A PARADISE. Oils by Teresa Vallmajó. Sant Martirià 2022

Comments on “The art of geography. Yi-Fu Tuan” by Professor Joan Nogué (see video).

This exhibition presents Teresa Vallmajó’s most significative work in the 21st century, from the moment it first bears witness to the inflection of her language in 2004 as far as 2021. Her work concentrates on her own everyday life within her household, depicting mainly vases of flowers which may be fresh, fading or drying, still lifes and fruit on a table. 

“My room -my house- is a haven , a little world that is created to protect me from threatening nature”. With this phrase the great humanist Yi-Fu Tuan commences an essay on the notion of culture perceived as escape, Escapism, as a flight on the part of the human being, vulnerable and conscious of his own vulnerability, towards the perceptible and measurable ambiance of one’s own interior. From our own homes or theme parks to religions or daydreams or drugs... constructions which man has undertaken on Earth in order to control the tellurian and inhuman forces of nature and which have often opened up the gates of Hell (what is the present climate crisis but an apocalyptic landslide set in motion by man on earth?), but also those of Paradise. To recognize this paradise, this “non hell”, as Italo Calvino humbly said, makes it last in time and gives it a place, this is the great gesture of an intellectual, of a creator who inhabits the world of here and now.  In this sense, Yi-Fu Tuan himself stands as a model when, in his intercultural fusion between the Confucianism of his native land and the intellectual Christianity of his adopted Oxford, he commented to a friend that the most important thing which remained to him of his 45 years of study and reading was goodness. I dare conclude that the master referred to the much-lamented old trinomial of “goodness, truth and beauty”, the paideia which would allow the strengthening of the democratic shared life of the polis, a sort of fortress which safeguards us from hell and which for modern man begins in the simple interior of a “room of one’s own”.

For Teresa, as for Virginia Woolf after observing her immediate surroundings in Cambridge, like Yi Fu Tuan after studying in and loving the place and space where his body was situated from Tientsin to Wisconsin, it is in retreating within her studio that she creates. Already at an early age, in an interview at “Los sitios” in 1973, Teresa declared that she was wary of the landscape genre, of the plein air that the impressionists had exalted to the heights of the art hierarchy and which at Banyoles had arrived with Manel Pigem. For her, painting views of the lake with the easel planted before one like an explorer's landmark was rather a ”desertion”, and she preferred then, as she still does today, flowers, portraits in the intimacy of her studio, objects placed on her table, still lifes, which does not mean they are lifeless, but at rest, which means above all an inner landscape. In another book, Place, Art and Self, a little book, as the author would have it, an “exploratory essay that gives the reader room to argue and develop ideas of his or her own” , Yi-Fu Tuan turns every work of art into a place, a virtual place which allows the individual to take root in welcoming earth and grow and give depth to the being, to one's self. “I tend to pause longer before portraits than landscapes”, the geographer confides in the same book, or Vermeer's interiors, because “sunlight pouring into a room full of well-cared for objects- a water jar here, a mandolin there, a map on the wall – invites one to dream of civilized comfort that combines cozy intimacy with hints of a capacious world beyond”. It is to those curiously arranged objects that Teresa has given up hours of work in an interior, in her studio in Carrer Major number 3, succeeding in evoking the materiality of what is present, but above all of a world of absences, of flowers which are of necessity already dead in some corner. “To see what is not there is rooted in the foundations of every human culture” ("Escapism"), or even as our own Ramon Llull said: “Say, fool, what thing is amazing. I replied: to love more absent things than those present, and to love more visible, corruptible, things than those invisible, incorruptible.” (Llibre d’Amic e d’Amat).