The symbol in the works of Aixa Portero is an indispensable mechanism in processes of cultural transmission and, therefore, also in aesthetic-plastic communication devices. They prevent the memory of a collective from dissolving in the shadows of time. Following Lotman, we can discern two planes of interpretation with respect to the symbol. Some people see in this a logical artefact that translates – by means of signs – planes of expression to planes of content. Other schools of thought, on the other hand, define the symbol as an absolute sign of a non-symbolic essence and; consequently, should be assumed as a bridge between the world of the irrational and the world of the mystical .
The butterfly is symbolic of the metamorphosis of life, of the will to radically transform its physical and spiritual reality. The Nicaraguan poet Rubén Dario (1867-1916), metaphorically drew Hypsipyle emerging from the chrysalis, leaving the comfortable golden shelter – this means, precisely, the Greek term Khrysallis, “golden” – throwing herself into flight and adult life. As a lepidopteran – butterfly – the semantic roots –lepido (scale) and ptero (wing) echo two opposing worlds: the aquatic, as we usually associate scales with the figure of the fish, and the aerial.
The concept of the aerial is very important in Portero’s work, its presence is felt in the form of a feather, evidence of wind, lightness, elevation and flight. The volatile figures, the butterfly wings, the light arboreal branches, guineafowl and stork feathers… created a rising feeling. As Cirlot points out, for San Gregorio, bird feathers symbolize faith, contemplation and the quill, as well as the written verb .
The presence of the book in its production is also steeped with symbolic meaning. The book has two significant readings: the book is intellectual, but the book is also free. It is a door through which access is gained to knowledge and the establishment of critical thinking. Time is the medium that ignites the imagination, but in Portero we speak of the book as a fragment, as a trace, a memory of a communicative channel that has been severed and only partly continues to preserve its transmitting condition. (Does your critical conscience emerge here, and condemn the disappearance of a medium that has enabled the advancement of societies, precisely at a moment in which ignorance is exalted?) It leaves in our hands and consciences the process of reconstruction, of reinvention in short, which is catalysed through the artistic work.
In the Poiesis series (2015-2018), the torn-up pages barely allow a narrative coherence to be glimpsed, while allowing a glimpse the following pages; neither from the first, for their lack, nor from the last, by concealment, can we articulate a coherent narration. Portero steals the opportunity for logical understanding from the viewer; that which they are accustomed to in continuous confrontation with the image, but gives them the chance to interpret it. In the Las raíces del vuelo installation (2017), she shows us a book installation, without external identification, of blank pages, which are suspended, levitating and inert, while a myriad of letters appear to be scattered on the floor. As in a recomposition exercise, without principles or endings, to which we are invited.
Tree roots-branches are also substantial elements in her work. The tree is one of the most frequent symbolic elements in all cultural traditions, either in correspondence with divine figures (Attis-Fir, Osiris- Cedar, Apollo-Laurel…) or in association with the personification of the qualities of an entire people (Celts-Oak , Scandinavians-Ash, Germans-Lime, Hindus-Fig…). As a vertical symbolic image, it is possible to see a vehicle of direct contact and transmission between the underground world (as origin) and the aerial world (as a horizon and culmination) in its form. The tree of life, arbor vitae, and the tree of death, arbor mortem, are the same, and relate to the three worlds, the bottom is the roots (chthonic or infernal), the central is the trunk (terrestrial or of the manifestation), and the top is the branches (celestial) .
And yet, despite all that has been said, symbolic interpretation is an inscrutable path, because the symbol itself exists before, and independent of, any given text.
“It reaches the memory of the writer from the deep memory of culture and revives in the new text like the grain fallen in new land”, indicates the Russian semiologist, Lotman.
Moving the image proposed to the field of plastic arts, we could infer from Portero’s work that symbols cross the borders of time, sprouting and reaching from culture’s most ancestral consciousness, projected towards the present and future by the creative act, with a new heightened sense each time.
That is why, perhaps, all the images analysed lines back, and the interpretations raised, are no more than epidermic speculations, as the ultimate intention of their appearance and meaning could only be offered by the artist herself. There are works in which an asymmetrical relationship between continent and content is produced. On multiple occasions, in contemporary art, the content has phagocytosed everything that was around it and the message reached the viewer as a document devoid of artistry; in other stages of art history it was the beautiful container that was unconcerned with the public, not trying to communicate anything: the interaction was exhausted in a hedonistic (and aestheticist) monologue. They are extreme. And the work of Aixa does not move in the extreme, but in the balance. Her work communicates, and at the same time moves us (knowing what or where he moves requires the active participation of all actors), a message articulated in balance, harmonious, captivating.
From there to the discovery of the ‘poetic reason’ displayed by the Malagueña philosopher, thinker and essayist Maria Zambrano (1904-1991), a kind of method of self-discovery of being through one’s actions and, in the case of an artist, it transcends and reveals the soul through their works. Therefore, it is something more than matter, and parts of their creator’s spirit are encompassed. We find light in her words: “Poetry and reason are complete and require one another”. Poetry would become the supreme thought to capture the intimate reality of every thing. The fluid, moving reality, the radical heterogeneity of being”  That mystical sense of reality, and the possibility of finding the transcendent and ultimate truths through poetry, mythology, ancestral and sacred narration, the mysteries of religion, the irrational and illogical, has been very present, at different historical moments, in Andalusian creative thought, first in its Al-Andalus roots, then under singular Christian interpretation.
It is true that Aixa Portero’s works transcend the heritage of an artistic tradition of such power and historical journey as that of Andalucia, which as a means of transmission of a powerful pictorial school of thought with Baroque roots, was revitalized from the eighties in the last century with neofigurative currents, and has been reinvented and projected towards the world precisely by questioning and subverting those roots. After a superficial reading, the work of the Malaga-born artist could seem alien to these spheres of influence, due to its installative nature, aesthetic appearance far from complexes and for a style that, without being vindictive, is very aware of its own reality and vicissitude, and that of the woman as an artist (in this way vindicating the constant presence in her works of bridal tulles, pupae, wedding pins, butterflies…) which justify her long research and professional journeys, leading her to reside in Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, USA, Ireland, France…
However, an analysis of greater depth, without denying the obvious international contributions, speak to us of contextual nuances that claim not so much their belonging to the latest generation of Spanish artists (although it would be possible to fix their beginnings in relation to a neoconceptual recovery that emerged in Spain in the mid-nineties, it would be impossible to go into depth in these brief lines) but its ascription to vernacular aesthetic parameters that have their roots in the secular past. Among them, the constant search as a creative horizon, the taste for the brilliance of the results (which can be, and show themselves as, anti-lyrical), the intrinsic capacity to recombine extra-artistic materials, the integration of genres and techniques, the subtlety in the conformation of the messages of which the work is channel and that hide much beyond the obvious, the conviction that all artistic work is finalized by the viewer, and a deep, almost ascetic, spiritual sense that underlies the whole work, in which life and death are everyday sides of the same coin.
I could not end this text without referring to the concept of Poiesis, so present in her work, illuminated from the sense Plato gave to the concept; where it is identified as the passage between the -to be or not to be-, reflecting the generative capacity of transforming the unformed into form, capable of manifesting itself, as per Heidegger’s understanding, as enlightenment, in its own terms and advancing from previous approaches:
“Everything resides in that we think about take-here-forward in its full extent, and at the same time in its Greek sense. A take-here-forward, ποíησις, is not only the artificial confection, it is not only the artistic-poetic take-to-appear and take-to-the-picture. Also, the φúσις the exit- from-itself, is a take-here-forward, is ποíησις”.
(FRAGMENT OF FOUR READINGS (AND A CODA) AROUND THE WORK OF AIXA PORTERO)
By Ivan De La Torre Amerighi
1. LOTMAN, I.M.: El símbolo en el sistema de la cultura. Forma y función, 2002 (December ), p. 89. (http://redalyc.org/articulo. oa?id=21901505)
2.CIRLOT, J. E.: Diccionario de símbolos. Barcelona, Círculo, 1998, p. 373.
3. CIRLOT, J. E.: Op. cit., pp. 89-90.
4. LOTMAN, I.M.: Op. cit., p. 93.
5. ZAMBRANO, M.: Los intelectuales en el drama de España y escritos de la guerra civil. Madrid, Trotta, 1998, pp. 177-178.
6. BRAVO DELORME, C. from: “El sentido de la Poiesis en El Banquete de Platón. Una contribución al problema de la esencia de la técnica” [The sense of Poiesis in Plato’s Symposium: a contribution to the problem of the essence of technique]. Alpha, n° 38, 2014, p. 228