Text read at the event "Conversations with artists" June 2015
Graciela Ieger's paintings are works of art, which cannot be said of just any painting. What makes them so leads me to Heidegger's view on the subject of art, which served as inspiration for Lacan when he asks himself what a painting actually is. Heidegger considers that art shows the "thing's character as a thing", namely, the hidden character of the entity as revealed in the work of art, which could never be a mere copy of reality, even in realistic art. As an example, he uses the painting of Van Gogh's shoes. When we employ objects of everyday life, we may recognize their utility but their essence -in Heidegger's words "the entity of things"- remains concealed. The work of art, however, reveals it:
From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes, the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field.
We thus grasp the boots in their essence; this has not come through an explanation or description of a real shoe but "only by standing in front of the work: it has spoken". "In the proximity of the work" he explains further, "we were suddenly somewhere other than we are usually accustomed to be."
This is what occurs with Graciela Ieger's works: they show us the city we constantly look at but do not see. "They have eyes, yet do not see" says the Scripture, and I recognize myself in those words when I observe her urban series and notice what I had never noticed before when passing by the Recova or stopping at a traffic light at dusk on a busy evening, when unaware of the lights of my city or of a tired man crossing my path, when I failed to catch the shadows of the subway. Graciela gives us the unperceived city and invites us to penetrate the painting through perspective and the play of light, forcing us to settle our gaze and discern what we never saw before. This reminds me of a poem by Borges:
"... the tough pattern is of incessant iron,
but in some corner of your confinement
there might be a light, a cleft..."
The city we live in is usually the place we are least likely to explore: work, commitments, everyday existence, make us "go past" without paying attention. Graciela's paintings challenge us to see what we never take the trouble to. Her art possesses a dimension of the fantastic in which the familiar becomes strange. The fantastic, however, is not make-believe but rather the revelation of what lies behind reality. That is the power of Graciela's works: they make us aware of the remarkable elements in the seemingly commonplace. In this sense, labelling them as realistic or hyper-realistic, considering the photographic quality of some, would be limited, considering they disrupt our concept of realism; none, in fact, are mere copies, since what we are dealing with is a reality which is generally withdrawn from our sight.
There are urban paintings by other artists, like Robert Neffson's of New York, but Ieger's have the uniqueness of the isolation of certain elements: trimmed landscapes, two women waiting for a bus, an exhausted man walking aimlessly with life's burden on his shoulders. This extraction from the whole, together with the formidable action of the light, forces what is usually lost to stand out. The artist captures it, giving prominence to the anonymous, the indifferent, the unperceived elements of the metropolis. Her paintings speak of an unhospitable cartography which leaves man without shelter. Although lonely passers-by, she rescues some of us from the silent crowd by giving importance to each of her characters. This way she follows the heritage of Edward Hopper, without the renowned pessimism of the great American master's realism.
Graciela's works remind us of Lacan's words on painting as a place of scission between the gaze and the representational scope of vision: common vision always eludes the gaze while the painting leads us to it. This is because, contrary to perception, in a picture we can always notice an absence behind which lies the gaze. It is the light, in Graciela's case, which marks the points of escape and where mystery takes root.
English translation by Eloisa Squirru (email@example.com)