Image of the artists working on 'Liber without Toga' patinated bronze, 78 x 58 x 35 cm
Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or just standing in the street with a megaphone; there has never been so many ways to make yourself heard as what the 21st century has to offer. The more connected we become, the more reports of loneliness and alienation crowd us out. The ever-present hum of tweets, cancellations and hot takes can leave us cocooned away from our own thoughts and the people around us. Whilst we may artificially seal ourselves away from our emotions, artistic works such as the striking sculptures of the Spanish hyperrealist duo Joan Coderch & Javier Malavia reflect our raw humanity back at us; punching through the walls of our digital oubliettes.
'Revive' patinated bronze, 34 x 49 x 30 cm
In 'Revive', Coderch & Malavia use the human body at extremis as a potent window into the tectonic crash of unrestrained elemental emotion: fear and joy, terror and pleasure. The figure is contorted in the grip of some indescribable explosion of feeling: the body fully bent back at the knees as if diving backwards into the earth, whilst the feet and calves strain up, turning the body into an angular wave of rigid flesh. The face is a death mask in reverse: the shadowy caves of the mouth and eyes seem to be taking an immense, shuddering breath inward; animating a body that’s corpse white sheen belies the energy shooting through it. In stark contrast to the wrenching energy of rest of the sculpture are the hands - raised in gentle supplication. Coderch & Malavia has always primarily worked in bronze and in 'Revive' they allow that base metal to shine through these praying hands, almost as if shock of bronze is life rushing back into body through the pleading limbs. The pair’s approach to hyperrealist sculpture brings us face to face with the kind of explosive emotion we are all capable of, yet modern life sees us tamp down. By confronting the mental through the extremes of the physical we are faced by our humanity in almost mythological terms.
'Haiku' patinated bronze, 100 x 20 x 40 cm
& 'Liber without Toga' patinated bronze, 78 x 58 x 35 cm
It is this fusing of ancient myth with our present selves that fully comes to the fore in 'Liber without Toga': a patinated bronze work, depicting the Roman God Liber (an equivalent deity to Bacchus) in the middle of a whirling dance. Once again, the bronze shows through on the delicately poised legs with the white colouring rising from the hips upwards to the swirling torso. Whereas before the colouration seemed in 'Revive' to be the pallor of death, here it appears like a bright blast of light coruscating down upon Liber, with his hands flung up as a ward against it. As depicted by Coderch Malavia the dance feels alive and shockingly vital, while Liber may be a long forgotten God, the explosivity of his movement can’t help but stir a corresponding rush in the observer. A Dionysian frenzy for a new age. A stark contrast in approach is found in 'Haiku', which features a delicate woman rendered in shocking black, reclining on a bright futurist rectangle. Thrust through the bun of her hair is an enormous golden branch, that looks for all the world like the antler of some fantastic beast. The delicate humanity of the human subject is framed by these unnatural shapes, but feels all the more challenging as a result. Her pointed toes and folded arms speak to an inner feeling that owes nothing to the man-made world.
'My Life is My Message' patinated bronze, 71 x 36 x 40 cm
With their strikingly detailed renditions of the human form, Covderch & Malavia throw us out of our lazy comfort zones by facing us with our own mostly neglected capacities, whether for physical action or emotion. In witnessing their work we are shocked awake, glimpsing our primal selves with new eyes.
- Max Feldman
'Gigante de Sal' in La Marina de Valencia and the sculptors
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