X. Anton Castro on Geishas

The lyrical expression of the drama or the aesthetic as archaeological sign

By X. Anton Castro Fernández

Through a dilution of the genres and the use of language as an emphatic element of transgression, the artist follows Duchamp’s poetic way of converting this action into a way of seeing. If seeing is infringing, then also is the ability to break the boundaries of languages for painters, sculptors or anything that enable the destruction of aesthetic fabrication that is imagined as repre- sentation. Because of this, the illusion has taken the art to its totality and the artist to imagine the world free of prejudice or fixed techniques, which is to interpret an atmosphere from her dreams. In this way Emilia Enríquez situates in the diluted present of the artist that has in the last years strengthened her position. This does not establish limits to the tradition that the paint or sculpture, subjects to generic strategy, interprets its objectives. In the context of a thread: the scenery of drama of gestures full of fantasy rooted in historical expressionism. Souring from the aesthetically marked identity, be this in the purest approach to painting or an incursion onto the stage of deep desires, which link the sculptural interpretation of the world of geishas. In the first instance, her exhibition Ojo de mar (1) showed the willingness to expand the field of painting by incorporating sculptural elements like objects, robes and sea creature figures.

In order to push boundaries of the two dimensional view she reflects at the same time on the pictured element. With this she creates a peculiar underwater archaeology with the magic of old romantic tales, all wrapped in a chromatic fantasy.

Nevertheless her aesthetic stance is best demonstrated in her work on the world of the geishas. In the pretext and referral that is assumed in the literal terms and that make the artist take a place in the spacial stage of gestions in a little dissident form of sculpture and installation. This mythic Japanese figure that dominated the arts through dance or music, to entertain a man, inlayed a hidden paradise that defined the universe of flowers and willows. Emilia Enríquez dedicated an exquisite exhibition, Ecos do pasado (2) to the Geisha using its marvellous pretext to go deep in its philosophy of art. Because of this I will not speak of the obvious mythological and literal aspect of this famous ori- ental woman, but of the aspects that can be extracted of her as a piece of art and an element of reflection.

Emilia Enríquez penetrates into this world and reuses it to interpret her belief in one of the central questions of art in the recent years. This question faces the identity problem of the symbolic aura presented by Gadamer, of how the art of interpre- tation through a symbol enables us to recognize ourselves. But what identity? Is it the one that we see as a concept of gender, an eloquent image of the representation of the human body? This is far from the feministic critique, and even thought it does not exclude an erotic refraction, it focuses equally in linguistic ques- tions that reflect the experience per se. Femininity is not sought with any price, but is expressed as a plural symptom of a meth- odology that uses symbols like dresses, fabric, the human body, hair, wool, cotton, carpets, curtains, furs, band- ages, napkins, canvas or other natural materials. This she does also through the mere action of sowing. To mark a cultural representation she uses certain domestic tasks that have generally been the responsibility of women. This highlights the addressed mythology in sections of history of art from Georgia O ́Keeffe to Louise Bourgeous, Lygia Clar to Yayoi Kusama and recently Aida Makoto. With this saga the work is ratified with a splendid aesthetic quality and at the same time it introduces activity that speaks about the dispersion of identity. According to George Steiner, dispersion like this is to emphasize the psychoanalysis, which makes us to reflect on what we have in front of us and to see each other. The body of Geisha is a tool that Emilia Enríquez uses to dissociate the different theatrical positions by tracing an unbroken line of curios patterns of the otherness within the fertile Neolithic artistic approaches. To take position in this specialty and do it intelligently is nowhere easy, but Emilia Enríquez has done this by developing the concept aesthetically and literally.

In this way the artist looks to differentiate not only to confirm her linguistic position, but also to assert the subtle idea of gender that the body and gestures of the geishas embody. Through this malleable pretext she expresses a variety of analysis that imply socio-political, cultural and philosophical stances, which were treated in an exhibition Sense and Sensibility. Women Artists and Minimalism in the Nineties (3). For an artist these present no difference when looking at the string of Ariadna or the fabric of Penélope. It is a motive that shows specifics of the female body in elliptical clothing, showing us the disassociated personality that reintegration fights for. This Neofeminist theory, as expressed by professor Hilary Robinson from the University of Ulster, is connected to the double concept of social and cultural. If femininity is considered as an experience of the body, then it must be considered that it does not belong to the body as it is only a tool of representation for it. Above all, culture and the hidden eroticism of the Geisha make us think about the human condition and the ideal pretext of the never ending labyrinths of the role for a woman in this general condi- tion and ask oneself- from the ideal platform of gender- what we are, where are we going, what are we doing, where are we… In this respect I evoke works that talk of desire and memory like Anette Messager’s Historia de los trajes. On the other hand I talk of the confirmation of the real body identity-and thus of gender- through the present and by erasing a given memory like a prolonged sweet gesture, exaggerated so many times in the patient suffering of the lives of the Geisha -perhaps of many women- in an unshakeable theatre of hope.

If we refer to a linguistic atmosphere, we perceive a balance of impulsiveness and reason in the past and presence in Emilia Enríquez work. There is also a hidden anthropology in the mythic charge of a feminine figure, sometimes only hinted, in the universe engraved in a intriguing baroque asceticism. Marked with the steps of the Holy Week, this very Spanish historic reference, marks a great part of our artistic identity. With the construc- tion of atmosphere and drama, the figures of nouveau réalisme by Nikki de Saint-Phalle are evoked unmistakably permitting a special conciliation of things that seduce and cause repulsion. The subversive and horrifying are therefore represented as the opposing senses of desire and pleasure. What then prolongs the content of a necessary dialogue between the body and the spirit, between hedonism and the reason, and between the ethic and transgression, is the perturbing pleasure. It is not only the beauty that moves the soul but also the tribal liberation and confusion, as expressed by the American critique and thinker, Dave Hickey that gives us the reason to hate the academic sensibility (4). In this way the image imposes a mutated structure of emptiness or its baroque excess. This is like a sign of fragmented anthropomorphism or like a rapturous gesture that superimposes any codification fixed in a feminine figure. It also becomes evident in the lengthening of magdalenas penitentes or the fetish like damas sculptures that are set for the troubling eyes and cracked so that the profound darkness of the night makes them emerge. Penetrated in its reality, through the fragmented destruction of its dramatic attitudes, masking the perverted eroticism of the ancient vampires that haunted Munch, the inventor of clamor, the Geisha by Emilia Enríquez obviate sex as an elliptic image of the other reality that combines pleasure with desire. With a secular dimension, a totemist ritual of the ancient snake goddesses is dramatized. Their Neolithic fertility, given that it considers us, seem to break the limits between sculpting and painting, between language and the dented design of the unrepeatable gestures of these other goddesses of self- less pleasure. Their silent restlessness seduces us, the surprised audience, and never leaves us indifferent when facing the stage of life that the artist presents us, letting us share her dreams and inventions.


(1) The exhibition was held in 2008 in the halls of the Casa de Galicia.

(2) Centro Cultural de la Diputación de Orense. Orense, 2009

(3) Exhibition held in MOMA, New York in 1994

(4) Interview with Dave Hickey-David Page. Catalogue of La Belle et la Bête. Modern Museum of Ville de Paris 1995.