Curated by Angela Vettese
Childhood landscapes, strategies of danger, every man for himself. Carolina Raquel Antich’s painting appears to portray an idyll or a memory. Indeed, it talks to us of situations as concentrations of evil, whether in the form of war, anxiety, interpersonal neuroses, of obdurate resoluteness, or a thirst for power. We are in Argentina, but the artist makes no explicit reference to her country’s dictatorial and militaristic past. The snares of politics creep into her paintings and animations in a subtle way, allowing us to generalise them and transform them into suprahistorical events.
In one large canvas we see boys fighting, gathering into rival groups, and murmuring to each other as they try out their weapons. With well-combed hair and dressed up by mothers we do not see, but who undoubtedly look after them with loving care, they enjoy the freedom of the gardens and of time snatched from home and school to learn adult combat. Learning to betray an age of innocence. One child moves over a bottle in a circus costume. He remains upright, then loses his balance, and finds it again, ending his show with a cold and concentrated expression. His impression of tenderness is deceptive, for he is approaching the need to stay upright with professional determination, not as though it were a game. The sixteen drawings that led to this animation are as many stills of a Harlequin, far removed from Picasso’s sickly figures. Here there is none of the picturesque world of the poor, but rather of the need of each one to remain standing whatever happens around them. One little boy looks at himself in the pool around the circular island he is crouching down on. His face is detached from his body, emerging from the water as though beheaded and fantastical. It is a picture of narcissism, which isolates people and times leads them to their deaths. It appears to be a childish game but it may be dead-end street – that of love of self. Tadzio, the protagonist of another painting, is also imprisoned by his own apparition. He emerges from the canvas with his feminine lineaments, his face hardened by an awareness of his own beauty, adopting a frontal position and a smug look as he stares us in the eyes, showing he is probably quite well aware of his ability to seduce. We see budding life, but also an angel of death, at least in Thomas Mann’s story, from which the artist takes her inspiration. A group of children pose for the ritual photo after their First Communion. They have been properly indoctrinated, gathered together in a ceremony and dressed up in veils and cockades as is fitting for a rite of passage. However washed out it may be, beneath all this there is the sensation of a need to earn salvation and that this is but the first step. Others will follow, for the group photograph only ushers in a long string of temptations and opportunities that will need to be avoided. “Every Man for Himself!” is thus not just child’s play, but the never-ending destiny of existence. The tender, meticulous style of this painting in no way suggests any form of ingenuousness. If anything, it softens the message, with a trace of the irony that at times tinges certain childhood memories.