L'entorn. Mar, bosc, roca, cel. De Jordi Ortiz

01

SACRED NATURE

"Stop, wave!" is what one seems to feel when contemplating the 24 photographs of Jordi Ortiz brought together under the title L'Entorn (The Environment), in other words, what surrounds us, what we have been given: sea, forest, rocks, sky. Everything is still in these images as if it were all made of stone: the leaves on the branches of the trees, still, nothing moves them; the clouds in the key, still, as if they had never circled either slowly or at speed. But it is the breaking and roaring waves that alert us that, here, all that surrounds us is as petrified as the rocks. These photographs on 23.75 carat Rosenoble gold leaf depict an environment that is nature. The photographer's camera has captured a moment, and the gold has made it eternal. In our Western tradition, specifically the European Middle Ages in constant contact with Byzantium, light identified with divinity was made visible in painting with gold. Gold for the background, gold for the clothing of saints, gold for halos.  So, when we look at these photographs we remember and are reminded of the sense of the sacred re-emerging, and with it we ask ourselves how can it be that we had not seen the light of the waves, the light of the trees, or the light of the rocks before? "Stop, dead North Wind!" One has to stop to contemplate these images in all their power and understand that nature has been transfigured here.

The gold background to Byzantine icons or to Western gothic painting, a symbolic representation of the theology of the light emitted by the fathers of the Church, places the represented figures, saints and martyrs, in another dimension that is not worldly, since it manages to do away with all references of space and time. The heiraticism of the represented figures, on whose faces there is virtually no humanity that can be observed, do not induce the observer to any identification, expelling it from the sphere of familiarity to place it in the land of the unknown. Above all, it was the gold that had to plunge it into a state of fascination in which the observer's gaze was incapable of separating it from the image and in which the tremendum invaded its entire being. What we have here is not an aesthetic experience in which the observer is moved by beauty, but one where the sacred forces its way in. One would never say that the photographs of Ortiz are "beautiful". This is not sublime nature, rather sacred nature.

Nature, conceived as a work of God, could be a way to access the beyond, a bridge between here and there, in order to fulfil the requirements of all symbolic objects. In the Franciscan spirituality of St. Bonaventure, for example, there is the notion, highly esteemed by the romantics, that nature is another book of God. Along with the Holy Scriptures, Nature has to be read, interpreted and deciphered. However, there was barely time to give it a pictorial place, since its imitation (imitatio naturæ), dominated by the Renaissance, prevented it from being placed in a holy dimension without all the pictorial procedures and strategies inherent to sacred art being followed. In spite of this, there must be some example of illustrating the tradition in which the photographs Jordi Ortiz can be placed. Art history always offers us exceptions with widespread tendencies, rare cases that anticipate the course of history, visionary signs of what will not occur for many centuries, or simply solutions to problems of representation that are different from the ones usually imagined.

Few of the photographs of Jordi Ortiz present an overall view of the image, irrespective of whether this is the sea, the forest, the rocks or the sky. Of the sea we see the foam; of the forests, some in a thickness very similar to those of Albrecht Altdorfer, it is the leaves that completely cover the field of vision; of the sky, the clouds, with contrasts of light and darkness, provide, depending on their particular aptitude, forms and figures that have to be completed by the observer. Sometimes they form mountains which, of course, are celestial mountains. It is the rocks which, with more intensity, place themselves before us in a restricted field that makes them barely recognisable to us. The fact that in the 21st century a photographer has licence to create informal images is not, in reality, unusual, after more than half a century of pictorial experimentation we know as informalism, and this should not appear unusual to the observer either. What is unusual is a painting like the one by Mathieu Dubus (1590-1665), which conceived a completely informal destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were it not for the figures one can barely make out in the bottom right of the painting which, Jean-Claude Lebensztejn maintains, "in reality represent the stains and fissures that can be seen on an old wall" (fig. 3). Yes, it is the old wall from the lesson of Leonardo, and the one of surrealism which seeks to stimulate the imagination precisely to negate the imitation of nature. In these photographs we can see some old walls, but I do not think they intend to stimulate our imagination, or establish themselves as the object of artistic creation. Rather they are images that allow us to intuit the principle, that irregular mass from which everything will emerge. In these photographs certain textures appear which we can barely touch. The material has made itself present: the hardness and firmness of the rocks, even it sharp and chiselled nature, is combined with the softness of the foam, and contrasts with the ephemeral and volatile nature of the clouds, and with the fragility of the branches of the trees. The foam of the waves look like the leaves on the branches of the trees. Oppositions, complementarity, semblances, contrasts: all the elements in dialogue with each other, to form a unity that is the totality which these 24 photographs aspire to create. It is nature in its other dimension, not the one we perceive with our ordinary eyes, but the one that can only be seen with our inner eyes, the ones that are skilful at capturing the light and the spirit, which it returns to us in its sacredness. Sacred nature, therefore, because we recognise it in the tradition in which we need to place these images, which speak to us from a stillness which has absorbed what otherwise would be invisible. Stop, wave, so that I can see you in all your dimensions and not in mere appearance. Stop, wave, so that I can contemplate you in spirit, which is what animates the world that surrounds us.


Victoria Cirlot