Puerta Roja is proud to present Flowering Skulls - A Celebration Life and Death. The exhibition opens on 15th November and will include a new series of ceramic and bronze sculptures as well as photography by Mexican emerging artist, Arturo Muela.
“Through the lens of contemporary art, Arturo gives us a fresh look into the ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations that reflect Mexican culture’s embrace and acceptance of death through the use of beauty, lively celebrations and even humour” says Adriana Alvarez-Nichol, founder of Puerta Roja.
Monochromatic gleaming ceramic skulls and heavy bronzes are infused with eerie elegance through careful placement of blossoming flowers, exploring the boundaries between the living and the departed, the eternal and the ephemeral. The result captivates us, being elegantly solemn and surprisingly humorous at the same time. The artist's photographic work in the series goes a step further by including a new element: the setting. The skulls stand among bright oranges and flowers as well as inert market fish, brown leaves on the ground and arid soils. They stand as a proof of the coexistence of opposites.
Alicia Buenrostro Massieu, Consul General of Mexico in Hong Kong shares “Learning to cope with mortality has always been a fundamental preoccupation of human existence, but in contrast to many cultures, Mexicans proclaim death, and caress it and even joke with it. During the celebration period of the ‘Day of the dead’, Mexicans believe that the departed have divine permission to visit the living and enjoy once again the pleasures of life with their loved ones”. Death is perceived not as the end of life but as a continuum, life is a dream and only through death does one become truly awake. Mexicans do not dismay about death, they embrace it as part of life.
A key element of the celebrations is the setting up of altars in remembrance of the departed as well as visit to cemeteries, which aesthetically share striking similarities to Chinese ancestor worship and festivals such as QingMing in spring. Mexican altars display Calaveras (skulls) made of sugar adorned with vivid colours and the name of the deceased inscribed, families make ofrendas (offerings) of bright flowers and food such as the ‘pan de muertos’ (sweet bread in the shape of bones), candles and a photo of the departed soul.
Both in the case of Mexico and China, the practice is rooted in ancient cultures dating more than 3,000 years. Whilst both cultures believe the deceased family members have a continued existence, the aim of ancestor worship is to ensure their continued well-being in the afterlife and positive disposition towards the living. In Mexico, differing from Chinese culture, the altars are not for worshipping or appeasing but for offering love to the departed and to invite them to come home and enjoy the fruits of life with their loved ones one more time.
Muela himself expresses: “When someone we love dies and we stay, there is a fathomless pain that remains. So, what do we do with that pain? There are many different rites and ceremonies to honour the dead, but one thing remains constant amongst cultures: the offering made. The offering is an impulse of love which moves us to do something that allows us to communicate, to cut through the borders of life. I made these sculptural bodies embracing this idea of an offering, bodies which represent space while carrying a message to those we love, to those we would like to know we miss them".
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