Juvenal Sansó and Cristina Gamón: A Dialogue Across Time & Space

It is understandable that Juvenal Sansó (b. 1929) experimented with the 35mm slides as an artistic medium in the 1970’s, following his extensive travels to other parts of Europe, the Americas, and Southeast Asia from the early 1960’s to the early 1970’s because he shared his travels with friends at home using the format. His early attempts started with physical manipulations to photographic slides like scratches, burning, or the introduction of fibers, leaves, and later, painting with colored inks and paints, whose color and transparent qualities he loved. His more developed work in this medium resulted to a type of fluid abstraction characterized by brilliant color, transparency, and yet retain a good sense of composition, which was of utmost importance to him. The diminutive size of the slide challenged him, in his words “it (is) a tour de force just to achieve clarity, refinement, and precision of all the elements in multiple layers of paint in their relative opacity and transparence.” And it was a medium which he worked on until the 1980’s and exhibited them periodically as late as 1989.

These painted slides straddle experimental painting, semi-photographic printmaking, and scenography; all preoccupations of Sansó at various stages of his career. While the painted slides, or cliché verre, could roughly trace influences from Sansó’s texile design, photography and painting practice, it is, in itself, a gateway for other creative endeavors of Sansó. Through these small slides, taking advantage of the technology available to him, he was able to make photographs without the aid of a camera, pitched their projections as opera set design, arrive at the design for the now removed Rockwell Powerplant Fountain mosaic, and in the 2000’s created his Abstract series on canvas.

With an element of play and experimentation, Sansó was able to work with a medium not typically used in artmaking; and it is quite serendipitous that another Spanish artist, decades later, in the same experimental vein, would take on a similar approach to her own painting.

Cristina Gamón (b. 1987) lives and works in Madrid. Working mainly with acrylic pigment and paint on transparent acrylic sheets, Cristina treats this surface as a medium for expression, as a transparent window through which we peer into a section of the world, and as proscenium whose edges keep sight in place. Her otherworldly abstract paintings allude to familiar painterly vicinities of landscapes, or fields seen from a bird’s point of view, or even microscopic documentations of made-up environments, while being aware of abstraction as a worldview affected by conceptual and current ingestion of histories of art.

Independently and coincidentally, her works share similarities with Juvenal Sansó’s painted slides, a form he developed and championed the decade that Gamón was born. Both are forms of experimental paintings using unusual modern supports and colorants, in the case of Sansó it is colored inks and paints on plastic film, and with Gamón, it is pure pigment and paint on acrylic sheet. Both work with acquired control over their chosen mediums and yet accommodate chance. And both optimize brilliant color and transparency of their mediums.

However while Sansó focused on diminutive slides, Gamón’s works are quite large. And while Gamón’s works can be experienced as they are, Sansó’s painted slides are best seen with the aid of a light source, such as a projector or a light box, hence his need to transform them to more accessible media such as photographic prints or as the basis of his Abstract series on canvas.

In a dialogue to these painted slides from Fundacion Sansó, Gamón creates this seven-piece exhibition entitled “Once in a Blue Moon”, partly in reference to Sansó’s better known “Brittany” series which almost always has a moon as a compositional devise, but also in reference to the celestial coincidences of the blue moons which marked her visits to Manila. Believed to be a rare event, the blue moon has cast its glow on Gamón repeatedly on her visits, giving further significance to her association with the Philippines.

Keenly aware of the significance of the moon in agriculture, mythology, and myriad aspects of belief, culture, science, psychology, and our common imaginary, Gamón also touches on the moon’s association with the eternal return, femininity, fertility, the tides, and nature’s life-giving and nurturing power with this exhibition inviting us to imagine how the surface of the moon might be like, to liken her works to the movement of the tides, or carry us to dream.

Though both artists were keen to unlock and fully utilize the fluid and transparent properties of their mediums to full effect, they have different reasons for taking up the challenge presented by the materiality presented by their contemporary materials. By doing so, both echo the tenor of their times, as well as present ideas and critiques relevant to the present.

Curated by Ricky Francisco