This exhibition has a retrospective character going back over 30 years of work, and shows something of the process of synthesizing the landscape to evolve into an abstract alphabet. Through Victor Fuenmayor’s critical text we can follow the process of the developing abstract alphabet and the reconstruction of this landscape with these symbols.
Víctor Fuenmayor, Maracaibo, November 25, 2016
Initially I perceive in Natalya Critchleys work (England 1963) a spatial disorder that draws me in as I unravel a code of signs that combine as text, articulating unusual ways of perceiving the urban and industrial landscape. All true creation begins with a deconstruction or creative destruction that leads us to create new ways of writing and new readings. Natalya Critchley invents a new landscape, recreating it imaginatively, which prompts a search for her codes for reading.
With lines, points, scratches, colours and varied materials, whose images trace towers, bridges, motorways, cranes, posts, electric cables, winches, buildings making up a kind of territorial map and convert into abstractions a visual alphabet that paradoxically resonates as anatomical.
We can point out some poetical processes which are triggered by looking at the images and make reading these maps possible, with an unseen metaphoric and anatomical geography. An aerial view is necessary (like that of the author) and although tangible, we should call it symbolic, as it reveals the connections between the body, the landscape and the imaginary form of the body indicating the starting point of this unique anatomical aesthetic or style.
Body and landscape
The image of the tank insists, like letters, in describing a body or trunk of varying colours and accessories that is like a human thorax. Inside the trunk other figures are projected such as lungs, bronchial tubes, roots or figures; even, momentarily, outside, a red square, in dashes and lines or bricks that cover it and sometimes enclosing the organ, protecting it beneath a wall of bricks ( almost a type of “Military camouflage’).
The successive accessories added to the trunk: dots, dashes, loops, wings that function as visual suffix and prefix, give different meanings to the same anatomical root of the symbols. The tank is the empty container that is filled with content according to what is inside or on it.
The ideas are inhaled, breathed and exhaled in those lungs of text, they seem to reflect what can be said, but also a scream that hangs in the air of the image. Always a floating image, without being tethered to its meaning. Without being spoken and without being exhaled from the chest. “I want to scream but I can’t” as a visual expression.
The imaginary origins of Critchley’s creation stem from observation, some are the recreation of a real landscape within which we can identify urban fragments supported by the image and the visual anchors in the text.
Combination of visual poetry
Some of the forms in Natalya Critchley’s work arise from the combination between letters of the artist’s visual alphabet with other elements that emerge from the reiteration or fusion of that same element. “Swimmer” can be seen as a variation of two trunks joined at the neck, that become disarranged to give the movement of a swimmer to the red figure on a dark blue ground.
Another example: “Lifting up the skin of the street for inspection by the mechanical eye” generates, with the union of the two trunks, the anatomical boxes (thorax and pelvis) of the trunk. The same “Swimmer” insinuates in another sense, like the lifting of the skin: the skinless street. A typical example of the reiteration of the same visual element is to be found in “Three figures on a bridge” and also appear in “Three figures in a waterfall and kite”.
The material imagination of Natalya Critchley, even when situated in an earthly landscape, is fed by the “Wings” in the air, like the plans with a black background, with white dotted lines and a map of red earth with that name, “Wings”. The bridges, towers, winches, cranes refer us to those objects that lift off the ground to explore the air.
Natalya’s material ‘matrix’ is the air, flight, from where the earth can be visualized. It’s not about escaping but more the unconscious determination of a unique aesthetic that leads her to priviledge for example, the vision of San Agustín del Sur in Caracas (with it’s heights and cablecar) and the views from the height of her floor in Los Palos Grandes. Just as some contemporary authors use urban sounds to create music and help to perceive and integrate the noise with creation (SHAFFER, R. Murray, The sound landscape), the invention of Natalya Critchley’s visual writing gives us a viewpoint from which to create and re-create the city hearing this imaginary source through the perception of space or the visible perception. This creative work of combined spatial poetry has been carried through to education in her creative-formative workshops with children in San Agustín del Sur.
The aesthetics of feeling
Natalya’s poetry uses the drawn human figure very little (except in her “Self-portrait on the terrace” and the figure of the pre-Colombian Venus). Essentially the figure is occupied with aesthetically feeling space, landscape and surroundings that induces the artist to outline it as a metaphorical map of the body, that is the feeling of being human: humanizing the landscape and “landscaping” the body.
Inside the body, the fixation with that upper part that is configured in the thorax, the place to feel and breath, that is emptied and filled, appears as a container of symbols, voices and feelings, of words and shouts that can be emitted or not, but that can always be drawn or expressed through art.
Reading the landscape between letters and the corporeal
Behind the metaphorical body, in an overlaying impression of non-corporal bodies of landscape, the visual alphabet has the capacity to look like letters and scribbles, an imaginary code created to listen to the urban or industrial landscape through sight,.
The letters of the artist’s visual alphabet and letters or scribbles are not identical, but they are similar. Compare for example, in “Tank and chimney” that kind of horizontal blue body on the red ground (inverse to the “Swimmer”) that seems to be made up of repeated layers of the letter “T” next to the alphabetical tank like a thorax and neck, and is almost like an inverted “T”. The same letter appears in other images such as “Entrance to a carpark” where it becomes an abstract drawing of a face with two eyelike figures and the “T”.
With the union of two “T”s bridges, bodies and animals appear, a letter that also appears in the artists name as well as her surname. Considered from this point of view “Crane with pieces for Construction” invites us to look at the articulation of the visual alphabet and the letters that signify the identity of the artist.
Natalya Critchley’s aesthetic construction entices us to feel the urban, industrial or natural landscape from another point of view: from a predominantly aerial viewpoint, equally corporeal and imaginary, where the visual effect is accentuated, creating a feeling of the farness of an earthly view from a heavenly position, that oxygenates the imagination, symbols and life. The artist flies through her eyes with that winged figure and what we could call an aesthetic feel for the landscape through the body and the imagination to oxygenate the aesthetic of the urban and industrial landscape.
An urban or industrial landscape can be seen and humanized from above, like those soundscapes of musical creation, the visual landscapes of Natalya Critchley are also a source of artistic creation where motorways, bridges, flowering vegetation, towers, cranes, antenas, bridges take on human form that appears to be an artistic text between real and imaginary alphabet, inflated with air, where the symbolic construction of the body converges in a combined poetic and aesthetic visualization.
The connections between these records refer us to a name that is written, in a hidden way, like an ideogram or corporeal alphabet and determines the forms which are built through the experience of the industrial and the urban, the alphabet of all the images that serve to create a change in the vision of the city and the world and that can enlist us to change our coexistence and communication in the city. If you look at the shed installation, built in situ in the centre of the museum room you will see an enlarged element of the alphabet and in the same way the roll of rubber that goes through it like a roll of visions of communication that traverses the space like a pathway or tour. What appeared to be a disorganization of the landscape in the beginning is a new poetics of imaginary organization and a new aesthetic for reflection between art and the surrounding urbanisms and industry. Only through changing that perception of space can we change people’s vision of the world. And that would seem to be the profound desire behind the invention of a visual alphabet for the author Natalya Critchley.
Translation: Natalya Critchley