Nov 14 - Jan 30, 2021
NoguerasBlanchard is pleased to present La mel, an exhibition by Antoni Tàpies featuring a series of unpublished works. Made in close collaboration with the estate of Antoni Tàpies, this exhibition seeks to offer an expanded reading of the significance of the artist’s recurrent use of a material as specific as varnish.
Deseo de miel (The desire for honey)
Is there any honey? Our gaze is captured by the letters that name it and although they are drawn, we don’t see them in the same way as the figures, signs and scribbles that surround them; they belong to the standard literacy system. We go straight to the meaning and identify it in less than a second.
The transformative power of bees results in a very complex organic substance. The metabolic process that honey generates from the saccharides in the flower’s nectar, takes place naturally in their body. What is swallowed is subjected to the action of the bees’ enzymes, regurgitated numerous times, and partially digested. Marx considered the prodigious, absolutely involuntary, ability of bees that doesn’t require the collaboration of forces or external agents to be far superior to that of human beings guided by the mind. Honey, as it is produced by plants and animals, embodies what Maeterlink called “marvelous reality”, adopting and holding within itself bees’ transformative capacity. Thus, it is vital matter that manifests itself in different states. Always consistent, it is liquid, and with the passing of time it is solid and sometimes crystallizes. The cold also hardens it, and the heat melts it. It adopts different shapes: more or less opaque, more or less translucent, more or less wavy, smooth, rough, lumpy. And it has brightness, a light that emanates, rather than a reflection. Pliny says that the sun invented honey.
It is always soft and tender. In fact, thanks to this property, when it impregnates certain solid bodies that are allowed to soak (sweets or canvases), it prevents them from breaking. It is soft, but not as soft as wax. It also doesn’t behave like it: one can make a wax model but not a honey one. Honey doesn’t want to be tampered with.
It is very sticky, but does not spread easily. It clings to the solids it contacts, clings to them, and doesn’t want to let them go.
It is not easy to mold that which is sticky. The physical properties of honey evoke ways of being materially and affectively in the world, ways that right now, at this moment, we feel can be canceled, can be stolen from us.
Honey is viscous by nature. A fluid that resists movement, displacement, especially with an external force of traction. Rheology, which studies the viscosity, plasticity, elasticity and flow of matter, defines honey, in its ideal state of purity, as viscoelastic.
What honey likes the most is a slow fall. It’s a slippery substance. Dropping: honey falls, and rebels against our will to guide it. In its fall, neither body, nor hand, nor tool (should it exist) perform or transfer gestures. Not dripping.
Honey preserves: pure honey is inhabited by pollen, propolis, and wax microparticles. Looking through honey is similar to looking through amber. Solid matter is trapped and remains uncorrupted. Nothing dissolves in it. In ancient times, corpses were preserved by covering them in honey to prevent decomposition. Pliny also says that when the renowned Apelles finished a work, he gave it a very thin layer of a substance called atramentum that protected it from dust and dirt and that, despite it’s sheen, added a dull tone to colors that were too vivid.
Honey is rich and gives itself with extraordinary ease: without participating in the kitchen, it is extremely energetic and nutritious. It is abundance. Bees, chthonic deities and representation of motherhood and fertility due to their ability to carry and give food, produce three times more honey than they need to survive. Honey is generous; it incorporates bees’ desire to give, to give in exchange for nothing (or very little).
It’s sweetness is such that it allows one to imagine other categories of sweetness. Lara Brown calls one of her pieces Doucement, a word that in French means slowly. “So,” she says, “to do something little by little is to do it sweetly, slowly.” Honey does so.
How can there be honey? There could be a transubstantiation that produces the presence of honey where there isn’t any. If so, the evidence for honey would be material. It would be right there. We’d mess with it; deform it and leave our traces on it. We could lick it, without fear of poisoning ourselves. But maybe the magic doesn’t occur, the transubstantiation is incomplete, and we need to make the trick visible, use an artifice. And that artifice is the written language in that damn literacy system that can’t be avoided. But the fact that there is a word that names, doesn’t mean that the aim is to describe what is intended. It may be that you want to invoke an apparition. The word is mysterious, it is an incantation, and a writing wish.
Let there be honey.