Of Medication and Things.
By Rodrigo Alonso
Roma Blanco's works of art exhibit a singular obsession with the universe of medication. Pills, capsules and caplets, with a wide range of shapes and colours, multiply in her work, adopting visual configurations with deep allegoric and symbolic resonance. Although we tend to relate the world of medication with healthcare, Blanco sees some connotations that rather point to the inner mechanism of contemporary lifestyle, our trust and fears, the unsolved dialectics between body and spiritualism.
There are two main motivations for the use of medication. On the one hand, it is used to ease or kill pain, to prolong body resistance and, with it, the length of our organic life. On the other hand, it is frequently used to stimulate different forms of arousal or pleasure, through momentary interference of our motor skills, our reflex or normal state of consciousness. In the first case, there is a feeling of wanting to leave the body behind, to silence it; in the second case, there is a will to transcend it – even if drugs have an effect on it. In both cases, there is a sense of denial of the limitations of the body, and a will to project beyond it. This movement has both mental and metaphysical tones, and this is where Roma Blanco bases her production.
This line of work appears strongly in her project called Curandera (Healer), of 2013. A text written for its exhibition establishes that a healer is “a person that can heal the physical body through the spirit”, thus questioning the infallibility of science. The word itself manifests the irreverence with which the therapeutic virtues of medication are set aside in order to question its materiality and metaphor, its shapes and social effects.
Medicine can lead the way to restore the bodily functions balance, but true healing is largely based on trust and faith. It should be added that medication is almost seen as a fetish in the capitalist society. Its use and exchange value are largely exceeded by cultural and symbolic projections that grant them a survival significance (and its inevitable counterpart: the denial of death.) This is why there is a touch of religion and transcendence in medication.
Roma Blanco's work highlights these signifiers. When she transforms pills into jewellery, she praises their fetishistic nature: they are unique, but an everyday element; they are banal, but admirable. Likewise, she brings forward the elegance of their shape, implying that the attention devoted to their creation matches up with the extraordinary nature of their influence over the people who take them.
On the other hand, the artist uses caplets and capsules as units to put together some beautiful, circular, decorative compositions, halfway between Eastern mandalas and rose windows in churches and cathedrals. Again, it is impossible to avoid references to faith and the soul. In some occasions, Blanco uses these patterns to cover large wall surfaces that move the emphasis from the indifference of the serial product to the attractive shapes of her work. It is viewers themselves who, when coming closer or moving away, establish the quality of their bond: between admiration for the delicate combination of shapes and apathy caused by repetition.
In recent works, the artist goes beyond the spell of the visual appearance of medication and plunges into the hidden symbology of its chemical formula. We should rather say she replaces one wonder for another. In her drawings and gouaches, the succession of circles, lines and hexagons creates whimsical and playful universes, with an artistic attraction that puts the accuracy of scientific language aside. Like a capricious demiurge, Blanco plays with the secretive language of reality coded in this language, indifferent to the consequences of her acts. Is she creating some sort of product with unimaginable curative properties? Is this some sort of destructive or fatal potion?
When talking about her referents, Blanco quotes a meaningful phrase by Gorgias de Leontino: “The effect of speech is comparable to the power of drugs.” Isn't the word of a god that establishes or creates a new reality equally powerful? In her investigation of chemical formulas, Blanco finds a new path that redirects her towards religion, spirituality and magic. A path that explores secret languages as places of deep emanations, of uncertainty and bewilderment.
At the same time, her work leans towards almost the extreme opposite, towards the instant pleasure that ornaments offer. Isn't there an underlying reference to hedonism and escape, representative values of our contemporary society? “Lack of ornamentation is a sign of spiritual strength,” declared Alfred Loos in his famous essay called Ornament and Crime (1908). Evidently, our era does not display such strength. It rather displays energy contained in capsules and hope focused on the words of the psychologist, the healer or the doctor.