Ximena Velasco’s exhibition seems like a magnificent play with many scenes acted by the same actors. What changes from scene to scene are the actors’ makeup and costumes, as well as the settings. Mutations is the name the artist has given her exhibition precisely because each and every paint stroke, object, part of her play, all inspired on the simplest elements found in Nature, attain a new visual dimension, a new presence. The main characters of this play are a rock eroded by the ocean, a magnolia pistil, an alga fragment, fruit flesh, branches, moss, tree remnants. These characters, being shy, defy identification, whether on canvas or paper. Thus, they end up forming a collective work of art, within which they have both joint and individual meanings.
This mise en scene is more clearly seen in the large format paintings, where tiny figures play main roles, becoming stars. Giants whom we see as if directly through a microscope now inhabit Lilliput. Paradoxically, the scenes of the play are written in the elegant and simple style of an ode, where the strength comes from a mournful simplification of its values, rather than the use of grandiloquent terms.
All elements in Mutations fuse together into a dreamlike, abstract atmosphere with delicate colors and composition. There is certain playfulness in the ambivalence of the shapes oscillating between representation and abstraction. In her work, the artist purports finding Man’s essence through his morphological make-up.
Ximena Velasco (a graduate from the Escuela de Arte de la Universidad Católica – and where she was influenced by Patricia Israel, and a former student at several art schools in Italy and the United States) is clearly fascinated with Nature’s aesthetics, especially botany’s graphic universe, fascination that permeates her art. At the end of the 1980’s, in Washington, D.C., she was touched by an erotically charged Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography exhibition of black and white calla lilies. Years later, in 2004, she started working with plants and flowers for her Botanika exhibition.
She has also been inspired by the British artist Andy Goldsworthy’s outdoor installations created with random elements found in nature, Creation’s residues coming alive in his outstanding work.
Until a few years ago, she had utilized this type of objects in her paintings, but since attending the New York’s School of Visual Arts residency program in 2011 where she re-connected with manual work, she started incorporating collage and drawing to her paintings. Ximena Velasco never stops experimenting, and in this Sala Gasco exhibition -her seventh solo- she even utilizes images of brain blood vessels, which she sees as a reflection of trees’ roots and manually transfers on paper or canvas.
This convergence of human and land figures is depicted in eight large paintings, and ten small works done on paper. She avoids naming her pictures to prevent creating semantic confusion with new Mutations or even Metamorphosis –the name of her prior exhibition- in the minds of her public. And, because within a view of the world equating the animal and human kingdoms, heaven and Earth, where everything mutates, changes, transforms, anyone could undergo the experience of the main character in Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”