Luis González Palma developed the Intimacy Hierarchies (The Annunciation) series together with his life partner, Graciela de Oliveira, based on a gesture and corporal analysis of the main roles in the paintings. Taking this idea as a conceptual basis, the artist generated a series of images which are partly personal and contemporary variations on the same theme, one which has been a constant in the history of Western art. Here depicted are several famous paintings by artists such as Boticelli, Poussin, Rubens, Murillo, Sarlo, Reni, Champaigne, and Stomer. But interest in this theme is also due to the implications it has on the artist’s culture and most personal, private world. The photographs were originally part of a video Palma produced together with de Oliveira: in this video, a voice is off read out of a text that accompanied the images which appeared and disappeared continuously. The text, written by de Oliveira herself, is a meditation on conception, gestation and fear.
The starting point for the creation of these photographs was the set up of some scenes which evidenced, by means of their character, space and objects, the psychological experiences that directly relate to the concepts of desire and lack of desire, which ultimately culminates with disappointment. All these experiences are essential elements in revealing the mystery and tension that come together in the dialogue with the other. They produce a reflection on the subject of the fragility of memory, the upset of desire, or loss as an emotional wound that remains with us throughout our lives, pointing to the complexities of producing meaning out of pain and loneliness. The photographs express an instant of a dream related to an intimate world, at times real, at times non-real, but undoubtedly incomplete.
Each photograph is a reflection on the subject of desire, longing and belonging, expressed through a set of hand-gestures that express indication, declamation, amazement, or wonder. Reminiscent of ancient oratory and rhetoric hand-gesture systems, these photographs depict hope in the coming blessing and acceptance in response to the message. Like in the ancient frescoes in the catacombs in Rome, the photographs reference funerary art and its depcition of prayers and witnesses to hope. The series highlight the raised hand in the loquendi sign, the sign of speech that bears the full weight of the message, but it also reflects on the tension of acceptance. Raised fingers indicate the provenance of the message, yet here they are contained by the invisible. Palma’s achievement in this series is to bring together messages pertaining to salvation and to revelation equally. By focusing on hand-gestures alone, the artist cuts the actual epiphany scenes and some of its constitutive symbols (the most important being the presence of the curtains, which make symbolic references to revelation, especially due to their close connection to pagan mysteries and the depictions of theophania). Instead, Palma focuses on the isolated gestures to capture their symbolic value: signs of reflection as the hands hold close, signs of reserve as the palms face outwards, signs of consensus as the back of the hands are held close to the chest, signs of trusting welcome as the hands face outwards at chest level.
The hand is not only a symbol, though; in Palma’s photograhs, it is an emotional tool and an organ of performance serving as eyes for the (emotionally and unfaithful) blind. Hands are a means to communicate the mute conversation – in doing so, they are a symbol of salutation and assignment, for it is dominant in the realm of action. Like in the Renaissance paintings, one can observe in these photographs the predominance of a “right-handed” world, which is representative of the proliferation of technology in advanced societies but also representative of the magical powers of the right side in good-evil dichotomies. Palma’s emotional tools reveal the primacy of sensory experience in front of the invocation; they bare no surface sensation with tangible objects, but are instead eloquent for the indispensable movement-towards and the “spiritual” touch sensations. The hands are not at rest, which would make the images uncertain or lend to their disappearance. Instead, they point precisely to the uncertainty of presence and the disappearance of the body as a whole, as a symbol of cultural behaviors and beliefs, and the abstraction of concepts. The scars of visibility imprinted on the hands in Palma’s photographs outline emotional movements, emotional stigmata and the emotional peculiarities of gestures. Symbolic of human sentiment, the hand blesses and salutes, they gently lay in symbols of benediction, to cure the emotional charge that resides within the body.
The absent body enters a dialogue of gestures with the present body, as the space simply contains a drama or an experience of total intimacy and reservation. What absence suggests serves as a means to enter in a world of make-believe, full of intimate fantasies riddled with ghosts that relate to yearning and fear, but also to amazement and surprise. Luis González Palma has conceived this project similarly to the other projects he has developed over the years, guided by the hope that images could contain and somehow express the invisible, since the invisible is both a constituive concept and the essential experience that sustains all our visual and spiritual adventures.
Text by Sabin Bors, November 9, 2014.