The Sanctuary of Perla Krauze
"Poetry is participation of the large in the small as much as it is that
of the small in the large.”
Gaston Bachelard. Air and Dreams.
No. 24-A José Alvarado between Monterrey and Medellín, Roma district, Mexico City. A narrow street lined with old houses that still preserve the original style from the 1940s and 1950s. This is the studio of visual artist Perla Krauze (Mexico City, 1953): a two-story building that she has left intact, with the exception of the ground floor, where a spacious room with large windows opening onto the courtyard is home to much of her work.
Wooden floors and staircases, tiles, bathrooms, doors, a labyrinth of small chambers and bedrooms… in this house, everything emanates an aura of coziness, of loving care, of meticulous diligence. And I don’t mean that it’s orderly in the strict sense of the word, because this is a painter’s studio (among other creative occupations that are practiced here), but rather that it exudes an atmosphere of echoes in which I find myself submerged, guided by the artist’s voice.
“All the pieces you see here are like moments in an evolutionary process which have been artificially detained. They form part of the memory of my walks, my travels, my explorations. Fragments are given an aura of totality, an awareness of being; they talk to me and try to dialogue with me,” comments Krauze.
Krauze’s artwork is first and foremost a poetic visual reconciliation between spirit and matter. It demands an introspective pause before all that surrounds us, an exercise in contemplative intimacy, of entering into a dreamlike state of being, similar to the childish innocence we showed when exploring and discovering the world around us.
When visiting Perla Krauze’s studio—her visual universe—one gets the sense of entering a sanctuary bursting with a poetics of fragments, pieces, a chaotic collection arranged on the walls and floors, in boxes, paintings, photographs, posters, canvases… and what to say of the many thresholds that invite visitors to draw closer and cross them in their imagination, to touch the objects and pieces with all five senses. It isn’t that the universe has been fragmented in order to be revealed, but rather that with each fragment, its reality begins to reveal itself, to reorganize itself, to manifest its diversity and its hidden language of infinite forms.
In this reorganization, which emphasizes the gaze, there is no forced aesthetic intent because the fragments speak for themselves; they are free to express themselves, summoned by the eye that discovers them, the hand that arranges them in a certain manner (form and forms that can vary and reveal new ways of being, new ways of revealing that same fragment, piece, object), in a constant alchemy between the fragment, the space it occupies and the spectator (the artist herself, above all). Rather than seeking beauty in objects or materials, it is a question of making their voices heard, stripping them of their anonymity, celebrating them, “baptizing” them.
Stones of all sizes, crystals, roots, branches, flowers, pieces of wood, boxes, lengths of fabric or thread, sticks; unusual objects from everyday life—insignificant, precarious, commonplace things; they are large, midsized or small, personalized by the intervention of the artist who portrays them, draws them, tattoos them, paints them. “I perform this intervention to make them more my own, closer to me,” says Perla, as if she were extracting their essence, their secret, awakening their soul. And she does in fact animate them, filling them with imagination: cracks, scratches, dents, folds, prints; on the asphalt, walls, floorboards, patios, streets, sidewalks. She makes imprints of the traces left on them by everyday use, revealing things we don’t see because they don’t strike us as transcendent, but which do retain memory nonetheless: a memory that can be recorded, revealed, traced, recycled, reproduced in molds from other materials (fiberglass, resin, clay, porcelain, aluminum, lead, even sugar).
The sensation transmitted by this universe where every fragment speaks to us of cosmic unity is one of reverie—and indeed, it is an enthralled Bachelardian reverie that this sanctuary of spatial expressions offers us—and of intimacy with the hushed voice of matter, its quietude, its silence which cries out with all the clamor of that which exists within its apparent stillness. Because everything is in constant motion, like those photographs of sky, sea, snow, like our memories: it is all of time absorbed within the frame of the photo, the stretcher, the box, the mold, the page, the canvas, two-dimensional time, three-dimensional time, holographic time, time-space topographies in permanent dialogue with the ephemeral, with the natural and its need to be recreated in an artificial, fictitious, illusory manner, because (to paraphrase Bachelard) something more than reality is lacking in reality.
The space in which Perla Krauze’s work evolves is inhabited by a mobility that radiates in waves, happenings, geometries which undulate in angles and lines as if they were traveling, past objects that emit “a dreamlike glow,” along ladders, staircases and steps that rise, levitate, fly through interior spaces where every object finds its home, its private haven—shelters that concentrate the poetic being of that object, that fragment, that material body, within its outer limits but without being enclosed, instead opening itself to our gaze and infecting the spectator with the same meticulous eagerness to seethatcharacterizes this artist.
All the fragments, pieces, objects, bodies that inhabit and make up Perla Krauze’s poetic sanctuary stand as Rilkean testimony to their “overflowing existence,” and each one evokes a surprising coexistence of personal spaces that maintain their independence from each other, spaces that do not seek to be linked, juxtaposed or merged in a metaphor: they simply engage in a dialogue, inviting us to seein a wide array of kaleidoscopic perspectives. Paradoxically, the more self-enthralled an object is, the more it manifests itself as open, unenclosed, exact in its presence, immense in its smallness, intimate in its massiveness, with a clear sensation of boundless infinity, and revealing the consistency of its hidden voice, its identity.
There is something childishly honest about Perla Krauze’s mania (obsession?) for picking “things” up in the street, on the beach, in fields, in the snow, as if she were constantly “inaugurating” the transformative ability of material forms in a total surrender to Nature’s sensory abundance, as if matter put up no resistance to the imaginative power of the gaze and gave up its inner essence without depleting it, without losing its secret, its modesty, after being exposed by the artist’s gaze.
And Perla Krauze’s gaze, her eye, is able to see the object as infinite material which contains the boundlessness of the universe in its form, its color, its weight, its volume. Hence, the space where the artist develops her work has an aura of silent motion that vibrates and elicits in the viewer floods of images, feelings, memories, dreams. Bachelard spoke of “materializing the imaginary,” because the way in which we escape from the real truly reveals our inner reality.
Mexico City, February 2010