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Rocío Maldonado: Doing more with less

Thursday, 10 April 2014 15:55 Written by Angélica Abelleyra
 

She prefers silences and watching time go by. For example, she spent a year applying three layers of inks, paint and water, so that the paper recorded the days going by. She became one with the rhythms of Nature that make the plum tree flower. Since she was a child she has had a calm, contemplative temperament. This is why in her artwork Rocío Maldonado (Tepic, 1951) depicts an internal time that brings together bodies, stones and whirlwinds of fog in a broad range of grays, ochers and reds, believing that she can bring out more of herself when she limits the materials, colors and resources.

At the age of 12, she realized that she felt comfortable painting. She enrolled at the INBA school in the capital of Nayarit state, and while she was experimenting in the world of shapes, her siblings were doing the same in music, playing the guitar. Her mother gave her a wooden case to hold her paint brushes, oil tubes and a palette that she still uses. Her mother was indeed very supportive, however her father, concerned that his daughter would be mixing with the “potheads” of San Carlos, meant that she drew increasingly less.

The eldest of eleven siblings, she was the family's “experiment”, as they expected her to get married and lose interest in studying. However, she clung to the idea of a career revolving around drawing. She decided to study Interior Design at the Women’s University of Guadalajara, where free hand drawing and art history classes intensified her love for art.

She arrived in Mexico City at the age of 24 and studied for two and half years at La Esmeralda Art School. There, taught by Octavio Bajonero and Javier Arévalo, she was primarily interested in drawing and copying everything she could, notably life drawing, landscapes and stones. Her generation, which included Germán Venegas, Roberto Turnbull, Georgina Quintana and Estela Hussong, grew up with the idea that the most important thing was the artistic profession, being in constant action, unlike contemporary youth who are more concerned with concepts. When she realized that she was not learning enough she enrolled at the National Art

School in Xochimilco, where she was taught by Gilberto Aceves Navarro and Luis Nishizawa in workshops that reconciled freedom and method.

Setting out to work independently, she shared a studio with Georgina Quintana in the center of Mexico City, and became involved in no-strings-attached figuration. She focuses on the human body, and uses a fragment of a torso, an ear or a foot to depict reality. She used to do so with life models but now readapts images by Helmut Newton and other photographers. However, she accepts the fact that stones, branches and thorns are figures yet also connected to abstraction, and produces a mixture of the two.

With both a freedom of hand and an academic tendency, she appreciates the richness of the ranges from gray to black, and enjoys placing layers of paint on the lovely strong Japanese paper. Moreover, realizing that her pictorial skills are limited, she seeks to create textures on the surface by adding material and papers, an accumulation of elements that do not overwhelm the work with color.

Like Paul Celan, she says that there are no shortcuts in life. Every experience marks a person, in a positive or negative manner. Thus her keenness for gardening and Tai Chi contribute to this fluid internal time, and she transfers their pauses and silences to her artwork, which is bathed in an energy that evades planning yet has a great deal of substance.

A text originally published in La Jornada Semanal (February 12 2006)

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