How exciting can cross disciplinary exchanges get? If you are me the answer is VERY. The other day I was lucky enough to catch @FionaNoble‘s blog about aspects of Spanish cinema, more specifically a post entitled Immigrants, Emigrants and Exiles: Un franco, 14 pesetas. The post can be read here:
The subject clearly crosses with my own exploration of exile and I found it fascinating to read Fiona’s analysis of recurring motifs in cinematic representations of Spanish migrations. The following passages, referring to the film, Un franco, 14 pesetas, stopped me in my tracks.
“Martín is depicted contemplating the passing landscape from the window of the train. They are shown befriending another Spaniard who shares his chorizo with them. The use of dissolves to transition between images echoes both the passing of time and the passing landscapes, visible from the train carriage window.”
“The window constitutes a key visual motif in Un franco, 14 pesetas. The characters are frequently framed by windows within the filmic frame. This gesture carries several symbolic resonances. While many of Naficy’s examples describe scenes that feature windows, he does not expand upon the potential symbolic significance of this icon. Here, the window functions as a reminder of these characters’ liminality, evidencing their status as outsiders looking in on a society of which they are, at least initially, not a part. This sentiment applies not just to their status in Swiss society but also in Spanish society upon their return to Madrid, a sentiment echoed by Marcos’ wife Maricarmen who declares, towards the end of the film, that ‘Ya no somos de ninguna parte’ (‘We are now from nowhere’).”
In reading these two paragraphs something important stirred in my mind. The mental equivalent of that which has been on the tip of one’s tongue. The window! Of course. The window has been increasingly present in my own visual repertoire – the window of one’s mind, the imaginary landscapes I create to meet with the past and to conjure the exiled state. I have even referred to these landscapes as windows within the installations I make. The installations are spaces so domestic in feeing that the landscapes act architecturally and thematically as apertures to the imagined outer realms viewed from within.
This was but one aspect of the window motif, which in two recent paintings became subject as well as metaphor. The second (above) I have called Blind – but really the word came to me in Spanish first – persiana. Sadly in Spanish it doesn’t have the double meaning which serves the painting so well. I didn’t set out to paint a window scene with a blind – but as I turned the painting round this way and that (essential in finding the subject), persiana was the word I breathed the moment it reached the orientation above. At this moment too I knew it was a sister work to the painting, Ventana, directly before it and shown below.
The viewing point for both paintings is quite claustrophobic and the vista is impossible, at best imaginary and at worst littered with scars, though a new vibrancy is emerging. The lines I have begun to focus on are so versatile in their symbolism that I don’t really want to name the multitude of associations they conjure as I paint them in, go over them and then rub back to reveal a little more beneath the surface. I don’t want to limit the viewer. I suppose though that the main function of the line is to mark a boundary, geographical and temporal. The glass of a window seen in cross section forms a line, and flat on it is a barrier to the action, one sees but can’t act (be a player). There is a definite silencing or muffling of sound too.
This was meant to be a very short blog – but I could write for eons on this theme. For now I’ll leave things to germinate a little more, but I am truly grateful to Fiona Noble for her insights on the window motif. I really think she’s onto something.
NB I have removed signalling references to images in the original blog post in both paragraphs to allow for a smoother read.