Ethel Martí. The sound of silence


Hidden in her study, crouched, with the noise of her silence, with her sound, which seems to be hard to get to the battered armchair in front of the easel, walled, entrenched behind dozens of works stacked, in order, selected, cared for on a frequently indented carpet, stained to infinity, a Montserrat blue pigment mat that cushions the steps. Ethel Martí has been working alone for years, surrounded by her landscape, portraying her friends, sometimes frantically, trying to collect their environment, their landscapes and their friends, to treasure, to live with them, for a good going.
She does it to coexist with her environment, with her surroundings, when in reality, or so it seems to us, she is making a self-portrait, she is painting herself relating to others, not the other way around. Her pictorial family is herself, very precise at times, barely sketched at others. There has been much talk of the pictorial practice of the "self." In the case of our painter, it is not "yourself" but "herself". Of the feminine self. Completely feminine. The pictorial relationship with the environment, with the face of the environment, is this worldview (which sometimes seems to us an astonishing worldview), of itself through others. There is already a lot of literature on the portrait as a self-portrait, but in the case of our painter, there is a clear intention (underlying, it may be) to paint herself as a reflection of what is happening around her, of what is passing. His characters are that reflection. They are people, obviously, but dedicated to describing herself, to like herself or not, but of course to manifest, to make themselves visible, to demonstrate.
I have next to my books a beautiful portrait of the artist, from the seventies, who belonged to my parents. It is the portrait of a woman, apparently behind a window, more a grate than a window, very pasted, very much of the time. It was probably an exercise in loneliness, or closing or who knows what. But it is a deeply autobiographical portrait. Very drawn but taking advantage of the pasted background (ocher, real yellow, bladder green) to rescue a unit, the idea of this unit. A woman, astonished.
Twenty-five years ago, and after the inauguration of the MACBA, talks were organized on art criticism by Glòria Picazo, Manel Clot, Juan Vicente Aliaga and other critics. In a text collected by Manel Clot, the artist and cultural promoter Jean-Christophe Ammann, surprises us at the outset with the statement that already (then, in 1995), "there is no style". After the "extinction of trends" (splendid statement) "the artist (...) must look into the "self", in the collective biography. If artists work in their own "self " (...) they are also working on the collective biography ".
In those years, at the end of the century, the fear of advertising for another twenty-five years before, of the terror of technology, of the surprise of Pop Art, of the Popular Print (local example), was far behind, the revulsion against the purely pictorial environment of the work of art. In Spain, there was a candour that seems to have come to solve these issues quite well. The graphic designers, the different "Teams" (Crónica, Realidad, 57) seemed dedicated to fending off the roars of a past a little too goyesc, a wind, not so fierce, that was blowing from the Guadarrama to the Sickles of the Júcar river or from Cap de Creus to Consell de Cent street. But nothing happened. Nothing serious, I mean, and yes there were several moments of glory. Although a little uncertain or at least shy, but glory in the end. Painters continued to paint, quite fiercely from 1980 onwards, coexisting with the minimal and the geometric, many too devoted to the cause, but without making a mess between the procedures and their consequences, as often happens.

Ethel Martí had studied at the emeritus School of Arts and Crafts of Tarragona with Saumells, Gonzalo Lindín and Magda Folch. She then studied at the Escola Massana in Barcelona in Plaça de la Gardunya until she moved to the United States and later to Canada, at a very young age, returning to the Iberian Peninsula in the mid-seventies. The loud and tremendous seventies. It is at the end of this decade when she and her family move to Ibiza, a bright Ibiza, with strident suns and the coolness of the winter mornings, still without creepy discos or top models coming down from the yachts, an island with many dogs and many children and a great desire to paint. Ibiza, still, by Elmyr de Hory, Carl Van der Voort, Ivan Spence, Will Faber, where Pancho Cossío had also been painted, fleeing, we suppose, from his Falangist vagaries, Ewin Bechtold and Egon Neubauer. There she met, and frequented, Leopoldo Irriguible, Rafael Tur Costa and Will Faber, Chula Ross and Ramón Sánchez, many of her neighbours, who "live in art", contribute to the awakening in the provincial and somewhat colonial city, organize film forums, exhibitions, performances. Ethel works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Dalt Vila and collaborates in the historical and numerous editions of Ibiza Graphic, alongside Irriguible himself and Daniel Giralt Miracle. She paints, has a fourth child and is happy. Ibiza gives it, and it is not a cliché, this intense blue, pure pigment, and a kind of luminosity dyed ocher and red ocher, her favourite palette. And she develops, grows, matures.
Ethel Martí searches tirelessly among abandoned objects, among the remains of this civilization that we usually call civilized. For years she has dug, to her surprise, in abandoned factories, uninhabited farmhouses, shops about to be closed for good, she has collected objects, she has appropriated them as well as the thousand images of other women who, like her, have described her surroundings. admirably, with a loose brushstroke, often frantic, with a restlessness never descriptive but frankly referential. That's why she adorns her characters, covers them with a hat, adds them or takes away the mystery from them, steals from them.
In the work of Ethel Martí there is a kind of unconscious appropriationism that is nourished (nourishing is not at odds with appropriation, but quite the opposite) is nourished, say, by previous images, portrayed, of her totems ( also of her taboos) but which reflect herself, her "self", which by ignoring the purely decorative dispenses with this, precisely, and portrays her "self" in an environment full of references. Ethel Martí does not disguise herself or do so with her characters. It portrays, sometimes very precisely, a mirror image in a highly referenced environment. Her interior landscapes are precisely that. Her covered space, her furniture, her stairs. Her surroundings, blue, ocher and ocher red, visited from the front and the side. Described, though sometimes simply hinted at. Years of pilgrimage among friends and their lights, never their shadows, of wasting love for others, devotion at times. Calmly and voluptuously.

Manuel Allué.