Albarrán Cabrera. The indestructible

For Albarrán Cabrera, aka Anna Cabrera (Seville, 1969) and Angel Albarrán (Barcelona, 1969), a Spanish artistic duo currently on display at Galleria de’ Foscherari in Bologna, photography is like a notebook on which to let the sensitive reality decanted to purify it from the inessential and to shoot means to fix forever the emotion of a moment translated into an image. Their works reflect on universal themes, such as the concepts of time, existence, identity and empathy, making use of the heuristic possibilities of photography, a medium able to arouse in the viewer an instinctive and direct involvement eluding the mediation of the symbolic codes on which the verbal language is based. A good picture according to the artists shows to those who look at it something about themselves that they still do not know or that are afraid to discover and it is the clear awareness of a thought that incarnates itself in a tangible representation.

The photographic shoot is in fact only the first phase of a long creative process based on a refined combination of techniques and materials, such as platinum, palladium, silver gelatin, pigments, Japanese paper and gold leaf, which layered beneath and above the paper on which the image is impressed to turn it into a precious and unrepeatable object. The consistency, the color, the finishes, the tones, the texture and even the edge of a print give the photograph sophisticated material suggestions and shimmering flashes that invite the observer to get closer to understand the details and to get lost in the infinite resonance of a perfect instant. In this way the artists are opposed to the constitutive fugacity of digital images conveyed by the web and propose a model of slow fruition in which the photographed reality is sublimated to appear in its deepest essence and offers itself as an impregnable refuge for thought in which beauty is protected from the unpredictability of contingencies.

Precisely to this durability alludes The indestructible, the title of the exhibition in Bologna with which the curator Federico Ferrari emphasizes the existential vocation of the shots of the two artists and the purity of the materials that make them resistant to the corruption of time. The exhibited works, selected among the most recent projects of the duo with the addition of some unpublished works, compose a varied but coherent catalog of paradigmatic places photographed by Albarrán Cabrera during many travels at home and abroad, in which each landscape or environmental detail is transfigured by the enigmatic light emitted by the gold leaf in the background. Both in color and black-and-white photos (the latter often printed in negative), the world appears to be uniformed by an identical metallic reverberation that gives the image an abstract connotation, projecting the vision in a distant and indefinable time, the eternal present of creation just shaped by the hands of its demiurge.

In each fragment of the universe there is a whole universe: Hamlet saw a boundless space in a nutshell, William Blake a world in a grain of sand, the sky in a wild flower and eternity in an hour and the secret of birth and death is enclosed in all the atoms of the planet in which we live. Embracing these suggestions, the artists found strong correspondences between their approach and the Japanese visual and literary culture, in particular with the tradition of haiku, micro-poems of just three verses in which poets managed to concentrate descriptions of nature and states of soul of great finesse and complexity. In this kind of composition, which Barthes defined as “a poetics of voids and silences, a fragile essence of appearance”, the seasonal reference, conceived as a repertoire of emotions aroused by the periodic changes in nature, had great importance. Often the season was defined by a metonymy, such as the description of a plant, atmospheric variables or a natural phenomenon such as cherry blossoms. Similarly, Albarrán Cabrera’s photographs are based on a delicate balance between full and empty and often isolate a detail that invites the viewer to reconstruct with imagination what is not represented. Here too, nature acts as a link between the subjectivity of the spectator, inscribed in his memories and emotions, and the universal existence of which he is a part and in which he recognizes himself when he realizes that he is able to decipher the story as for a sudden recognition.

Another aspect of Japanese culture that fascinates the two artists is the connection between written language and calligraphy, intended as a graphic expression of an emotion that does not allow indecisions and requires an absolute awareness from the author when the ink settles on the paper. Even for Albarrán Cabrera, to shoot means to establish a total connection with what they have in front of the objective to look inside themselves in search of the truth of the moment that they will immortalize. Furthermore, the elaboration process to which they submit their works makes the photographs acquire a strong pictorial character, which emerges in the calligraphic sharpness of the profiles and lines that structure the visio, and in the intense chromatic range that recalls the colors and the atmospheres of the great Spanish painting.

Playing with the widespread belief that photography has value of testimony (even knowing that in the digital age they are constantly manipulated) and with the gap between what is real and what we perceive as such, the artists place their images on the border between true and false to help us “see” what is hidden behind the appearances. The sincerity of an image must therefore be sought in the spontaneous inner resonance that arouses when inexplicably it contains what is closest to our heart, in its ability to condense in a detail the history of the world and its mysterious balance, in its power to neutralize the disorder to make us perceive the natural harmony of the universe.


Albarrán Cabrera. The indestructible
a cura di Federico Ferrari
October 6 – 2018
Galleria de’ Foscherari
Via Castiglione 2b Bologna


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