Recreating yourself again and again and again and again
ARTIST MARIA CHALELA PUCCINI WAS BORN AND BROUGHT UP IN COLUMBIA. SHE STUDIED FINE ARTS AT THE UNIVERSITÄT JAVERIANA IN BOGOTA. AFTER COMPLETING HER STUDIES, SHE TRAVELLED AROUND EUROPE AND SETTLED IN BERLIN. EXEMPLARY WORKS FROM THIS PERIOD INCLUDE THE STUDIES ON MOVEMENT ANALYSED BY DEPICTING A DANCER WHOSE DANCING SILHOUETTE WAS TRANSPOSED ON LARGE-FORMAT PAPER USING CHARCOAL. THE RESULTING OVERLAPS HIGHLIGHT AN INTRINSIC THEME CENTRAL TO CHALELA-PUCCINI‘S ARTISTIC ANALYSIS: THE CONSTANT ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE MOVEMENT, TO BREATHE LIFE INTO THE DEPICTED PEOPLE AND OBJECTS. THIS OCCURS BY USING DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES IN THE INTERFACES BETWEEN STILL AND MOVING PICTURES, BETWEEN ANALOGUE AND DIGITAL.
Chalela’s interest in exploring different narrative and abstract possibilities in animated films led her to Vienna where she enrolled in the Painting and Animated Films class at the University of Applied Arts under the guidance of Judith Eisler. Her early work at the university speaks of an experimental approach with different media and techniques: either printed digital collages which are then processed manually or manually painted first, then scanned, and animated digitally. Watching her animated film, Diary of a sailor who did not pay the rent, is a pleasant experience. The short film recounts the tragic destiny of a lonely sailor focused on painting on his canvas; he’s so intent on dreaming of the wild adventures at sea that he forgets to pay the rent. The personal quest for artistic identity is ironically represented as a filmic parable. In the film viejo, old man, alter mann the protagonist suffers from a dissolution of his identity. The film uses one surface, frame after successive frame passing by in a flash of oil colours and constantly painted over; it tells the story of an old man sitting at a window in his usual bar, holding up his glass for so long that he completely merges with the scenery and disappears into the wall.
Her painted animated film on glass, An educated woman, is a threepart series which was awarded the Hubert Sielecki Prize at the 2015 Tricky women Film Festival. It’s an interpretation of societal practices influencing the creation of a woman’s identity. Parts of women’s bodies roll by various stations on conveyor belts in a production hall to be adjusted, their brains are removed, and their breasts enlarged. An old gramophone plays a vinyl record during the procedure, spurting behavioural codes. In the epilogue, the artist tells us how she works and of surfacing absurdities she encounters when trying to paint a selfportrait: ‘A self-portrait is like trying to remember your own existence by recreating yourself again and again and again and again.’ Her working process underpins the quote. Every picture painted with acrylic colours on glass is painted over for the respective next frame. The camera documents the traces of this game of changes, destruction and creation.
Currently, Chalela-Puccini is working on a series of fictional portraits. Next to her joy for haptic work and the direct nature of paintings, she explains her personal development and shift to painting by means of the word ‘animation’ which originates from the Latino ‘animatio’ (give life to). While in the past she created movements in her films by a quick succession of individual frames, she now tries to convey movement using still frames– the represented people infuse them with a soul. She speaks of chance if, overnight, the oil colours seep because the picture was placed vertically up against a surface, thus changing the face’s expression. Consisting of a permanent repetition of the same pattern, the series now includes more than 200 portraits, and finds further significance when reading Benjamin‘s essay on Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The work of art in the times of its technical reproduction). For Chalela-Puccini it’s a personal act of defiance, countering this technologically abundant world. The blurry, unrecognisable faces describe the fast-paced lives and loss of identity of the post-modern digital individual – and therefore are part of the history of portraiture.