Tue 10 Oct 2023 to Sat 25 Nov 2023
Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm
Artist: Cristina BanBan
Skarstedt presents La Matrona, Cristina BanBan’s first solo exhibition in London since 2018 when she resided in the city full-time. Featuring a series of eleven new paintings, the exhibition extends BanBan’s explorations of the female body, serving as a conduit for universal ideas in addition to personal introspections. By continuously working within the constraints of familiar forms and subjects, BanBan has pushed against their limits to hone in on the universal nature of womanhood and its many facets.
Derived from the Spanish term for midwife, the exhibition’s title is replete with varied meanings that BanBan’s paintings deftly exploit and subtly probe. In a literal sense, blood-red hues recur throughout compositions such as Dos Figuras and Figurilla I, evoking both the arduous and awe-inspiring elements of womanhood. The term similarly conjures associations with strength and agency, qualities that BanBan’s larger-than-life women have in spades. Their commanding sculptural power is felt through their classical poses, as in Grupo de Cuatro, in which the women recline and dance, overlaping one another in Duchampian repetitions, or in Dos Figuras con Paisaje, where two of BanBan’s characters stand tall, gazing outwards in Cezanne-esque stances. This, in turn, calls forth an additional understanding of La Matrona: its many mythological and historical associations. In addition to Spanish, the word “matrona” was used in ancient Rome to refer to dignified married women and in Celtic mythology as the name for its mother goddess. In this way, not only do BanBan’s opulent women continue the art historical lineage of exploring fertility, womanhood, and deities—such as in the Venus of Willendorf or Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, seen in the visages and poses of the women in Tres Mujeres—or the exalted depictions of women in classical sculpture subtly evoked through the gestural abstractions of paintings like Dos Figuras, where the boundaries of each figure’s body becomes more fluid in line with BanBan’s rapid brushwork. But, with their accessories and details providing a distinct sense of modernity, they become something of contemporary goddesses themselves.
This new body of work on view in La Matrona marks a return to certain elements of her earlier paintings, updated and utilized to new ends. In many of the works on view, such as Dúo. Pensadora II and Dúo. Pensadora III, BanBan once again integrates flourishes of acrylic into her paintings—a medium she favored in earlier pieces, particularly during her tenure in London. Although continuing to work primarily in oil, BanBan uses acrylic with a decisive purpose, adding gestural elements of bright orange or crimson to exert a commanding presence over the canvas.
While BanBan uses both herself and her friends as models for her paintings, the works on view in La Matrona transcend the specificity of any one individual. Although their eyes are notably left unfinished, they do maintain certain elements of their source, yet who they are is ultimately less important than what they represent: the very notion of sisterhood itself, women supporting women in literal and figurative ways, symbolic channelers of strength and wisdom carried down from one generation to the next—matronas in every sense of the word.