biografía – a loop of 80 slides of kids on carts – a piece that considers the passing of time, in its circularity and family bonds. The photograph of a kid who starts to roll in life, is a recurrent image, full of symbolism and at the same time ambiguity, since in many occasions this scene doesn’t show its nature of artifice, of a useless toy, of a cart that doesn’t go anywhere and that deep inside it shows the parents’ desire to see their children´s lives stopped, always remaining as kids, kept away from time and death. Biografía is also an investigation about the fragility of the photographs themselves that have been bought and somehow rescued from the well of oblivion that is the Internet, to be transferred to an obsolete means and on the path of extinction as is the slide. Its constant talks about exhaustion, the progressive extinction, the brevity of life and its intensity. But at the same time, it talks about the desire of stopping certain moments, the emotion of still seeing some lives in the exact moment that they began to roll.
_DIÁLOGOS. LO QUE QUEDA EN MI
Video. Edition of 5. 8’35’’ 2017
The Roman city of Segóbriga knew a short time of splendor due to its gypsum and alabaster mines. When the quarries were empty, the city was gradually abandoned and fell into oblivion, until some recent discoveries and excavations brought light to the magnitude and importance of the place. In archeology, it is frequent to cover some ruins during winter with special fabrics that protect the site from the possible damage that water and frost might cause. Diálogos. Lo que queda en mí, filmed on a windy winter day, looks into the relation between the past and present, between the stones and the wind, in a sequence in which the ruins, apparently embalmed, are shaking and want to free themselves from the ties, in a conversation that is also, in a way, a resurrection as well. Like in my other works, there is a tension between the immobility and mobility, between the silence and the listening. Between the past time and the instant present.
Photography. Triptych 60 x 60 cm. c/u. 2018. Unique
Three original photographs from the rescue of the crew of ship Tergestea which got shipwrecked in the coasts near Trieste during the 70s are the base for an artwork in which the artist talks about the necessity of compensating and processing the past and give it a new meaning. Through a minimum and precise gesture, Concha Martínez Barreto shows these images restoring the horizon line, shaping a delicate piece which, framed in white, seems to disappear hanging on the wall. This triptych is a subtle exercise of reparation or healing, a glimpse – defused, quiet – to the past from the present. The history of Tergestea serves to reflect about one’s own life, about its failures and wounds, and at the same time, about hope and the possibility of surviving. Restoring the horizon is showing how possible it is to draw a line that joins today’s and yesterday’s fragments, giving them a necessary and a new meaning.
Maqueta, madera, hierro, metacrilato, dispositivo de servomotores programado con arduino. 142 x 78 x 38 cm. 2018
Shipwreck – 1 is the first piece of a series that the artist has developed through some ships’ mock-ups which seem to have been in a shipwreck. These little scale miniatures which haven’t been able to avoid wear and the accidents of time are, with their sails pulled out, full of old battle wounds. In Shipwreck the artist doesn’t try to heal throughout a restoration by basically covering the scars – which would only hide the damage and the past – she just puts them back to sail through a mechanical device made of servomotors programmed by Arduino, which gives them a soft movement imitating the swinging that the waves would provide while a methacrylate vase
protects not only the damaged ship but also this movement, the conscience of the possibility to continue the journey, of moving forward. Despite its technology, it seems that there is something poetic in watching these ships full of time and wounds sail, something poetic in its functioning, something that expresses life and the miracle of days. Shipwreck is an allegory about surviving after the shipwreck and about how memory and time accompany us in the creation of new paths.