"...through considered use of light and shade, a tangible velvety unctuousness of saturated and organic, jewelled colours and a selection of opulent food and objects are able to instantly connect us to the work of Dutch master painters..."






Art Critique

Images copyright © César Ibarra

César Ibarra’s images reflect a sensibility toward the tense and symbiotic relationship that exists between Humankind as an organism and Humankind as an ideological and egotistical anomaly, uncomfortably woven into the fabric of natural order.

The ‘order’ and ‘law’ that is sought through our species’ taxonomical obsession is merely a distraction from the unbearable truth that our significance in this ecosphere we call home is no more or less important than that of a fruit fly’s.

Part of our collective madness is that we believe we can keep the ‘rot’ at bay, that we can exist on a higher plane of hygiene rising above the filth of the peat bogs and marshes that we emerged from. Our pristine delusion of transcending biological warfare on a micro-biotic scale is futile. Our tinctures, potions and lotions, all designed to make us believe that we can exist as a sacred ‘clean’ entity, belie the truth that the invisible hordes of organisms we go to such lengths to eradicate are as much part of being Human as our skin cells or neurones. Our live-in lodgers waiting to inherit the feast that awaits after our demise work to maintain an equilibrium that, in life, keeps us safe and healthy but, in death, explodes into a race to consume and multiply before scarcity and eventual nothingness sets in.

In his “Holobiontes” series Ibarra uses the eery absences of the person to demonstrate this decline. A holobiont describes the assemblage of a main host and its smaller symbiotic components, a greater entity than that of the visible majority, a systemic harmony of give and take, a joint venture into surviving and thriving in the busily filled pockets of existence that make up our world. No part of us is ours alone.

These works, through considered use of light and shade, a tangible velvety unctuousness of saturated and organic, jewelled colours and a selection of opulent food and objects are able to instantly connect us to the work of Dutch master painters such as the 17th century’s Willem Claeszoon Heda. Heda’s crisp photographic attention to detail is echoed in these luxurious studies. The visceral and fleshy fruits strewn across tables, not fresh, but not-yet-decayed, allude to the missing person(s). The bites, tooth-marked, slightly browning and the curling peelings of exotic fruits are evidence of a previous human presence.

A celebration? A feast? Abandoned? Interrupted?

Apocalyptic imaginings occur when seeing beasts once tamed by man, a horse, a dog, a bull, feasting at the once clean and starched-linen laden surfaces in rebellious defiance at their master’s demands for obedience and subservience. The still life, not so still, not frozen in time but alive with organisms devouring the sugary gifts on the macro and micro scale. A dog has no need for champagne but a celebratory cake will certainly be devoured without thought for the irrelevant symbolic intention it once had, caviar or breadcrumbs, it’s all the same to a slobbering hound.

We are left affronted by the knowledge that life goes on well past our point of perishing and that when we are long forgotten and returned to the earth as circular

nourishment, these creatures great and small will persist, stubbornly, as our illusion of hygienic immortality slips through our fingers.

In ‘Insect Graveyard’ Ibarra continues with his study of scale, this time concentrating on the world of insects, another creature with a vital role in the life and death of us all. These monochrome works of dead critters appear to have suspended them in mid-air as if caught in motion through the infinite black abyss. Their fragile forms are blown up to a scale where we find a connection possible. The furry belly of a bee or the elegant stretch of a butterfly’s proboscis departs from the entomophobic recoiling we are accustomed to and enters into a place of wonder and reverence. It is the relative scale to us that smooths out the curve of disgust into one of anthropomorphic familiarity. Is that fly sad? Does the legless locust have regret? Here the beauty is available to us, at this level we can observe and consider the structured elegance of form and function that insects possess and spot the signs of fragile decay whilst no longer feeling the fright and threat of a fast-moving and inescapable creepy-crawly.

‘Chromatism’ sees Ibarra zoom out to what seems like a planetary scale. Fruit and vegetables appear to float through a vacuum, in front of matching coloured backgrounds that suggest an axis-less space. Chromatism is in its most simple form the presence of colour. In botanical terms, it is the aberrative deviation from a normal colour, the wandering off of the path of what is expected. These forms appear weightless and at the same time as dense as a celestial body, organic surfaces allude to planetary topography. The dancing of a light source on the surfaces hints at a hidden orrery of misshapen heavenly bodies. The nebula-like backgrounds match the colours of the vegetal substances and invite us to imagine a descent into the atmosphere of an alien world.

Ibarra’s photographs play with scale in a way that toys with our notion of the sublime, they dig at our lofty exalted sense of self-importance and place us within the natural order of things and remind us that even we, with our rockets, radio waves and fine porcelain will eventually succumb to the same fate that awaits all life, that we are caught within the endless loop of birth, death and re-birth and that no matter how hard we try and believe otherwise, our fates are still more dependant on the actions of lesser forms/beings than they are on our own ingenuity, advancement and esteem.