Omar Barquet, Tempestad (after N. Araki), 2023, 1st variation
Omar Barquet: The Passage of Amnesia
Sep 12 – Nov 25, 2023
Zilberman Gallery
Berlin, Germany

With this, his first solo exhibition in Berlin, the Mexican artist Omar Barquet brings together new works with autofictional elements, which he stages in a tri-partite room installation through which viewers will circulate. Over the years, Barquet has assembled albums in a journal-like process. Drawing from various image traditions, he collects motifs, which he later uses in creating collages and assemblages. In Barquet’s work, landscapes become loaded metonyms for human existence. In earlier works, he often created installations impinging on the public space. More recently, he has focused on our private, mental space. The motif of the eye appears in various compositions, frequently closed or referring to the expression “in the eye of the storm.” The apparent calm is deceptive, for all around us the storm rages violently. Hurricanes, which throw everything into confusion, erode coastlines, and leave prodigious damages in their wake, likewise shape the work of Omar Barquet, who grew up in Chetumal on the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and today lives in Mexico City. Barquet identifies as 1st Regression the moment when the storm first reaches land. His understanding of history is non-linear: phases of building and destruction follow one another endlessly, in nature as in human life. In working with fragments, he gives expression to this cyclical understanding of time in another way.

Barquet’s artistic practice is based on a process of collecting and recycling. Flotsam, driftwood, sea shells, and fragments of furniture washed up on the beach – materials carrying the scars of time and use – are characteristic of his work. Through exploring indigenous philosophies, Barquet has developed a harmonious and inclusive idea of the matrix of all relationships within communities, both human and non-human. It is important to him that we regain the knowledge and spirituality of our forefathers and use them to address the environmental questions facing us today. This has led him to investigate heterodox forms of spiritual otherness and made him sensitive to the complexity of popular religious practice. This interest is reflected in one of the exhibition rooms, where the artist references various traditions relative to mourning and the cult of the dead in Mexico.

The Passage of Amnesia, Barquet tells us, means to evoke an existential marginal state, the transitional space between birth and death, life and death, memory and forgetting. In Barquet’s exhibition, we are plunged into an unsettling narrative environment, a stage the artist has set as if with a stream of consciousness mingling memories, dreams, and flashbacks. With his title The Passage of Amnesia, Barquet cites a verse by the poet Francisco Hernandez, to whom he is bound by long friendship. Recordings of the brittle voice of the poet, audibly affected by illness, as well as fragments from his poems form the starting point of a vocal performance in the exhibition. Barquet’s art accords a central role not only to poetry but also to music, including a recurring reference to Robert Schumann’s Geistervariationen (Ghost variations) and a work of the same name by contemporary composer and pianist George Tsontakis.

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Barquet has described his approach to abstraction as one inspired by poetry as well as the use of time and dynamics in music. He has created a series of works titled Syllables and refers to his works as anagrams or ideograms. In harmony with the Neo-Concreto movement in Brazil, which distanced itself from the rationalist approach of concrete art, Barquet’s geometric abstractions in a contemporary framework have an affinity with phenomenological approaches. His work, which also employs various printing techniques, reveals a heightened complexity in its surfaces, which he works over manually. Particular qualities, such as rhythm, silence, rawness, or density, stimulate different senses and even synesthesia in the viewer as he walks through Barquet’s exhibition. Barquet directs our attention toward passages, transitions, transformations, and transmutations (The Alchemist, 2023). He often produces works in the form of a series, or a theme and variations – as for instance in Waterfalls (2023). In this way, the works make manifest their immanent instability while at the same time showing us a perspective on a possible future.

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