The end of the flower

The market´s critique of soft aesthetics brings with it a loss in the fruition of works of art. The surrendering of beauty undermines the sensual delights of the retina: the joy of sensitivity. And it is probably why the relinquishment of beauty in forms has not been completed, neither has the radiance of appearance been extinguished. The eye needs to be lured, according Lacan, to be followed by desire, that dark mechanism that moves the economy of art.
It would therefore be hasty to affirm that art has simply abdicated from aesthetics. It is true that the current conceptual emphasis has gained territory in detriment of sensitivity, and that beauty is no longer a veiled truth. But the aesthetics debated today, is one which proposes complete beauty, reconciled: as the one exposed in screens and shopfronts of publicity and mass media. It is the light version of beauty of global markets: the one which sets aside any conflict between image and object. This model’s critique allows us to reconsider another standard of beauty, one which is not in conflict with the concept, neither pretends to be based solely on harmony and proportion of its parts; on the contrary, it breaks the form’s balance, the synthesis of content and surpasses the restraint of likeness thus exceeding the moderating roles of traditional beauty, creating restlessness on the other side. Mario Perniola vindicates the magnificence, the radical strength of risky beauty. A beauty such that when breaking unity, leaves behind residue and void.

Yuki’s paintings are committed to this line of beauty: a likeness which seems to fulfill form completely, while at the same time hovering with an ambiguous threat over the accomplished. This show could be read as an herbalist catalog, which beyond classifying, exposes medicinal herbs (distinctively Paraguayan) tied up with strings of coconut palm into small bunches, thus showing the adequate dosage. It can also be considered as a taxonomy of thorny, aggressive plants. Or the meticulously drawn pictures of tufts of weeds which need classifying and further studying; perhaps to be named. These different points of view add complexity without a doubt, to the invitation to behold these strange species, hostiles behind an impeccable appearance.
Without doing away with these observations, this text takes as reference flowers painted by Yuki: the confrontation between the smoothness of the lilies shown in their full glory against the decadence of dried branches, the wilting of tired petals.
This is no casual reference: Kant uses the example of a flower to illustrate his idea of beauty, defined as endless end. The flower is beautiful when its form serves its end, its destiny. But that is such a fleeting, ephemeral moment: the specimen starts decaying the moment it reaches its purpose. Hence to preserve its beauty, it must be frozen at the moment of its formal perfection, of the fullness of harmony. The form must be paralyzed for the beholder, cut off at peak of splendor. It must be depicted at this moment: plethoric, barely coming to fulfillment and before the accomplishment of its end. Paralyzed at the moment of whole beauty, the Kantian flower does not fulfill its organic role, (reproduction and death), it remains perfect but useless, safe from the dangers of contingencies but plucked from its natural destiny. This is the model of reconciled beauty debated in current art.
So what happens if the flower is also depicted after being cut? It can no longer fulfill its reproductive role (it remains sterile, useless), but it cannot avoid the result of being organic: decomposition. The term end means as much purpose as finality: referring to fulfillment as well as death. What then happens with the appearance of the withered petals? The dying flower responds to another paradigm of beauty which doesn’t mean the coronation of full presence, but the splendor of what’s missing. The expression of art must accept the loss of the intact form and resign itself to behold the restricted beauty of its own limitations. Contemporary beauty is threatened by the anguish of a void; what cannot come to pass other than through its demise, as foretold absence in the languid colors fading away, in the dusk of perfect form. Contemporary beauty feeds perversely from this sentence which never fulfills its execution. In this zone of awaiting (of threats, of hope) flourish contingent and anguished forms. (The Guaranies call this “poty” flower, the manifestation of beauty, represented in bunches of feather petals which make their ceremonial headpieces glow, and which so often are faded, dissected by the drama of difference at withdrawal).

Ticio Escobar, 2007

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