Memòria

 

This series is a continuation of my previous work Memòria, based upon the poetry of Salvador Espriu. Espriu, born in Santa Coloma de Farners in 1913, was acknowledged as the great poet of post-civil war Spain. His literary opus soon became a symbol of the peaceful resistance and the hopes of post-war Catalonia. He had been the great hope of the short story in Catalan before the civil war, but after that event, he chose to go into an 'internal exile' in which he decided to contribute towards 'saving our words' so that for him it was necessary to start anew.

Espriu turned to poetry because among other reasons it allowed him to elude the uncultured Spanish censorship of the time. His mission was to make his language sing and survive the years when Franco insisted that a unified Spain required a single tongue and forbade the use of other national languages – i.e. Catalan. His work is a long meditation on death and on the passing of the time that leads us to that end.

In a virtual, electronic age, I believe in the enduring importance of paper and photographs. Old photographs—discarded, discovered in junk shops, found in flea markets—capture moments in long-forgotten stories. Forgotten lives. The photos in this series, found in various Barcelona markets, both intrigue me and leave me feeling melancholy. I find myself wondering “Who are these people? What is the story behind this photo? Where did they live? How did they live? Did they suffer through a life of hardship and brutality under Franco? How did the photo end up here, among the detritus of other lives, now likely long gone?”

This work suggests these stories. The text, composed of excerpts from Espriu’s poetry, captures the imagined facts or emotional tone of the photograph. I use paper from various sources, typically old books, to capture the texture of everyday life and the effect of aging. The appearance of the paper—printed, typed, or handwritten, discolored, stained, or creased—makes the paper visually interesting, and is a reminder that time is a part of every story.

These pieces have layered meaning. In the most literal sense, through Espriu’s verse, they are a celebration of words, the survival of the Catalan language after years of censorship and repression. However, they are also deliberately ambiguous, offering subtle suggestion, hinting at death, the passing of time, and exploring themes of loneliness, longing and desire. Paper in a foreign language reminds us that we can never know the complete story. Torn and incomplete pieces of old paper, excerpts from poems, suggest the fleeting, fragmentary but enduring nature of Memory.

© Cynthia Grow 2019

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