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One on One with Nature 

By Ana María Battistozzi
Clarín Journal Ñ, February 2015

In Andrés Paredes’s work, there is a dimension of wonders that, at the same time, produces certain uneasiness.  A contradictory experience that results from facing a gigantic, black-winged butterfly –such as the ones that can be seen at the Arts Pavilion of the Argentina Catholic University (UCA), or in Memories of the Earth with No Evil – or from the possibility that a cloud of those butterflies might cover the sky. Perhaps these are just urban fears, typical of people who have never been as intimate with Nature as the artist –who was born in Misiones– has since his childhood.  The truth is, his work reveals a one on one with nature that fascinates and frightens the people from the city.

His thing is frequenting what others find infrequent, which has turned his observation into a language that is usually not familiar to us. Something similar to the surprise shown by Austerlitz –the main character of the novel with the same name written by George Sebald– before the mysterious world of the moths uncovered by a classmate’s natural scientist uncle: “The only thing most of us knew about moths was that they ate clothes and had to be fended off with camphor”, he said in wonder watching the silent snow that the butterflies had formed around a path of light.

A similar approach, capable of making us notice what is often unnoticed about butterflies, is that taken by Andrés Paredes. Based on a relentless focus, he is able to rebuild in their wings a lace of very thin lines finished in complex latticework, and to follow the same relation in the exuberant Misiones forest canopy.

Theorist Konrad Fiedler, founder of visual formalism, wrote that an artist is somebody that stands out not only due to his/her capacity to view or select what s/he has before her/ eyes, using a gift of synthesis or appraisal, but because of a special skill that allows her/him to turn every detail of such perception into some form of expression.

The forms of expression Andrés Paredes has discovered for the immense flow that Nature offered him during a great part of his life have been varied. At present, Buenos Aires deploys at least two or three instances of this repertoire of possibilities in two exhibitions: The one already mentioned, at the Art hall of the UCA –full of winged beings fretworked in paper and metal– and another one –Memorious Mud– at the Recoleta Cultural Center.

While the first one takes us to the artist’s most famous works –sets of butterflies, dragonflies, bugs and small beetles assimilated to papers and structures that evoke plant crossings and entanglements –, the second one introduces a new modality to his production. Here, he uses mud, a matter that had not been exploited so far, even though it played a major role in his background. It is a morbid and ductile matter allowing poetic encounters with interesting spatial possibilities.

Thus, Memorious Mud is many things at a time. In the first place, a recovery of the awareness nested in the folds of memory.  But also, a series of different perspective scenes of the experience of wonders we mentioned at the beginning. In this sense, we might say that the work takes us to what was proposed by the “Wunderkammer” or Cabinets of Curiosities, the predecessors of intimate museums that sprouted from the feverish passion of naturalists-collectionists building fantastic scenes.

Memorious Mud deploys a complex spatial development: a construction that shows an interesting exterior-interior interaction.  While the external surface appears to be curve, consistent with a series of volumes that remind us of the breasts of a generous goddess, the interior opens itself to a succession of scenes. Crannies full of skulls, butterfly wings and transparent rocks whose facets shine with no stridencies. Entering this fantastic scene from different accesses may remind us of the experience Tom Sawyer and his friend Becky had at the very moment both of them discovered, in the inside of a cavern, a cave full of stalactites. 

Dimly lit from below, the landscape built by Paredes strengthens this wonder condition that both catches and concerns us. Because what he actually depicts is a fossil landscape, similar to those that any child like Tom or Becky would have wished to find, in spite of the fear they cause.

In this type of scenes, Andrés Paredes also refers to the tradition of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Vanitas, when painting was a means to reflect on how ephemeral life is. And here, the artist shows one of the core elements of his iconography.

On the other hand, we might say that this reflection is not unrelated to the notion of transit and transformation, core to the lifecycle-associated series of butterflies, dragonflies and chrysalises that dominates the set exhibited at the UCA. In this sense, both exhibitions represent two supplementary instances of an everlasting reflection in the artist’s thought.  Like most of Paredes’s works, Memorious Mud takes us to the origins, since this matter is not only something used by the artist in his childhood games but also represents his first approach to art.

Although all this refers to Paredes’s subjectivity and to a dimension that is exclusively his, it also relates to more universal senses that pass through times and cultures.