Space-rendered Poetry

The image shows an installation view from the exhibition "Notations From Somewhere" by the artist Rafael Domenech at HUA International in Berlin.
Notations from Somewhere. Rafael Domenech, installation view, 2021, HUA International, Berlin. Courtesy of the artist and HUA International, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler. 

Review
Notations from Somewhere. Rafael Donenech
September 16 – November 13, 2021
HUA International, Berlin

Yellow Overture. At the beginning of the exhibition, a corner stone holding a book: The Medium is the Message, by Quentin Fiore and Marshall McLuhan. The book is cut out in triangular form with its back pointing inside the room. The book, as concept, plays a central part in this exhibition. And there are many messages. From the cornerstone – centre – three rooms open up. Upon entering to the left, a corridor of yellow folding screens gives way. Their material is semi-translucent construction mesh. The shades guide one through space. On the top and bottom of the shades, words carved in wood are decipherable. Taken together, all folding screens cite the poem Lo Idéntico, “the identical/same”, by Octavio Paz. Strictly, then: The words guide one through space. 

On the walls, floor and ceiling several objects are mounted. Two foldable ‘books’, The Elliptical Hour, are placed in a structure on the wall. Once opened, they unfold as hanging image-objects. Their insides reveal different photo-material-collages. One combines a scene from a neighbourhood, a black garbage bag, and references to sign imagery. A bright foil is meticulously mounted on top of the images. Seen from afar, it is hard to make out whether these coloured structures reside in or on top of the paper. In all the works in the exhibition, Rafael Domenech play with surfaces: stone, paper, wood, plexiglass, construction mesh. The material is unpretentious; yet deliberately chosen and very carefully rendered. 

Opposite on the floor, another book opens up. X-shaped, The Beautiful Fragment of the Fucked up Whole (2021) unfolds as a visual poem composed of form, colour, eventual words and cut outs. The centre-page reads “flaming waters”, on bright red ground. The agility running through the whole exhibition could not be described in better words. Generally, the hands-on concept rests at the core of Notations form Somewhere. Many of the works are interactive, touchable or require an active reception in form of going around, reading, opening/closing. Upon doing so, both practical and theoretical – poetical worlds open up.

The image shows an installation view from the exhibition "Notations From Somewhere" by the artist Rafael Domenech at HUA International in Berlin.
Notations from Somewhere. Rafael Domenech, installation view, 2021, HUA International, Berlin. Courtesy of the artist and HUA International, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler. 

billboard, light publication (signage, poems, interplay) (2021) in the rearward room presents as a playfully graphical light sculpture. What could be an elegant children’s room’s lamp is, according to the artist, a “publication in light”. The phrase “When information brushes against information” is cut into the material. The removeable single elements of the work brush visual information against each other constantly de- and recomposing matter.

Shipped all flat, the whole exhibition including all the artworks were created inside the gallery space. Four days of practical artistic labour. Another crucial element of Rafael Domenech’s practice becomes apparent here: climate consciousness. A large part of the material he uses is recycled or left-over. The construction mesh is recycled material the artist found in China, the plexiglass fragments are left overs from commercial productions; recycled cardboard makes up the back of dislocated assemblage for a map of possibilities (2020). This climate aware- and friendliness testifies to the deep reflection and planning behind Rafael Domenech’s practice. The artist thinks constantly. In conversation, new thoughts and references keep coming up: Colour schemes, material connotations, artists and theoreticians of influence. Helio Oiticica, Lygia Papa, and Walther Benjamin are but a few of them. The list could go on and on. 

In this passing – succession –, another layer of the exhibition comes forward. The show is conceived of as a marker of time and space. Marking time by opening books, closing them, reading the literal elements in the different works. And space being marked through the folding screens through the rooms, and by the (un)foldable images on the wall. “There’s no there there.”, and “All is nowhere.” These two quotes by Gertrude Stein, and Octavio Paz’ poem Spaces respectively relate to Rafael Domenech’s thoughts behind the exhibition: Where do we exist, and how? According to the exhibition in some poetical, playful meta-space filled with art and thought.

maleza de líneas (2021) another plexiglass publication in light (or, for the sake of simplicity: light sculpture) reads: “Maleza de lineas. Always future” Translation: “Thicket of lines. Always future.” With regard to the works in the exhibition, one could interpret it as: All lines, i.e. threads – of thought, story, creation – unite towards the future. Art, then, is the future.

The image shows an artwork by the artist Rafael Domenech.
Rafael Domenech, maleza de lineas, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and HUA International, Beijing/Berlin. Photo: Tim Ohler.

the deceptive mobility of an excess of things of disparate origins (2021) is a small sculpture consisting of a gray stone with red plexiglass letters coming out of its centre. Regarding the title, one can draw another #line to the works of the exhibition, referring once more to their highly diverse material. But the mobility in the show is not deceptive. It is lived. There is a playfulness and lightness in all the works which forms a very welcome counterpart to some of the presumably deep renderings in contemporary art. And this playfulness is not superficial, quite the contrary. There is a deep reflection in the works and their being presented together. Thought expressed in form, colour, and material. Rafael Domenech conceives of himself as a bookmaker. There certainly is a strong graphical – in the sense of a balanced aesthetic – in all the works. Otherwise one could speak of creative genius.

Exiting, a fly rests on the yellow ground of one of the folding screens. In its impudence, absurdity and reference to both art history and critical thinking (watch the vanitas-motif!), it is the perfect pun to complete the exhibition.