The Sky in a Ditch
A disturbing contradiction hovers about the space. On the one hand, the chapel-like format of the gallery, a format historically associated with a religious experience of inwardness and worship; and on the other the restless atmosphere that besets the images that occupy it. Some sort of powerful movement seems to have upset all of these paintings and not even the tradition of peacefulness of a space like this one seems capable of putting everything back in place. Nonetheless, some of the paintings incite a strange sense of stillness, one overly akin to the feeling that sets in after a catastrophe, when all motion becomes slight. Could there be a before and an after here? What are the reasons for the estrangement produced by Agustín Sirai’s paintings? How to make sense of the counterpoint between the sense of woe and of restfulness that binds them? The artist provides the scenes of a suspended story and lets the viewer arrange them as he fancies in something like a “make up your own story.” He uses painting—a practice with such a long history, century-old codes as well as ones that he develops for the occasion—to leave a few hints and a mystery to be unraveled. His painting is color and line, but perhaps more line than color because it is tenaciously light. And the pictorial elements he uses partake of calligraphy as well because akin to our current mode of looking. If for millennium painting was a system of representation that made it possible to order the appearance of the real and to construct religious, heroic or literary narratives, what is its function in this secular present vexed by the consequences of consumerism and the reign of technology? Is it, perhaps, to generate moments of reflection? What Agustín Sirai articulates in this space relentlessly says that it is. His landscapes—desolate islands that float in the midst of nothingness—speak to us of a fragmented and uprooted world, where the human condition would seem on the way to extinction and catastrophe is either imminent or consummated. “Science has become the arsenal of major accidents, the great catastrophe factory,” wrote Paul Virilio. Each new scientific production is, according to the French philosopher, also innately and by its very nature the invention of a new accident. Is that why Sirai transcribes nature in meticulous notation that painstakingly frames it as a way to freeze it in an ideal space? Freeze nature and time, removing them from the fleetingness of the accident. That is what Agustín Sirai would seem to have attempted in the 100 Días [100 Days] project that preceded this exhibition and whose production was registered on his blog daily. There is nothing more photographed than that which is at risk of disappearance, wrote Régis Debray. The extremely subtle tension that runs through Sirai’s work is connected to the perception of this risk in a world where cataclysm is always possible and the sky is no longer reflected in a ditch but, rather, often collapses into it.
– Ana María Battistozzi. Buenos Aires, May 2011