LAST WORK 2006-2009 catalog by Maite Garbayo

Woman cannot be: it is something that does not belong to the order of being.
Julia Kristeva

Every artistic career is inevitably linked to its social context. This is why Txaro Arrazola comments, ironically, that "to count" was forbidden in Basque art in the eighties. Her artistic training under the influence of “Quosque Tandem” and formalism took place at the College of Fine Arts at Leioa, and her work soon began to dodge established cannons and follow the subtle line that divides what will be accepted and what is liable not to be. And she began to count.

Since then her work has been marked by a kind of tension between two poles which the artist sees as opposed: the self as something internal, as an introspective reflection, and the world as a projection which seems to dilute the subject and force it to yield to what is happening outside.

Her work has always surprised me because of its wide variety of means and materials employed, and also because of the apparent lack of continuity between one series and the following. This is inexplicable from the point of view of chronological coherence, but makes sense when seen as a network of minutely interwoven connections which link the painting, the fabric, the object, the installation.

Once again her latest works are placed, at least formally, in the aforementioned duality, a kind of two-pole tension. I would like to concentrate on the patchworks first. It has to be said that a conscious retrieval of working with fabrics and needlecraft techniques have always been present in her work.

Here there is an obvious element of vindication of these ancestral tasks, usually stripped of recognition and limited to the private and the feminine realm. It can’t be denied that it’s not until the end of the XXth Century when these techniques among many others start to be considered as Art. And due to this, such works are in clear confrontation, for example, with painting. But I have the feeling that Txaro Arrazola is above all a painter, and it is for this reason that things begin to come unhinged and that all of a sudden her choices are not as obvious as they seemed to be at first sight. Arrazola has a masterly command of painting technique, and yet she never learnt to sew until she set out to use this medium into her artistic vocabulary. To tell us what?

Havivi Diali (2009) is made of pieces of clothes, scraps of towels, kitchen rags, bedsheets... What they have in common is that they were a part, at some time, of the daily life of the artist. Each patch contains a story, a moment, maybe even a smell, a flavor; there could be multiple evocations. Just as the women who sewed quilts had the power to name, to tell their story by reinventing it, Arrazola plunges into her own self, turns her back to the world and continues to weave plots which she finally decides to keep private. Because they belong to hers, they belong to the terrain of the self.

One of the central debates of feminist art criticism during the seventies has been whether or not there is a specifically feminine way of making art. Lucy Lippard went so far as to define this and endow it with a series of formal characteristics . 1

Following this train of thought I remember that on a certain occasion Arrazola's work was labeled as "feminine". As if at this point art were liable to be sexed or, even worse, essencialized. As if the gender of the artists constituted their destiny to an extent which formally permeated their creations. The deprecatory sense of this statement is grounded in the opposition of “feminine" to art. And if art is only art, feminine art will not be art, but non-art. The hegemonic (masculine) artistic tradition seems to have thought like this for centuries.
And for this reason I sometimes feel that there is a tendency towards reaction in Txaro Arrazola's work. What distinguishes the artist is her capacity to adhere to a language that is aesthetic, and for that reason she employs a medium. When Arrazola reacts she uses painting, and these are the works which, according to her, spring from the self and encroach upon the world, incessantly seeking their place in that which is outside and so perhaps does not belong to us. This desire to find a place on the outside is embodied in big paintings, dark and barren, in which human beings never appear but are consciously omitted. “If I am not there, perhaps I can see no reason to put in the other”. The only thing that seems to matter here is the command of the language of painting, because painting confers the power to name, the key to representation. However, the artist is more present in these images than she herself suspects, because it is her who chooses them. Because it is through them that she exists as subject in the language, and thus in the world. Although not even the images are hers, but borrowed she draws from extrinsic contexts, especially from the mass media. These are images that have already suffered the interference of representation, but which Txaro Arrazola once again interprets her way: by painting. The canvasses are furious, the brushstrokes thick, rapid, secure. I am talking about works like Global Terrorism Events (Target Series) (2004-2009) which display the course of the world by relating the tragic. That which happens in the public arena, far from us, and so ends up being presented as an image, as a representation which thus seems to distance itself from the actual. The artist often calls them "monuments to human stupidity". Through these landscapes she attempts to capture awareness of our presence in a world packed with everyday dramas and insulting inequalities. There is something about them that resorts directly to the spectator's responsibility. Something that tells us her choice is conscious: her art deals with a world that is not an extrinsic entity; it is the artist who is projected into it through a language which she has made her own: the language of representation.

That is why Txaro Arrazola keeps on creating, that is why it doesn't matter if she weaves, paints or welds. That is why in some of her recent work (Barrio Sadam Series, 2008-2009), the images escape from the frame and hang like newly washed clothes for the wind to ruffle. Photographs on fabric which once more seem to portray the extrinsic, but which are really debating between the self and the world, between the private and the public. Feminine? I don't think so. As Lacan rightly said, "Woman doesn't exist" 2. There are women.

1 “A uniform density, or overall texture, often sensuously tactile and repetitive or detailed to the point of obsession; the preponderance of circular forms, central focus; …autobiographical content; animals; flowers;… a new fondness for the pinks and pastels and ephemeral cloud colours that used to be taboo unless a woman wanted to be accused of making “feminine” art” in Lippard, Lucy (1973), “Prefaces to Catalogues of Three Women’s Exhibitions”, in The Pink Glass Swan. Selected Feminist Essays on Art, The New Press, New York, 1995, pp. 57-58.

2 As Jacqueline Rose explains, this statement does not mean that women do not exist, "but that the status of Woman as an absolute category and guarantee of fantasies is false", Feminine Sexuality. Jacques Lacan and the École Freudienne, Eds. Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, London, Macmillan, 1982, p. 48.