The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Friday, November 16, 2018

Romanesque Sculptures by Tacita Dean at Museo Reina Sofia
Tacita Dean, "The Friar's Doodle", 2010. Courtesy: The Artist, Frith Street Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris.

MADRID.- The monumental cycle of Romanesque sculptures in the cloister at Santo Domingo de Silos has long attracted visitors, including generations of artists. When Tacita Dean made her first visit there, many features in this historic complex engaged her attention, not least the Gregorian service of Vespers with which the monks end the day. Some months later, she returned in order to study more closely doodles and graffiti on and around the cloister’s colonnade, marks that she imagined might have been made over the centuries by the abbey’s inhabitants as they whiled away their hours in lonely seclusion.

As often in Dean’s practice, an image or chance encounter becomes a mnemonic palimpsest. Resonating in her imagination, it sets off a train of allusions that prompts recent as well as more distant memories. Perhaps the most far-reaching of the many references generated by Silo’s cloister was of an elaborate black and white doodle drawn decades earlier when Dean, a schoolgirl, attended weekly Mass with its maker: a young friar studying theology at the nearby university. Tellingly, if perhaps unaccountably, she had kept his drawing safely lodged inside a book as if she intended to do something with it, one day…. Among more recent memories was one involving a sheet of paper covered with intertwined pencil marks. As Giorgio Morandi obsessively arranged bottles and vessels on the worktable in his studio in order to compose his still life paintings, he kept track of their shifting placement by the simple device of tracing their footprints. With its mysterious tracery of intersecting lines, neither random nor strictly ordered, this much used under-sheet became the subject of a film Dean made in TK titled “Still Life”.

Yet another of her works, “Lord Byron Died” (2003), also came to mind during that second research trip to Silos. Comprised of a suite of six black and white photographs, it is based on photographs Dean made of ancient signatures she discovered, by chance, while searching for Byron’s autograph in the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion in 1989. Although she set all this material aside for almost fifteen years, the seeds of what has proven an abiding interest in graphic traces - doodles, graffiti and the like - took root during that year in Greece on an exchange fellowship. (Prior to graduating from Falmouth School of Art in 1988 she had written her thesis on the work of Cy Twombly, a premonition of - or precondition for? - these nascent interests.)

Miguel Sobrino, an historian long interested in Spanish medieval architecture, contends that the heterogeneous engravings Dean shot at Silos have diverse origins. Some are mason’s marks, records of work done by individual craftsmen on the basis of which payment for their services was calculated. Others, which look like rudimentary game boards, were probably inscribed by the stone cutters as they amused themselves while waiting for the moment when their newly carved columns, still lying on the ground, would be inserted into the building’s fabric. Yet others, which may be rough sketches of ornamental schemes for the cloister, attest to the ready availability of stone as a convenient surface in an era when supplies of paper were scarce and expensive. By contrast, others which incorporate text and, even, signatures may have been made centuries later, possibly during a period when the monastery’s buildings, no longer occupied by the clergy, provided temporary winter quarters for the local farmers’ animals or storage for their crops.

Although at Silos such activities seem to have been comparatively rare, monks certainly made graffiti and doodles, as Dean had speculated. The monks at Pamplona, for example, were (famously) chastised for indulging in aimless activity (rather than for defacing the surfaces of an architectural masterpiece). Damage and defilement were hardly an issue at Silos, however, Sobrino contends, for this tapestry of ancient incisions, limned when the building was under construction, would have disappeared beneath the layers of lime and bright pigment that were routinely applied to all the carved surfaces.

No longer clandestine, this record of serendipitous impulses evokes lives lived in seclusion according to rigid temporal intervals, freighted with frequent periods of isolation. Patinaed by a combination of aging and natural cycles, the marks have acquired stories of their own, part of a vernacular history that, often unnoticed, evolves in tandem with the more official versions charted by landmark artefacts and architecture.

In “The Friar’s Doodle (2010), Dean has used a rostrum camera so that the film is comprised of pans, as opposed to the static shots which were formerly a hallmark of her work. Cut on the movement, this material has been edited to follow closely the drawing’s intricate meandering profiles. At no point does the camera pull back to reveal the elaborate composition in its totality. Seen cumulatively, as it were – in fragments, over time - the surrealistic composition can be known fully only in the mind’s eye. Dean’s refractory manner of revealing the original image serves, metaphorically, to underline the protracted processes of discovery required to decipher the bigger picture inscribed in Silos’s fabric. For the carved and etched subjects in the photographic inventory which Dean shot during her second visit to Silos offer a sometimes indecipherable, often fractured record that undermines any presumption that history might be singular, solid and sealed. This archive becomes a visual analogue of day dreams, musings and flights of fantasy that, while fixed in the past, is nonetheless familiar and accessible: kin to our own everyday, speculative forays that drift outside time, with no discernible endings. While “The Friar’s Doodle” similarly attests to the persistence of intuitive impulses that drive us to position ourselves within the lexical discourses of history, it also invites reflection on the interpretative mechanisms we deploy to decode their graphic residues.

Born in Canterbury, England in 1965, Tacita Dean attended Falmouth School of Art, 1985-1988, and the Slade School of Art in London, 1990-1992. Following a fellowship at the DAAD in Berlin in 2000 she has continued to live and work there. Since 1989 Dean has exhibited internationally. Among her major solo shows are exhibitions at MACBA, Barcelona, 2001; Schaulager, Basle, 2006 and Dia:Beacon, New York, 2008.

Museo Reina Sofia | Santo Domingo de Silos | Tacita Dean | Romanesque Sculptures |

Today's News

March 23, 2010

Johann Sebastian Bach Archive Center in Leipzig Reopens After Two Years of Renovation

Photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe Donated to Italian Museums

Major 20th-Century Works Enter Cantor Arts Center Collection

Mark S. Siegel Elected to Succeed Louise Bryson as Chair of Getty Board

Claremont Rug Company to Exhibit "Awe-Inspiring" Collection

Installation of Spiders Weaving Stars by Tomas Saraceno in Italy

New York City's Newest Art Space Opens With Rauzier 'Hyperphotos' Exhibition

Ship Bell from Lord Louis Mountbatten's HMS Kelly for Sale at Bonhams

New Works on Paper by Marine Hugonnier Inaugurate Max Wigram Gallery

SFMOMA to Offer a Fresh Look at Seminal 1975 Photography Exhibition

Documents Concerning Auschwitz Guards Found at a Nearby House

Romanesque Sculptures by Tacita Dean at Museo Reina Sofia

Design and the Art of Reduction at the Vitra Design Museum

Bonhams New York Presents An Important Private Maritime Collection This Spring

PAFA's Board of Trustees Approves Design Concepts for Lenfest Plaza

Curious George Saves the Day at the Jewish Museum

Field Museum Archaeologists Amend the Written History of China's First Emperor

Daniel Sheehy Named Director of Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Endowment for the Arts Announces Research on Informal Arts Participation in Rural and Urban Areas

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- TEFAF New York Fall 2018 opens to strong attendance and robust sales

2.- Christie's announces auction of Magnificent Jewels and the concurrent Jewels Online Auction

3.- French court finds Jeff Koons guilty of plagiarism

4.- Papers of the exiled Stuart kings published online for the first time

5.- New exhibition explores relationship between British and Russian royal dynasties

6.- Wes Anderson presents box of 'treasures' from Viennese vaults

7.- Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies present...The Dark Side of Hollywood

8.- Hopper, de Kooning, Gorky and Stella hit new auction records in New York

9.- Old Master? Cave paintings from 40,000 years ago are world's earliest figurative art

10.- Cat mummies, animal statues discovered in Egypt sarcophagi

Related Stories

Johnny Depp: "Looking at a Painting by Pablo Picasso is Like Drinking a Glass of Wine"

Object Strategies Between Readymade and Spectacle at Museo Reina Sofia

Museo Reina Sofia Explores the Extraordinary Production of Drawings by Martín Ramírez

Pierre Huyghe's La saison des fetes at Museo Reina Sofia

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

Check out for a range of beautifully designed online slot games.

Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful