_Ruth Morán_Let the water go by, rise to the sky_ 19_01_24/09_03_24_Dossier
Dejar que pase el agua, subir al cielo [Let the Water Go By, Rise to the Sky] is the name of the exhibition by Ruth Morán (Badajoz, 1976) at Galería Ángeles Baños. Both the title and the work seen in the exhibition arise as a compendium of the concerns and attitudes that have comprised the corpus of this artist’s work in recent years, while likewise setting out new parameters that refine and enrich it.
In her overall production, Ruth Morán questions how we might understand our place in the world. This is both in terms of the personal place of each individual and collective place, since, paradoxically, what we might learn from her work could be valid for one or the other domain. This questioning, which is at the root of her work, starts with observation, and is a method that also awakens queries in those of us who place ourselves before her work, which interrogates in a way that is both refined and forceful.
Morán has an easy-going sensibility that creates objects and brings us to objects, expressing itself in an exploration into light, spatial relation and perception. In her work, she points to all references understood as interconnected systems. She does this, furthermore, on both a micro and macro scale, which allows her to approach / us to approach what is seen and what is not; or to express this in other words, to what is hidden within the work, to what might be detected when outside of it.
This peaceful exploration, which is so very tangible in her work, does not stop her painting, drawing and ceramics from engaging in a questioning process through the meanings of the visual place, sharper and more concrete than the pictorial place, and of our relationship to it. Morán’s focus is both a personal exploration into form and a reflection on expressions and geometries which are only objective in appearance.
The complexity of her production refers us to visuality, but also to space and the haptic domain. The work appeals to both eye and hand, so that one might find its way to a place where the other cannot, and vice versa. Her tracings are imprints both of memories and direct experiences, just as they are also (and most especially) openings to the unknown. The work places us in front of something familiar, indeed strangely so, something shared in the cultural memory of humanity; and at the same time, we find ourselves in front of something that questions us from out of some untrodden darkness.
The presence of the aperture is key to Morán’s production. This is not just because there are a multitude of folds, clefts, holes and cavities in her work, but especially because openings point to the continuity, deployment or expansion that a living force might use to occupy a space, while likewise opening it up to a multitude of directions and domains. Quite purposely, the title of the exhibition at Galería Ángeles Baños, Dejar que pase el agua, subir al Cielo [Let the Water Go By, Rise to the Sky] refers to fluid and visual features like water, as well as to actions indicating movement and continuity, such as going by and rising up.
In her overall artistic production, Morán has gone about expanding her simple (and audacious, due to its extreme simplicity) pictorial language, which is fed by nature, music and poetry, amongst various sources; all of this merges in a common terrain, which is gradually played out. A common terrain that is the meeting point for various references, driving forces, times, procedures and materials, all appearing in plural, pointing in various directions at once, in artwork that, on the other hand, is presented to us in a simple, coherent manner.
More than sharing any sort of specific form or style, what Ruth Morán’s works have in common is that they seem to be slowly growing (or developing or expanding or unfolding), as expressed by crisscrossing lines, rhythmically repeated. They remind us of the links of a chain, organic or mineral sequences or progressions, of folds of something living, images of space exploration, or even synthetic symbols from antiquity.
Along with these vertical or oblique directions or movements, there is a horizontal tension that draws from the forces within the works themselves, as if opening them up. The linear structures organise the space into loose geometries, which become more and more expressive with each iteration. The lines do not separate the planes, but rather bring them together into a whole that feels fully at home with its coherence, something we are made aware of as well.
There are certain common threads that are insinuated by the titles of more recent works and series: Expansión [Expansion] (2017), Signo y destello [Sign and Sparkle] (2018), Lenguaje y expansión [Language and Expansion] (2019), Infinito negro [Infinite Black] (2021), which refer us to the idea of opening, of deployment. We also find them in two-dimensional works produced for the exhibition Dejar que pase el agua, subir al Cielo, such as Rosa cielo [Sky Pink] (2023) and Negro hueco [Hollow Black] (2024) which accentuate these ideas of expansion and opening with the words “sky” and “hollow” in their titles.
These ideas are expressed in concrete acts, in linear repetitions on paper or canvas, and in gestures in clay; they lead us to appreciate, in Morán’s work, her rhythms, her ebbs and flows, like bodies smoothly and continuously expanding and contracting, driven by something similar to breathing. The modelled forms, the rays, lines or pictorial planes, with their irregularities and subtle details, more or less the same and repeated, are distinguished by broad intersecting lines, in cadenced dialogue. These irregular rhythms, intersections or concave, convex or diagonal movements in series, make her compositions less rigid, enhancing the fluidity and deployment of forces and energies that enliven each production.
Each one of her pieces presents an organisation (or layout, set-up, structure) of its forces and energies. In this way, the works are not only product (ergon) but also, and especially, activity (energeia); that is where their capacity to produce “what” motivates them lies, as their power and their poetics.
The work unfolds, opens and links one part with another part, and in this way stretches out as a continuum, taking us to the limits of experience, perception and thought. In this serial semantics, we forget single features: form and content, language and meaning, and so on. What we perceive instead is an expanding continuity. In her ever-active work, we find movement and power that are not divisible into unit parts. The unity of the work is the work itself, the unity of the body of the work is the overall work, featuring “what” we call the force or potency of organisation and expansion.
Morán’s work is not motivated by an apparently geometric structure, but by energy pertaining to another nature. The delineated shapes, including those set out with exactitude, lose their angularity. The colours (the dominant tones in her work are white, black, terracotta, sand and gold) that run through the surface of the work or spread out repeatedly and rhythmically through it, give rise to positive and negative spaces in fluid dialogue.
The chromatic structures, the painted or drawn lines and tracings and moulded shapes, are submerged into currents that remind us of natural forces. They are produced by them to the extent that they seem to move or undulate as if altered by a light breeze, as if the wind were the factor tracing or shaping them, organising their rhythms. This is why it seems like her work is stretched out like the cloth of a sail.
This connection with nature does not in any way preclude other phenomenological or gnoseological references. There is a balance between counterposed, dual forces, which struggle and seek balance in all of the pieces. In them, sharp tensions persist that make them seem contemplative yet spontaneous, serene yet stimulating, abstract yet corporeal.
Done in mixed media, although with an undeniable pictorial character, the artist tends to work on her pieces with a palette of restricted tones, with variations of whites, blacks and golds, with flashes of colour as possible additions. By working with supports or media like painting, drawing or ceramics, Morán weaves textures together, both in her individual works and in her work taken as a whole. This is how we come to appreciate the simplicity of her body of work, its myriad variations, its complex layering.
Taken overall, her production refutes what it appears to affirm in each individual piece. The simplicity of the pieces, when analysed individually, takes on greater complexity and density when the total body of work is considered. Yet even with their complex detailing and physical depth, the works do not express a sense of disorganisation, but balance and precision instead. They are interconnected visual mechanisms, both simple and complex, delicate and daring, elegant and uncontrolled.
Within the visual conformations that intersect, overlay and open up forms within forms, like gullets or conduits, a particular sense of interconnectivity is channelled. It is not solely a movement tending outward, going up or down, but there is also inward movement. In this way, the drawings and paintings become recipients of accumulated knowledge and experience, both on a personal and social level, informing the totality of her work.
This condition of the work as an open receptacle or channel, one that gathers energies that are then allowed to flow, is made clear in her ceramic production of recent years, where we see framing, apertures and repeated rhythms and gestures, which end up creating something of a matrix. In the case of the exhibition Dejar que pase el agua, subir al cielo, these ideas of the recipient or conduit are present in the two pieces that give the show its title: in the ceramic installation Dejar que pase el agua [Let the Water Go By](2023), comprised of a chromatic sequence of tubular features, and in Subir al cielo [Rise to the Sky](2023), an installation composed of ceramic pieces, in this case uniquely white, which are elevated from the floor, set on of a table.
In both pieces, the idea of the recipient or aperture that something might go through and fluidly develop is present; there is energy that gives shape to the work of art and takes us over its entire extension, taking us even beyond it. There is a centre in her work, and then no centre at all. Each corner of the canvas or paper support becomes a centre in itself. Both in the two-dimensional work and her ceramics, the viewer’s eye is drawn towards the centre, in function of the particular concentration of images, colours and rhythms; yet at the same time it is shifted away from it.
In this movement over the surface of the work, the factors of creation, growth and unfolding that are characteristic in Ruth Morán’s production are present. The work is present, in both its limits and its unlimitedness. In this way, the eye, the hand and the entire body explore the surface of the respective painting, drawing or ceramic piece, seeking out their place in all of them. And the work of art offers its place to each sense that perceives it and to each person experiencing it, however transitory or shifting or unlimited that might be.
The core question in Ruth Morán’s painting (though she does use other media, the dominant corpus of her work is essentially pictorial) is focused on comprehending phenomena, states or places in continual transformation. Thus the essential question in her creative production is to produce work without stopping the work, without emptying works of their essence. Through her work, the artist approaches “that” issue without overcoming it, touching on it briefly, just before it might take flight. In this way what is finite—the work—is able to capture the experience of infinity.
Manuel Olveira, January 2024
With the support