Ignatius is a visual artist with a deep sense of commitment to his project to deconstruct traditional patriarchal archetypes of the feminine. His complex, three-dimensional collages search for authenticity in the portrayal of women through a two-step process: deconstruction and reconstruction. During the deconstructive phase of his work, Ignatius physically tears up traditional representations of the female form in the effort to strip away traditional patriarchal signifiers. During the reconstructive process, he proceeds to combine painting, sculpture, and installation to create strictly feminine signifiers that further unmask man-made myths of women.
The artist believes that we live in the age of the “flat screen”: a time, when technology renders us passive consumers of experience rather than its active participants. To thwart the status quo, he creates a multisensory experience that breaks the monotony of the flat plane and forces the viewer to “enter” the piece and actively engage with it. In order to enjoy the work, the spectator must examine it from different angles and distances. In this way, Ignatius encourages us to question the “flat” and shallow societal construct of the feminine and consider its mysterious, nuanced and elusive nature.
Where and when did you grow up?
I was born on the 5th of December in Madrid, Spain.
I studied to be a doctor, receiving my Ph.D. in Medicine from the Autonomous University of Madrid. I also studied Visual Art (Spanish Informalism), and Philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid.
What role did women play in your life when you were a child?
My mother was a biologist, but she stayed at home after she started having children. I am the eldest of 6 brothers and sisters. I never asked her if that decision was hard. I’ve always felt protected, loved and safe in the company of women. Women were never a mystery for me, they were the same as men: same strength, same spirit… but more beautiful.
When and how did you realize you were an artist?
My father was a painter and a mathematician. He introduced me to Spanish Informalism (Abstract Expressionism is its equivalent in the USA) when I was a very young boy. From the beginning of my painting career, I related to the Informalist movement and its members: artists like Lucio Muñoz, Antonio Tapies, Paso Group (Canogar, Saura, Millares, Feito, and Juana Frances). One day, when I was a teenager, I felt the best way to express and share real emotions was through my painting. But I didn’t realize I was an artist at this moment, actually, I am still not sure where the line is between an artist and a non-artist. What I am sure about, is that Art dignifies human beings.
What made you see the feminine as a major theme in your work? Was it a specific experience, or your general upbringing and interests?
Some years ago, I did a medical collaboration in Kenya with the Maasai ethnic group. Part of my work consisted in trying to eradicate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In the area where I was located this practice extended to more than 95% of the women. Since then, one of my main obsessions has been understanding why some cultures came to develop these kinds of gender-related brutal practices, without any apparent reason for doing so. I thought that if we were able to understand their objective, we could also perhaps help in changing the beliefs that created the practice. I asked myself what the essence of femininity was, and then a lot of questions arose. But, when I realized that almost all the images of women we see in the last 8000 years of painting history have been fundamentally represented through patriarchal myths, I decided to find a way to express the feminine essence stripped of all patriarchal signifiers.
Has your work surprised you in any way? Has it transformed you or made you question your own masculinity? If so, please elaborate.
My artwork always surprised me. If not, I would probably stop painting. We, my works and me, have kind of a ’lovers’ relationship because they don’t copy any other reality, they are real themselves. My paintings are born inside the complex mesh of thoughts and actions that make up the society in which I live. At this point, I believe that we are living under the dictatorship of the internet and that it has open the door to the age of “total screen.” We live in a time when reality has been substituted by its image. So, in my works, I try to provide the counterpoint to our reality. I want to break the monotony of the flat plane and make my artwork in three dimensions, so the spectator must examine it from different angles and distances. This forces the spectator to be present in the piece while contemplating it.
Of course, my masculinity has been transformed by my artworks, especially because now I know that we can’t represent the idea of the feminine or masculine nature without referring to its opposite. In the same way that we tacitly evoke the convex when we think about a concave form, or of clarity when we conjure up the darkness, when we mention the feminine, the masculine inevitably lurks – and vice versa. If this were not the case, we would be talking about hermaphrodites and there would be no need to introduce the concepts of male and female at all.
How do your representations of the female form differ from traditional representations of women by men?
The first difference comes from my own conviction that the symbolic meaning of a pictorial image is not what that image represents. This meaning is, above all, the sum of all the complex cultural connotations that exist at the time when the work is conceived. Because of this, it doesn’t make much sense to merely ask if a piece is or isn’t a work of “Art.” Instead, the question should be: “What is being communicated in the piece?” For example, the patriarchate started a new order constructed from the relationship coitus/ reproduction, and three different forms of representing “women” arose:
1. The Myth of the Virgin: Women who have children without sex… spiritual followers
2. The Myth of the Lover: Women who have sex avoiding having children… the bad lady, the snake
3. The Myth of the Mother: Women who have sex focusing on reproduction… the maternal women who create societies
Since then, in the last 8000 years, the feminine nature has been fundamentally represented through these patriarchal points of view, even though images of actual, real women were often used.
“Essences of the Feminine” is the pictorial series that I am showing now at the Agora Gallery. I began it by stripping the canvas bare in an act of deconstruction, to free the work of any prejudices or preconceived forms. In this way, I believe in the utopia of free will. After this, a reconstruction process converts the canvas into an expansive, three-dimensional creation.
In your work, the female body is fragmented and, perhaps, de-personalized. Can you tell us more about that?
During the reconstruction process, without the canvas, I try to break down all these myths creating new forms using natural materials.
Besides that, every artwork incorporates one or several photographic compositions that fuse both feminine and masculine images. These appear in poses that are poetically opposed to each other. This provides an allegory for the principal motive of the work. They are cynical representations of the female condition perverted by the patriarchal system.
Then, in the space between the original myth and the reconstruction, a new critical view of femininity is born. And also, a debate. On the other hand, I always keep in mind a quote by the American philosopher Judith Butler: “There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender… identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results”. Your behavior creates your gender.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Here there are 11 of my favorite artists, including a quote that inspire me: Amedeo Modigliani, Mark Rothko, Marcel Duchamp, Kazimir Malévich, Antoni Tapies, Damien Hirst, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Kruger, Judy Chicago, Sarah Lucas, and Francis Picabia, who said: “If you want to have clean ideas, change them as often as your shirt.”
Do you think of your work as paintings, collages, sculptures, or installations?
This is an interesting question because my paintings fuse with collages and sculpture.
I agree with Ludwig Wittgenstein who said: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” I don’t want to limit my visual language. Definitely, they are paintings but, above it, they are pieces of art, there to start a dialogue.
How did you settle on Ignatius as your artist name?
Ignatius is a name of Etruscan origin. It means “fiery.” My birth name is Ignacio, and my artworks try to burn prejudices away. Angela, an artist and also my wife and muse, and I started working on the idea of аrt without prejudices a long time ago. We decided that Ignatius was a perfect name with which to sign my work.
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This post is also available in: Spanish