We are pleased to introduce Cynthia Grow, March Artist-in-Residence at Can Serrat. Cynthia Grow is a multi-media artist and painter. She received a diploma in Contemporary Painting and Ancient Painting Techniques from Accademia d’Arte in Florence, Italy and has completed projects and residencies throughout Italy and Spain, as well as New York Studio School, National Academy School of Fine Art, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In addition to studio training, she completed a program in Modern Art, Connoisseurship & History of the Art Market at Christie's Education New York and holds a Master of Arts degree from University of South Florida.
When she's not working on her painting, Cynthia is part of the great team here at Can Serrat, acting as Artist Coordinator, Blogger, and the nightly Maestra del Fuego - Fire Mistress, where she trys to practice her elementary Catalan and Spanish, albeit quite poorly. Here´s a bit of what she´s been working on this month, in-between all the rest.
This series of works is based upon the poetry of Salvador Espriu, acknowledged as the great poet of post-Civil War Spain. Espriu was born in Santa Coloma de Farners in 1913. His literary opus soon became a symbol of the peaceful resistance and the hopes of post-war Catalonia. He had been the great hope of the short story in Catalan before the Civil War. But after that event, he chose to go into an 'internal exile' in which he decided to contribute towards 'saving our words' so that for him it was necessary to start anew.
Espriu turned to poetry because among other reasons it allowed him to elude the uncultured Spanish censorship of the time. His mission was to make his language sing and survive the years when Franco insisted that a unified Spain required a single tongue and forbade the use of other national languages – i.e. Catalan. Espriu’s work is a long meditation on death and on the passing of the time that leads us to that end.
These mixed media, multi-layered works on paper consist of words and images of varying themes clipped from the Catalan language magazine Serra d’Or, a Catalan literary magazine established in October 1959. It was promoted by a group of university students, and was published by Montserrat Abbey Press. From the beginning, this magazine became a platform for the Catalan intellectuals of the second half of the 20th century, taking profit from the possibilities of cultural and political activity that existed in the Francoist regime, if the censorship could be avoided.
The pieces of text clipped from a copy of the magazine (November 1988) have been covered with thin washes of paint and various words and images I have scraped away with a blade. Excerpts of Salvador Espriu’s poetry in some way relate to the words and images hidden below the surface.
I utilize poetry as a means to disseminate ideas. And, here Catalan poetry, which helps me to learn the language, a language which I find earthy, complex, and beautiful in its construction. In my painting, somehow, I always return to language. For me, poetry and painting are essentially the same thing, only expressed in a different way.
These pieces have dual meaning. First, they are a celebration of the survival of the Catalan language after years of censorship and repression, and the Republican struggle against the brutal Franco regime. And, more specifically, how Catalunya, a country with a rich literary culture and heritage and the Catalan language managed to survive and thrive. Particular pieces are a direct reminder of the Spanish Civil War – and the bodies in mass graves that are still being uncovered throughout Spain to this day – hinted at from the scraping and peeling layers of paint, uncovering and discovering the obscured words and images.
Secondly, they are about Memory - the passing of time, the marking of time – memories both conscious and sub-conscious. As the words and images rise, ghost-like to the surface, the pieces become a palimpsest of sorts, secret images as metaphor for the hidden ghosts that exist in all of us. They are deliberately ambiguous, offering subtle suggestion. They hint at sex, or more explicitly, desire, exploring this in both my use of image and in the excerpts of Espriu’s poetry. My idea is to focus on our most hidden selves, the ghosts within.
In my work, ambiguity is always the theme I seem to return to. Searching for something haunting in the work, or perhaps in a place, but mostly, I imagine, in myself.
To see more of Cynthia's work, see her blog here