Elena Alonso describes the appearance of her most recent work as an offering of bones, jacks, stones, sticks, shells and other motley objects cast at random to be read by fortune tellers. According to such primitive practices, the casual form that the array of objects falls into adopts a sort of cryptic message that the initiated person interprets for the community, hereby revealing aspects of the occult, of the cause of evils, of future and fate, the face offered by destiny… But what design do these recent drawings by the artist predict? What do they tell us about what we do not know? What do they reveal or show? Well, in principle it is quite difficult to imagine that these images, so carefully constructed and composed, perfectly drawn, reveal more than a kind of self-indulgence with uncertainty. Perhaps this can explain them: in their refined, exquisite stiffness, what they repress with their paralysis is the very thing that is evidenced: the staging of a world both static and ecstatic. The paralyzing perfection of a plan conducted without waste or corrections, as proposed by Elena Alonso, simply makes one’s blood run cold. No burrs, no surveys, no refutation in the certain path that the artist follows from the moment that she is in front of the paper until the completion of the work. This is something unique in our days, as far as I know, that excludes any instrumental version of the drawing to get to build its images, even the most ambitious and complex, as closed and entire units from the very beginning, without a rectification process. “Pittore senza errori”, said Vasari about the stylistic perfection of Andrea del Sarto. In the case of Elena, we would say drawings without errors, without hesitation or mistakes, without the need to fit one form into another (for instance, in the medium used for her drawings), or the shuffling of lines following different paths that the Venetian model of the disegno esterno proposed in the sixteenth century in opposition to the clear lines of his Florentine colleagues, predominantly linked to the Idea.
The work of this artist has a deep Apollonian character. We can imagine her as the most merciless
persecutor of the shadow line, armed with her drawing instruments: surgical stylus and scalpels relentlessly separating the visible from the mental, the possible from the ideal, the invisible from the unreal ... Concealed within her compositions, there is measure and order. All is controlled and measured, balancing every step and every appearance of a form with the rest, until at last, and with few syntactic elements brought into play in a nearly empty space, the perfect harmony of the objects cast in the air is sustained—although in this exhibition there are some of the more complex drawings from the formal point of view. Since ancient times, mankind has wanted to see its fate written in the sky. But such voice, crystallized in the hands of Elena Alonso, acquires more the meaning of a pentagram, a kind of notational system where the viewer will have to read perfect music, like the one Platonist dreamed that emanated from the spheres.
The recent sets of drawings that she presents here underline the conceptual support of the drawing: she offers us, once again, abstract ideas turned into harsh and untranslatable images, and yet delicate and of a subtle sensuality, but definitely of a mental nature. Her work stands up strongly to many of the topics in the present-day that we associate, out of inertia, with the making of a drawing: first, to the processes (hers, I insist, is more than any other a final work from the start); then, to the formula of a discipline based in language-concepts (in her case, it is phenomenally disconcerting to follow this path), and finally, to the precariousness of the means (only the intarsia and the inlay of semiprecious stones can be compared to the sophisticated finish of her pieces).
The Egyptian air of her latest images also depends on this. The distribution of the heterogeneous elements in these drawings, tightly submitted to structural layouts which are frequently part of the compositions in a set-leading position, force the set to adopt a reticular distribution on a flat background, without overlaps announcing the perspective and under the rule of coding. The result appears as flat and dotted (signs, lines and segments, shapes, and three-dimensional figures) of a very briefly alluded corporeality, in the manner of bas-reliefs, distributed in a symmetric and static way, even forced and stiff.
But beyond the formal level, whose mortifying figure we could embody in that disconcerting mummified triangle, wrapped in bandages that repeat it and preserve it, we perceive in the new works by Elena Alonso the annulment of the temporal dimension that, according to Mario Perniola, characterizes the Egyptian nature of some contemporary art: “hence the impression of an enigmatic synchronicity and almost fullness of time that the Egyptian productions inspire.” For the Italian philosopher, this relates not only to the contraction of the past, “but to the enigmatic presence of both past and present, which excludes the possibility of expressing the lived moment and of going back to a arché, a beginning, a source.”
And indeed, the error-free writing of Elena Alonso does not refer to any original source: what language could these drawings be translated into, these drawings that are suspended in time, in the air, in a half unseen pentagram that is both figure and background? As in many of her previous sets of drawings, she seems to build a complex and inaccessible system to record, organize, classify and archive the given, without neglecting irony and absurdity, but after an enormous seriousness. All that careful arrangement and formal implementation is more characteristic of the index, of a certain cataloguing, that of the expansion of the writing itself. But, watch out, we should not forget that even the indexes where the further contents of the works (what has already been said) are advertised concisely, and systematically arranged, form a literary genre with its specific rules and formulae, with its maniera… “The inventory”, to continue quoting Perniola, “is therefore connected with a conceptual and organizational activity that, according to new perspectives, cuts the past. It is therefore an approach that is the opposite of the static notarial custody of tradition. The completeness of time does not involve at all the registration and approval of the Universe, but otherwise, it predisposes it to an unlimited number of cataloguing.” So be it, then. Let us hope that Elena will continue trying to achieve it through her cycles and sets of drawings of such an astonishing perfection.