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About print

ROBERTO SALAS

Nostalgias.

Photography is that art which both establishes itself as something that can overcome oblivion and asserts itself as something for which oblivion comes to pass.1

Let us talk of art and we shall talk of construction; construction of another reality ultimately rooted in the polymorphous reality surrounding us. Throughout the history of art, those concepts were disrupted many times over; each civilisation or period of history defined its paradigm of the representation of what is real. Space was always more a symbolic space than a real space.

It firstly seems that photography also places us like prisoners of the cave mentioned by Plato in his book The Republic, victims of the illusion that makes us take phenomena for reality and photos for objects to be photographed. In actual fact, it also creates an imaginary space, resulting from a process that connects the imaginary and the real; it happens in the manner of a record of a visible trace acting as a sign of existence and not as an “artless” original.

The works presented today are related rather to the trace aspect. Everything comes together here: the wish for eternity, the wish for understanding, the wish for situating the ephemeral that quickly passes. Nostalgias is a photographic series that finds its referent source in a city like Havana, where the very ancient and the ancestral are awkwardly combined with a few flourishes of modernity, conferring an extraordinary beauty and singularity. In this way, matter is redeemed: imaginary matter, matter of memory, matter of the unconscious, matter metamorphosed by the act of photography, matter transfigured by the eagerness for illusions.

Roberto Salas’s photographs, where areas of colour are combined with black and white areas, enhance the enchantment of an imperishable city. Colour murmurs friction and reconciliation, offers us contours, light and textures; while the abstraction of black and white sings the impossible struggle of coming closer to shades and to the agonising details, while perpetuating the poetic sortilege of the metaphor. A metaphor that is also polymorphous and ambivalent in its more extensive recourse and which alludes to the tragic existential challenge of death and the passing of time. Salas restores a new picture of Havana to us: polysemic, unusual and mysterious in itself, in that logic of “at the same time”.

Nostalgias for time, memory and the past; nostalgias for a technique, a model, a language. Melancholy is omnipresent: the present that is gone, presence that follows absence; time is lost, oblivion follows closely behind, with the certainty of death lying in wait. Photography wants to comprise the traces of the bodies that walk through the streets, the almost ghostly presence of signs of a life that feels conditioned by the almost continuously binary character of nature, a sea that unyieldingly defines our insularity, waves that touch the shore and erase whatever they meet in their passing, a journey that begins but we will never know when and where it will end.

Once more, like the best of masters, Salas has constructed the most beautiful visual epithets of a city that seems untouched by time. The relationship between past and present, life and death, oblivion and remembrance, restlessness and calm, finally finds the synthesis of its expression in the still binary formula of “black” and colour.

The works in the exhibition have been gathered together in groups with the intention of catching converging realities, transmuted intersections, stress points that do not show what is visible but make visible; and which also weave overlapped stories in the tissue of a life that is, in itself, much more complex. In the selection, we have recourse to fiction, because its nature is never to end and therefore continues in our head and in our eyes through the many combinations we can form.

Roberto Salas originates from the old school of documentary photography, where the black and white film was the means to capture whatever was going on opposite the lens of a camera, and the use of trick and manipulation was frowned upon in the profession. Perhaps our era can no longer talk of photography in the original meaning of the word; the medium has been redefined from an ontological point of view. However, in the presence of such new premises, an artist like him has not renounced the restlessness that creating and experimenting arouse. We have the evidence before our eyes. Today, he reveals another face, which we can only approach through poetry.

Sara Alonso Gómez, Curator
Havana, April 2011



1 Soulages, François: Estética de la fotografía. Buenos Aires: La Marca, 2005, p. 137. (Aesthetics of Photography)

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