Actitudes cotidianas (english)

A shy and quiet little girl watches a television screen.
Two girls peep over a piece of furniture to sneak a look at the stereo on top of it.
Three boys glare, immersed, at an unidentifiable grey object that lies on the leg of the one sitting between the other two.
Four boys holding video game remote controls in their hands stare intensely at a point out of frame.
A girl runs along a beach, smiling, towards something unknown to us
Another girl with a cocked water pistol in her hand, leans back like a woman about to fire a gun in a Hollywood movie.
A family sitting at a service station cafeteria table greet someone who’s empty chair sits in the foreground.
A woman bends down to take a photograph; next to her a child gazes at nothing in particular.

I would like to know how I could approach these snapshots without making a mistake, without forcing them to move somewhere else, to a place where they do not belong. I ask myself this because in spite of being perfectly identifiable scenes, and thus permeable, they contain something that prevents us from taking such liberties, that demands respect for their privacy. For this reason, I think it would be best to start with a misunderstanding, somewhat like the one that commonly surrounds photography, usually considered irrefutable proof of an “authentic” reality. Or I might begin with a translation error, with an act of transliteration. I want to propose that the paintings of Anelys Wolf, or rather her resistance to painting, is nourished by those moments in which life appears to stand still, or at least simmers down and goes by in “slow tempo”.

I believe these paintings have certain common elements that render them decipherable, but these are not the household appliances in their titles. These common elements appear in the temporal density that belongs to childhood games and family portraits. Wolf’s images share a quotidian depth that can persist into our adult lives, for example, with what we feel and on a warm sunday afternoon. Part of the effectiveness of this operation is based on the reference to photography as the technology of recording the everyday and in the recycling of the domestic memory. In spite of the fact that family photographs are a cliché with which we can al identify, they also posses a hermetic quality: the moment is completely closed, the compositions have already been consummated.

For Wolf, painting these photographs involves a process tending to blur them even further. She processes them is such a way that certain secondary elements disappear from sight, the frame is slightly altered, although she generally follows the rules of the snapshot. She tries to give them a small dosage of forgetfulness that makes things look faintly alike, so that the images no longer correspond to certain events –a mother saying hello, boys playing, a little girl watching television– and begin to look more like the moods that sustain them.

This transition towards a lack of definition makes the paintings almost transparent and watery, as if the aim were to soften the lethargy of routine. Wolf does not give us the weight of nostalgia, she gives us a simple and happy acceptance of banality. These paintings are a reflection of things that happen slowly, the closure of the past is configured in a new landscape that is more accessible in spite of its limitations. But the door remains only barely ajar, because in a certain measure, the complicity between the original photographer and model remains protected. Wolf keeps her distance, and this enables her to paint. In spite of the ethereal simplicity of her almost empty backgrounds, an inviolable intimacy prevails, it is this dose of mystery that makes them attractive.

There is a link between purification and protection, between the simplification of form – which in this case implies making things less clear so that they contaminate each other– and the concern for the venue of emotion. This also affects the relationship between the artist and her geographic and cultural location. Wolf removes from Chiloé all its folk and tourist-related images. When the local landscape does appear, it can easily be taken for many others; we can even say that she reinvents it with her methodical approach of painting backwards (instead of plastering the paint on, she dissolves it). In spite of the fact that overt and univocal expressions are incompatible with Wolf’s work, I will make a statement that is –for me– inevitable: her work is sustained on the basis of her position and stance vis-à-vis Chiloé. This does not mean that she represents Chiloé, or that she should do so, it simply means that on looking at one of her paintings everything blurs, but never loses its place. The clarity of her original location enables her to effortlessly move around dissimilar scenes and topics.

The somewhat unfinished aspect of her canvases appear to contain a small revelation. Her neutral backgrounds, indicate a certain wish to erase painting, to unlearn her academic schooling. The images are presented in a practically bashful state, they are contained, and give the impression that they would feel more comfortable if they had been sketched on the corner of a telephone book, or as a cut-out pasted on a school notepad. Wolf paints in an amnesic manner, as if she wished to forget the stories, forget what she is painting, she gives the merest indication that she paints from the remote southern island of Chiloé; but at the same time her painting, in a whisper, confesses almost all.

María Berríos
Santiago, 2006.

Translated from the Spanish by Jane Elliot