Throughout history, artworks have been a source of admiration, testimony and inspiration for men and especially for artists. Certain periods, such as the Renaissance, have based an important part of their production on the recovery of principles, ideas, techniques and forms, themes and motifs of distinguished examples, which were considered bearers of immanent virtues in the very essence of the work of art. The artists not only observed this production, but often used it as a starting point for the elaboration of new interpretations of these forms, now transformed into new and original artworks.
Romina Ressia, experienced artist in the world of photography, works by recreating climates and images of the past using the hyper-realistic language of the photographic process. She breaks the created scenes by introducing elements that are foreign to the time they evoke, anachronistic details destined to crack reality, generating annoyance, curiosity and discomfort in the observer.
From that world, Ressia has entered the field of painting. She works from notable works by artists of the past which she submits to a careful analysis aimed at extracting what she thinks is elemental and most significant from them to highlight their forms, their composition and their colors. She rescues characteristics and chooses sections that she later exalts in the conception of her new compositions. This is how characters from famous portraits appear, or fragments of well-known groups of which Romina selects an action that can involve two or more members.
Her work with Dürer’s Self-Portrait (Munich, Alte Pinakothek) leads her to highlight the frontal gaze that dominates the original painting, exacerbating the color of the cheeks, as well as the left hand with which he closes his coat, that now becomes huge. This also happens with the monogram with which Dürer has signed his work and something similar is observed with the Portraits of Agnolo and Maddalena Doni (Florence, Uffizi) that Raphael painted between 1504 and 1507; also with the figure of Joan of Austria, portrayed by Sofoniba Anguissola, which is shown here as a series where the procedure we have mentioned is reiterated.
From Velázquez’s painting, Las Meninas (Madrid, Prado Museum), Ressia chooses the characters of the Infanta Margarita and her lady-in-waiting María Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor who, while bowing in reverence, offers her a vase of fresh water. Isolated and cropped to an almost black background, these figures now acquire a renewed materiality, liveliness and meaning due to the treatment that the artist has given them. We can see this situation with other members who also occupy the foreground of the same work, such as Mari Bárbola (María Bárbara Asquin) and Nicolasito Pertusato, two dwarves who were part of the Infanta’s cortege, to whom is added, in a fragmentary way, Isabel de Velazco.
Rubens’s Bacchus (St. Petersburg, Hermitage) is also significant to note. Triumphant, he appears on his throne surrounded by a putto, a faun, a child satyr and a maenad who is pouring his cup. The liquid overflows the god’s vessel and is drunk by the mentioned satyr child. Ressia emphasizes it by highlighting the liquid, whose flow has increased in relation to the original. This operation is also found in the figure of Bacchus himself, which has become almost a caricature. The theme of nudity appears again in other paintings, such as Goya’s Naked Maja (Madrid, Prado) and in another piece worked with a different technique; it is about Henry VIII, made from various portraits of the English king, in a clear allusion to The King’s Dress by Hans Christian Andersen. Ressia sarcastically plays with this image in which the rich embroidered velvets of his clothing are now the support of this textile work.
The artist has introduced us to her interesting world dominated by her intention to “meddle” in the collective memory and, in her meddling, she decisively operates on our memories and on the perception we have of both the works of art and their authors.