Text for the presentation of the book “Idoia Montón” in Alegría gallery
By Luis Salaberria.
Up to a few minutes ago, I wasn’t sure if Idoia Montón actually existed. Some friends had mentioned having seen her, and I believe everything my friends tell me. If Pablo Llorca tells me he’s seen Bigfoot while on a trip to Panticosa, I believe him. I know Idoia’s work, I’ve seen it in exhibitions and catalogues, but her work doesn’t confirm her existence. It could be Javier Penafiel who does the work. And the thing that makes me doubt her existence most is that I have actually met her, but so much time has passed that my mind could be playing tricks on me….
It was in 1991. We were taking part in the exhibition One Hundred Years of Contemporary Art organised by Juana de Aizpuru. We, along with Ana Laura Aláez and Diego Figari. represented the young promising artists from the gallery. I recall that a few months before, Juana had called to arrange to meet me and had asked Diego to go along with me. On the way up the stairs to the gallery, I suggested that Diego pretend to be me, but after thinking of the difficulties implied in upholding this calibre of deceit for a whole year, we desisted. Perhaps Idoia and Ana Laura toyed with the same idea with more courage. Perhaps the person here besides me now is not Idoia at all, but Ana Laura.
I remember her works as at once simple and complex, like embryos of sculptures in formation but already complete. I remember Idoia having an air of magic to her, as though I’d just been introduced to someone from the dark woods in the depts of a mythical Basque Country.
I saw her work again in an exhibition curated by Pablo Llorca called The inner Scar. It was in 1998 and she was showing works from 1992. I remember one painting, in particular, White on White which pierced my eyes like the scene in Luis Buñuel´s Un perro andaluz. These deliciously awkward and profoundly romantic paintings depict princesses, giants, dwarfs, fairies and wolves in castles, palaces and snowy steps. Everything made sense. Idoia was showing us her reality, her house and her friends. In fact, if you look closely at the painting The Banquet (1992) she, the host, appears depicted as a Valkyrie.
In 2006 I saw the works that she exhibited in Icónica in Patio Herreriano in Valladolid. Commissioned again by Pablo, the exhibition showed how a series of artists worked with “reality”. Idoia showed 20 paintings from 1995 on, which were realist depictions of day to day life in her domestic surroundings. At first, I was disappointed, having expected to be roused in the same way I had been with the works in The Inner Scar, but I soon began to perceive that the images in these paintings were just as real, or just as unreal. Idoia appears self-portrayed over and over again, reflected in mirrors, in the glass of the window, in the television set..she is multiple. Always wearing a checked bathrobe..just as in the painting The Banquet where she appeared as a princess or sorceress, here the bathrobe is like her magic cape. Her dog Sisógenes appears in many paintings as a protector God, always asleep, keeping vigil in his sleep. In 2001 she would paint Sísogenes in Majesty, and my suspicions are confirmed, Bilbao is illuminated by dragonflies and fluorescent jellyfish, her bedroom is her palace and the sockets, the television, the boxes, paintbrushes and other objects represented are her magic tools. This transition from representing the “real” in the works shown in Icónica and “lo fantástico” to the works from 1992 is best understood when we consider the works The city of Gregor the beatle, Site y Young Child of the Sewer from 1993. Here we find animales that are familiar but out of proportion with the general composition which inhabits a space which could be real and similar to Idoia’s studio in Bilbao. Realism starts to contaminate the symbolic, or the symbolic is impregnating everything with its drool.
Looking through her recently edited book I discovered more works. In 2005 she continues painting the objects in her room, as if she were locked in, like a “hikikimori”. Sometimes she paints exteriors but they seem dreamed up, always at night time. She doesn’t allow us to see her face yet she continues painting herself. Saint Theresa said that God is found amongst the pots and pans, Idoia is searching for something similar amongst the objects she paints. Albert Camus said thinking is to see anew. Idoia paints to look, trying to comprehend. There is something mystical in these works, in these vanities which speak to us of death, and they do so twofold because they are baroque still lives and they are pop. I’m enthused by an untitled painting which shows a Cola Cao container used as a vase for some flower cuttings. On the left, there’s a computer keyboard connecting her with the outside world, and on the left to are books which symbolise reflection, the path to the inner self. And in the middle the Cola can container, an object which is is codified in our brains, in our collective consciousness as representative of homely, familiar, stable and comforting, but here it holds a few fragile flowers that will be dead in a few hours. That’s why they’ve been painted, to stop them withering.
Another remarkable painting is The seven windows of my Room, a sort of Idoia Montón version of Las Meninas. Again we see her reflected in a mirror, with brush and palette and a tatty almanac with a Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the dead on the cover, and we see the face of a child who looks at us from a computer screen. As well as some books there is a fantastical coloured crucifix that we see in other paintings and amongst other things, amongst other windows, a sweatshirt hanging on the back of a chair catches our eye with a print representing a diabolic face, of gothic character typical in rock aesthetic. Symbology and naturalism in a serene, reflexive, unpretentious painting.
To finish I’d like to talk about the recent works. At first, they left me perplexed, as they should. Myself and Pablo Llorca saw them together in the basement of Galeria Algeria in Madrid and we came to the conclusion that if we didn’t quite understand the works at that moment, that we soon would, and being works of Idoia we would like them. When I left the exhibition I began thinking about them, perceiving them. They have something pre-war about them, recalling works of the avant-Guard before the Great War which this year “celebrates” it’s 100 year anniversary. It’s as though Idoia had been to the trenches and flown in a bombing, and dazed would fight against the trauma, capturing it in her paintings. They are like works from the past which predict the agony. The lemur, holder of weapons or the stork shedding blood seem to signal targets for death, aerial views and city plans of future ruins. And there’s something of El Greco, that potent image of the grey spectre that rises from the drains in the work Anunciación en La Virgen del Carmén.
Seeing you again after such a long time, I’m still unsure whether you’re real or not. But with this text as an excuse, I took the opportunity to look over your work again and yes they do seem real, and they speak to me of you. They’ve helped me know you. I hope we don’t let another 23 years pass before we see each other again, and if it happens so, I will like to know what you’ve done in all that time.