Wooden childhood

It is been said that a few things produce satisfaction from art. For instance, realist artworks produce satisfaction because we can identify it as something that we know. But we can also say that beauty is pleasant in art works, due to the fact that it is used to be related to some canons that we are used to follow and that we feel comfortable with. According to that, we can say that Efraïm Rodríguez art is satisfying in both senses.

Efraïm Rodríguez is a valencian sculptor who works mainly with wood and who, at the moment, has an exhibition of his art production at the Gallery 3 Punts, in Enric Granados Street, which is full of contemporary artists. The selection of artworks consists of more than twenty sculptures which represent children and babies showing their jokest faces.Domestic wild is the name of the ensemble of sculptures, defining where the child spirit comes out: the house. That’s why we can see disguised kids, dirty babies having their meals or a little boy who has just broken a dish. This is the way the artists opposes or mixes the domestic and the wildness.

Starting from the technique, we might see that the mixture of materials savage itself. The different types of wood are combined with coherence, provided that the artists plays with their colors and textures to give a realistic sensation. For example, the faces of children are made by cypress and oak wood, which have a flesh tone, whereas for the costumes he uses cork, in order to transmit a rough sensation.

But Rodríguez decided to combine those natural and wild materials with industrial materials, such as iron, glass or rubber. This conjunction is related to his idea of Domestic wild, which confronts two opposite poles. Here we find the union of primitive, represented by wood, and the consequences of human development: artificial materials. In that sense, we can see babies made by the trunk of any kind of three wearing an iron bib.

The most representative sculpture of this concept might be the one called Wild, a kid who grows from the crust of a tree, creating a visual metaphor: we are creatures born from the wild, from the nature. But they all have a name and a story behind them. Wolf, for instance, is both Red Riding Hood and the Wolf: the sculpture shows us a little girl dressed with a wolf costume. Again, two opposites being united.

But there is no room for civilization in the exhibition: parents are not allowed. The only adult trace is the hand of what we assume that might be a parent holding her daughter on his shoulders. But his face isn’t represented yet. We can see some cubes which are supposed to be the base of the face, but there is no image, no reference for maturity in here.

What, in fact, we can see is the process of maturity expressed by the face of a young girl who is sitting on some kind of public transport. In spite of her well made face, her expression is disconcerting. She looks worried, but not sad. As we look at her it is easy to think that she might be losing her wildness, while she is being domesticated.

Paradoxically, his influences or models “aren’t realistic at all”, he confesses. He admires Tony Cragg, Antony Gormley and Oteiza, who used different techniques, materials and concepts. But, if there is something that they all (four) have in common, we might say, is the representation of the human body. Every one chooses to do it his way (abstract, cubist, realistic…) but, at least, it seems that they have a special interest on humanity.

Anyway, this fact isn’t quite revealing, according to what Rodríguez says about the main subject of his sculptures: “at the beginning children were a reason to talk about other topics, but now they have become a topic themselves”. Everything changed when his sister had babies and, then, his nephews started to be his reference and his inspiration.

The sculptor talks about the “distance” between the referent and the artist. Now, that he has a closer figure to take as a guide, he says that “it is not the same to work with photos of people that you do not know and with people that are next to you every day”. So, even if the sculptures are quite realistic, we can see a surrealist point. The faces and expressions of children show us the imagination of the kids, as if they have decided to be represented in that way.

When we ask Rodríguez to chose which one is the most important part of his work (the beauty, the concept, the materials, the techinique…) he refuses to chose one. He understands the creative process as “exactly that, a process”, a period of time in which you don’t stop creating. That’s why the artist uses to combine materials and introduce some innovations while he’s working on a sculpture. And, in terms of hours of work, the sculptures usually take him two months: he starts making a mould, then he turns it into wood and then the most difficult part is the assembly.

The sculptor confesses that his artwork “is very accessible for everyone” but, at the same time, “can satisfy a cultivate person or someone who is more used to deal with this sector”.

As we see, he is constantly playing with opposites which can either work together or separated. Anyway, sometimes, it is not so hard to domesticate the wildness.

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