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Image of Through True Stone by Damian Ortega
Damián Ortega, Through / True Stone. Photo © Dr Jim Roseblade

Damian Ortega

Works exhibited: Through / True Stone, Estructura de Ensamble.

‘Through’ and ‘true’ are near homophones but they contradict one another as qualifiers of ‘stone’. This recent assemblage by Damián Ortega is characteristic of the Mexican artist’s playful exploration of the relationship between language and materials.

From one angle the three sculptural elements look like naturally shaped rocks, while from another they are revealed as artefacts enclosing perfectly cylindrical columns of air. What had seemed solid is now empty, heaviness becomes lightness, the real is illusory.

The rocks vanish from our consciousness, and sculpture takes their place; in some sense, we are the agents of this change, as our expectations about the three objects are altered, as with the flick of a switch, determining how we frame them, how long we look at them, how much or how little weight we attach to them, how much or how little importance they hold for us.

The time we spend at an exhibition is one kind of time, more or less removed from the chronometrically regulated time in which we spend most of our lives. It is time slowed down, time which expands, time which seems to retreat from time itself. Ortega’s Estructura de Ensamble creates a space for this experience, literally as well as metaphorically.

The stacked layers of his composition convert into sculpture the utilitarian components of an everyday mechanism: the prime mechanism of the everyday, the mechanism of the watch. These beautifully engineered objects are greatly magnified versions of the cogs and wheels that allow time to be measured. Clockwork has been transformed into an artwork, its movement stilled, its presence in time translated as presence in space.

The rearrangement of the relations in which these elements usually find themselves is an invitation to a different experience of time, a different order of priorities, one which makes us linger before we return, perhaps with reluctance, to the rhythms the sculpture must remind us of, even as it undoes them.

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