Nicola Costantino presents The True Garden is Never Green
The famous argentine artist presents her new exhibition at Barro Arte Contemporáneo gallery. The work is based on El Jardin de las Decilicias by El Bosco.
The Garden of Early Delights is hailed as one of the most transcendent works in the history of art, and for me -in particular- it has always had a special relevance. Still —and even though I have referenced great classics before, I never dared do something related to this monumental painting by Hieronymus Bosch. Partly out of the deep respect it inspired in me, partly because I could not find a connection with my work that would lead my way into it.
That eagerly awaited connection finally came up when I imagined a group of androgynes with gas mask-like prosthetics based on the Trilogy of Mouths, a work I produced in 1997. In it, and from an opened human mouth out comes one of those pig snouts Hieronymus Bosch himself liked so well. And the snout in turn vomits a chicken’s neck. I felt those androgynes had the density and also the humor his characters had and I invited a group of young artists to embody them and to share the scene with me.
There are many other sets of characters. Some are played by me, in ways that so happen to keep my face covered somehow. Others were fabricated with plaster casts, which is almost a trademark of mine. I also introduced many birds and other mounted animals –a reminder of the early stages of my career– because they are dead, and still they try to convey a notion of life by imitating gestures that in the end can’t fool anyone. And I deployed them across an apocalyptic landscape, that of the Ischigualasto Moon Valley, in order to create a gigantic Cyclorama.
The first encounter with the exhibition comes from behind a fence of sorts; it is thus, almost an anti-exhibition. This Cyclorama is an enclosure that surrounds my grand operation as an artist which gives meaning to this whole work. That centerpiece consists in bringing to life something Hieronymus Bosch only painted as if it existed: the Fountain of Life, which is the center of my attention at The Garden of Early Delights.
The Fountain of Life must have presented itself to Hieronymus Bosch as a vision. It is so complicated a structure and also so monstrous -at a time animal and vegetal. And I wanted to rebuild it verily, but bearing the signs of the time elapsed and encircled by a strange landscape. As if the garden had died and in its place a sort of desert had appeared.
Nicola Costantino, Buenos Aires, October 2016
A conversation with Jorge Villacorta