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Exhibition by Estefanía Martín Saenz at Gema Llamazares

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«Behind the mask»

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On 15 May 1886, one of the most outstanding writers of world literature, Emily Dickinson, died in Massachusetts. It was with her, as with so many others forgotten by history, that it would be a long time before her work and writings were recognized and her name appeared in the genealogies of modern literature. The case of Dickinson is even more serious, since until not long ago she had been portrayed as a frivolous, uninteresting woman without a shred of distinctive creation. And yet, as the researchers Ana Mañeru and María Milagros Rivera have pointed out, the writer’s work contains a message that runs counter to the conventions of the time, especially when her poems are read in their original version, respecting the female gender that she constantly uses.


Thus we discover that her words are addressed to another woman, a very close one, Susan Huntington Gilbert, a friend from her adolescence and Dickinson’s sister-in-law, who would become her editor and even the person she shrouded and dressed at the American poet’s funeral.

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In an exercise in synaesthesia, Estefanía Martín Sáenz (Bilbao, 1982) transfers Emily’s words to the canvas and to the line of the drawing, giving them a new dimension where the visual and the literary go hand in hand. The artist’s interest in transforming literary stories led her earlier to create parallel universes for Las Ausentes, those female figures from the usual stories that only appear in a glancing, half hidden way. With this project she won the DKV-MAKMA Prize, recovering John’s mother without fear, the Witch of the East from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Mrs. Miller from ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ and Susanna, Joan and Anne from The Delicate Princesses. Or in M. Shelley’s The Girls, where he contributed new imaginaries of the monstrous from the perspective of female creation.

It was precisely this whole body of research by Estefanía that interested me most as a curator. Her work is expressed through canvases that she buys and intervenes in; beyond the blank canvas, Sáenz’s drawings and paintings expand to reach already historic canvases and give them a new meaning. Her protagonists seem to come out of the canvas, spread out on the canvas through drawing or the thread that the artist sews. The artist finds inspiration in Dickinson’s poems, which accompany many of the pieces in the exhibition, and the resulting figures are, precisely, somewhat unsettling, parapetted behind a mask that hides faces or hands. They are poetic metaphors that can be understood by reading between the lines, just like the American writer’s poems.

This exhibition at the Gema Llamazares gallery presents a completely new production by Sáenz, which is also premiered here in his first individual exhibition at the art gallery. It seems as if the classic opposition between poetry and painting, ut pictura poesis, finds a comfortable place here to settle down and resolve itself. An exhibition around the word and the visual to approach and enter fully the creative universe of Estefania.
Text: Semíramis González, curator.

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Estefanía Martín Saenz

Exhibition: 1-600

Viewing her works at Galería Llamazares


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