Alejandro Campins

Fear to death is fear to the truth

Fear to death is fear to the truth.

By Margarita Sánchez Prieto

The Contemporary Art Center Wifredo Lam closes its 2018 expositions program with the exhibition Miedo a la muerte es miedo a la verdad (Fear to death is fear to the truth), constituted by the series “Lethargy”, one of the most compelling collections that Alejandro Campins has produced to date. Through the paintings, drawings and photography that integrate this collection, the artist invite us to reflect on notions about loss and transformation associated with death, based on those unusual constructions that stress the landscape of many countries: bunkers. It is possible that the curiosity that they tend to raise is increased by knowing that they exist in high number and variety in several parts of the planet, a reality that the artist knew when he proposed to know them personally and made him wonder the reason for their existence, as well as his attempt to modify its purpose through their representation.

The bunkers were constructed by nations immersed in (possible) military conflicts with a defensive purpose and, according to the artist, express at the same time the fear of loss, failure. At a personal, family and even country level, defense and protection system are being created out of fear not only to loss but also change. According to Campins, the constant change, the impermanence is what frighten us. We continuously build mental and physical systems of protection to change in all orders. In history periods overshadowed by war threats, the eagerness to dominate or other causes, many bunkers were constructed and their ominous presence makes us wonder if the motives that originated them will come to an end or not one day, or if at least coexistence would be possible. But the function and identity of these fortified enclosures is not always clear. Hence, the bunker is associated with occult powers, sometimes anonymous, where there is a lot of tension. Undoubtedly, they constitute sites with a great emotional content that speak for themselves. To Campins they are just an excuse to talk about the great topics that govern life.

In order to enhance its entity of military waste, a ghost from the past, but above all giving the sensation that they were hibernating, Campins prints to some bunkers a blurred appearance, to others on the contrary a very sharp and deceptively peaceful, but from a centrality and/or dimensions that are threatening.

Although all paintings were inspired by “real” bunkers, in none of the identification cards are any data about the referent, neither the country nor the construction date, to avoid becoming a didactic exhibition. However, this does not mean that the artist ignores it. As part of his research Campins traveled around many bunkers that were erected in Europe and some of those that exist in the United States and Cuba. All of those that can be appreciated in this expo were visited by the artist; in a separate room its photographic records are displayed.

The decision to eliminate the references and bring the semblance of the bunker almost to the abstraction and thereby strengthen its anonymity has the objective of, among other purposes, giving prominence to the space. The artist approaches the landscape because of the content it has as a scene, for its theatricality, for being able to tell us stories, to move us, whether or not it has the mark of man, although he prefers unoccupied places.

Campins seeks to call the attention from the landscape, is interested in enhancing its narrative force with all the positive or negative that there may be in it. He understands that he can transform the ominous fate of bunkers by painting them, transforming their hidden and destructive power by elevating them to the category of art. And through his representations he intends to make us think, because they, like all his paintings, are metaphors of the transcendental problems of existence that he perceives in landscapes.

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