The Useless Sacrifice, by Alejandra Aguado

Over the past ten years, the work of Catalina León has stood out for the innovative way in which it has expanded the expressive horizons of painting. Fascinated by astrology, psychology, religions and rituals, she explores what it means to be a human being in the world and the bonds that link us to the people around us. She investigates how painting is part of and responds to life: she has covered her paintings with earth and plants, she has poked holes in them and left them at the mercy of the elements, she has painted rubble, broken plaster panels, blinds and worn out fabric, and she has filled them with phrases, small portraits, references to her fears and desires, and gestures derived from her own movements. Combining figurative and abstract techniques, representation and reality, her painting has grown permeable not only to her presence and reflections, but also to her material surroundings in an unending process that transforms it into a living being with its own life and resonances.

Catalina once described her work as a way of ‘inhabiting time’. Her painted panels, cardboard and fabrics acquire their shape and language as the days go by. She allows herself to be freely carried away by the act of painting, drawing and embroidery with no specific plan or timetable. The artist dedicates herself to the act of making and silent acceptance, immersed in a kind of prayer while the pieces absorb the marks left upon them by movements, the climate, or random touches, exposing them to the ravages of chance and time. Her painting does not just embrace the random, it is also an act of active submission: a process that embodies the unexpected; a quality best described as ‘useless sacrifice’, an act that the French anthropologist Jean Duvignaud – whose book about ritual festivals and religion inspired Catalina as she created her latest work – defined as a disinterested and unpredictable act that allows the self to discard its inhibitions and open up to the infinite.

Produced at her house-workshop – a space where life and art merge together – the works that Catalina is presenting at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires seem to be founded, now more than ever, in her deepest painterly instincts. She has followed these instincts without knowing where they were taking her, thus allowing her to translate her inner world into the unexpected lines and shapes that result from the encounter with the canvas. Her work appears to have discarded greater battles and grown more concentrated, with fewer, precise, confident and fluently realized forms. With less room for figurative aspects and anecdotes and a more relaxed atmosphere, her pieces approach abstraction and even emptiness. “The narrative melts away, expanding to reveal itself with greater clarity,” Catalina says, as though painting only the essential aspects and freeing the canvas from recognizable images made it easier for her to find and recognize herself within it. However, some written phrases remain along with small figures, motifs linked to the exuberance of nature, references to places or objects. The forms that inhabit the pieces in the exhibition seek to represent the course of thought and vital rhythms, to be the image of the emotions and events that occur in her life, the thoughts that ran through her head and whose essence remained, of her openness to revelations and the future. Quick, determined brush strokes and fields of colour with ill-defined borders are joined by assorted embroidered pieces. All these aspects express the different moods that come over her over time, oscillating between audacious and reflective attitudes: while the brush moves lightly and freely over the surface, the stitches come together almost frozen in time.

Spread out or concentrated together, dense or sparse, the energy of these works arises out of a long, intimate exercise, a process carried out in a daily environment fed by artisanal, ritual, and chance aspects, personal bonds and integration with nature. In their appropriation of space, the works invite movement and discovery. Like a useless sacrifice, everything here is a generous execution that began as a search and ended by offering a point of encounter.