Almudena Rodriguez: Magical Ambiguity
Almudena Rodriguez’s paintings have long been PAGODA RED favorites — in part, because each is a rich, imagery-laden universe filled with evocative meanings. In her work, preconceived boundaries evaporate and a riotous blend of pop culture graphics, multilingual vocabulary, religious iconography and myth emerges. A disaffected couple embrace as an acrobat soars past, a lone blue eyeball peers out beneath a cloud of hot-air balloons, and words in Braille rise from the canvas. The paintings stir the subconscious, sparking reflections on everything from the self to dreams to information in the digital age.
For Rodriguez, the viewer’s experience with ambiguity is a crucial part of her work. In a recent conversation, she told us that each of her paintings is “an external reality that will be recreated by the viewer, and this is what I am interested in: how people decode images and how individual experiences impact impressions and perceptions of my work.”
Rodriguez’s interest in the artist-viewer relationship was the catalyst for her acclaimed Pygmalion Effect series, which draws its name “from the popular psychological idea that greater expectations lead to greater performance.” For her, the series “is about the way artists can influence a viewer’s perception.”
In person, the paintings are beautifully textured — Rodriguez incorporates clothing, blankets, towels, lace, and metal grommets. She begins each painting “with scraps of fabrics, already stamped and sometimes also already used, which I sew by hand with the intention of getting closer to the canvas and deeper into the artwork.” Rodriguez notes that “the different tactile qualities layered on each canvas encourage our eyes to travel around the painting and generate many interpretations of what they finds.”
This artisanal construction allows Rodriguez to “form a kind of map of my experiences and observations: my own vision.” Once the pieces are sewn, she paints over the borders and seams, destroying the “map” of her work, while maintaining its tactile qualities. Rodriguez says that “the destruction is maybe the most personal and intimate moment to me, and from there the images begin to emerge.”
Rodriguez shares, “I allow the paint to behave naturally. Then I take pictures of the result and begin to work on the image on a computer, creating small stages on which the images may begin a dialogue and then allowing the painting to lead the way.”
The collision of languages and cultural iconography in each painting is highly intentional. Rodriguez is Spanish and currently resides in Madrid, but has lived in both the United States and Mexico in a purposeful effort to deepen and expand on her work.
These international moves have been impactful: “I have been nourished by such different cultures; the questioning of ‘identity’ is a constant in my work as a result of this… I believe that living in a different country and leaving your comfort zone changes you as a human being, you experience a broader context, you perceive other people in a different way and mostly you can perceive yourself from another perspective, from an essential distance needed to be able to understand and contextualize yourself in a globalized world.”
For PAGODA RED founder Betsy Nathan, the magic of these paintings lies in the confluence of imagery that arises from Rodriguez’s global perspective. As Betsy notes, “these paintings are experiences. You can almost hear the painted musical notes, feel the Braille, and lose yourself among pointillist maps and superheroes. Through these dreamscapes, Almudena Rodriguez takes us on a philosophical journey through globalization, pop culture, the non-stop cacophony of the internet, and our ever-shifting ideas of identity.”