Yolanda Paulsen and the Vulnerability of living things

Monday, 26 May 2014 10:34 Written by Gonzálo Vélez    
The pleasant place, as ancient philosophers referred to, this non-place where humans and nature live in harmony and maintain a cordial dialogue without worries, seems to have been forgotten long ago, or perhaps put aside in the libraries of literary historians. From the Industrial Revolution, we advance along with civilization to the Atomic Revolution, the Digital Revolution, the Genetic Revolution, and with so many revolutions we seem to have lost at some point the perspective of the value of things. Respect of nature was converted into the desire to conquer it, and then the zeal to posses it in an almost carnal way. Now that we think we have dominated it, we try to enslave it: wring from it all of its secrets. However, the dimensions of the issue change if we consider the planet, our home, as a living being in itself: a being with a completely different nature from our own, which tolerates that these lowest of beings, humans and others, live in it. It’s a question of perspective.

Yolanda Paulsen is an artist who well knows that the earth that we tread on every day is none other than the sensitive skin of this living being that contains us. Running against the current of artificial complexity of the contemporary world, she intuitively perceives that the true mystery of life lies in the simplest things: earth, water, air and life itself. This mystery is the crux of all of her concerns and is expressed as a kind of subtext in the different paths that her work has taken, almost always three-dimensional art developed in a series of variations on a recurring theme. This vague enigma gives a poetic feeling to each of her pieces, which awakens in its viewers a pleasant sense of oddity. Following this line, slightly infused with a certain Eastern thought, Paulsen seeks simplicity not only in the creation of her sculpture and installations, through the reduction of elements to the merely necessary, but also in the eloquence of the completed work.

In most of her work, the artist upsets in some way the proportions of the objects, as if her creative process approximated a prism that inverts the usual dimension of a known reference, touching a sensitive fiber of our own smallness and fragility as humans. Dry leaves, for example, cast in bronze larger than life, strewn on the floor of an exhibit, transform the spectator into a pedestrian in a Jurassic field, among ruins of a forest fossilized in metal.

In this sense, Yolanda Paulsen has also offered us a fingerprint more than four meters long, that seems to be printed in clay by the index of nature itself: perhaps more than one has looked up to the sky in search of a finger that isn’t there. The folds of this digital installation, with the friendly help of sun and water, are converted as days go by into gardens covered in moss and small herbs or flowers.

This alteration of perspective is presented in a different way in the series El cielo que llevamos dentro (The sky we have within), which she began a few years ago. Within blue painted boxes, peculiar tree-like figures of white plastic resemble clouds. They seem to be dioramas of unusual landscapes of lamb-filled skies, a sensation the artist highlights at times with a small scale plane that is hidden among these hindrances as would a tiny fish behind the coral of an aquarium. But the perception changes subtly when we discover the origin of these clouds: as a silicone casting mold, the artist recurs to animal lungs, in such a way that what is obtained is the negative (another inversion) of bronchial tissue.

These plastic trees that are clouds inside a box or coral in the sky are actually lungs: the shape of air captured in firm but flexible plastic, almost soft, waxy: a portrait of air that was inside at the precise instant of the combustion that makes life possible. Through the mentioned prism, this interior air is proposed in the piece as a resemblance of blue air, and once again, through the mutation of the proportions, the intrinsic fragility of life, from being alive, is revealed.

Beyond the sobriety and elegance of her pieces, her simple manner of transmitting the vulnerability of life, Yolanda Paulsen devotes to her work as if by an act of faith that is an act of will that is a process of vital knowledge above or below words. Intuitions that are sparks of cosmic communion. The large is represented as small, and the small as large. Rhythms, harmonies, scales. Perhaps only shadows: contours and profiles of things that we take for granted, reflected in the wall of a platonic cavern.
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