An ink Tear

Graciela Kartofel (Art historian, art critic and curator)

The convoluted images created by Catalina Chervin –typically Argentine, yet of universal comprehension– have found contemporary ways, both conscious and unconscious, revitalizing  the Firs Surrealist Manifesto issued seventy-five years ago. Thus Argentina, a country with little indigenous existence, with few elements giving it identity, traditionally Europe-oriented, is enriched by an artist coming from the Argentine province of Corrientes, of Russian descent. Elegance distinguishes her total production, to the minutest detail of the smallest sketch. Her surrealistic semifigurative drawings –portraits of women, occasionally of men– lay bare the interwoven union of the visceral and the spiritual. More than works with a subject or related subjects, they are fissures of the earth, memories of universal suffering Freudian deliveries.

Chervin´s drawings are not planned or sketched. Each one is a process of surrender in the field of automatism. With devotion the artist has entered inner worlds through her tales of emotion, now and then caressing the bark of her genealogical tree and surprising herself before unknown historical signs, drawing what sensations dictate. One year after participating in a brief artists´ residence in New York, Catalina Chervin has been able to conceive what many good artists seek and very few barely glimpse: an original aesthetics expressing elements of identity with no trace of the picturesque, and a language of universal significance.

In her latest works –produced between my first and second visit to her Buenos Aires studio, in August of 1997 and March of 1998, respectively– something new emerged. I was impressed like a so called “atmosphere”, but more than that something obstinately unique. I did not give up my analysis, studying the whole and its parts, the rhythm and tonalities, the ingress of a fourth color and its corresponding tonal gouaches: everything appeared legible. It was clear that the discordant, singular note was not given by the reddish tone conversing with the white, the black of the grey, but the textures and plastic gestures. A diminutive spot in one of the works and a fingerprint in another offered the clue: the reds are a sanguine exudate. Form then on a torrent of associations rushed forth: textiles, cowskin, humidity, blood, textiles, cowskin, sacrifice, life, death, maternity, torture, menstruation, woman, man, animal. Traces... Argentine history.

New York, April 1998


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