John E Bowlt about the project by Francisco Infante-Arana and Nonna Goriounova LIGHTER SPACE
20 December 2017

John E Bowlt and Nicoletta Misler


for the project by Francisco Infante-Arana
and Nonna Goriounova "Lighter Space"

21.12.17 21.01.18



. . . 1906

And transfixed by an eerie closeness,
I look beyond the dark veil,
And see a shore enchanted
And an enchanted distance.

(. Blok: The Stranger. 1906)

One of the eeriest and most enigmatic qualities of our power of perception is that it tends to reduce material reality to geometric units and configurations of those units and to impose regularity upon irregularity and rational order upon what seems to be capricious disorder. Hence, for example, our codices of laws, rules of navigation, rectangular doors and windows, canonical perspective and proportion, symmetry of outward appearance and an arithmetic based on 2 + 2 = 4. Occasional individuals, especially creative writers and artists, from Fedor Dostoevsky to Jackson Pollock, may fight against this dictate. However, all too often, we accept this geometry at its face value, equating it with the real thing, ignoring the primordial chaos beyond, happy that we are tending a garden of topiaries rather than a jungle of unruly foliage. Perhaps that is what the Symbolist poet and philosopher Andrei Belyi had in mind when he declared that rhythm is the force of life, meter its denial [ , ], indicating that meter is the garden of imposed convention while rhythm is the Matto Grosso and ultimate driving-force - of the universe.

Frantsisko Infante and Nonna Goriunova remind us that geometric imposition can, indeed, be misleading and mendacious and that calendar time is not the same as cosmic time. The imposition may gratify the senses, bolster self-confidence and provide an illusion of control, but, in essence, the ordering of disorder is merely a veil or magic spell cast to deflect attention from uncomfortable concepts such as infinity, shapelessness and boundlessness. This becomes especially evident in the new cycle of Artifacts called Lighter Spaces with their interplay of, as it were, auditorium and proscenium divided by the drop curtain or veil of aerial filaments and interweaving screens.

It is the juxtaposition of façade and depth which forms the esthetic and philosophical denominator common to Lighter Spaces, a formula which seems to illustrate Naum Gabos and Anton Pevsners Realist Manifesto of 1920: We renounce volume as a pictorial and plastic form of space; one cannot measure space in volumes, as one cannot measure liquid in yards: look at our real space - what is it if not one continuous depth? We affirm DEPTH as the only pictorial and plastic form of space. [ . , . - , . ]

If many of the previous Artifacts were momentary installations in land, water and air (metal foil encircling trees, structures mounted on snow, artificial rainbows set against the sky), the new series begs the very question of ambivalence or, rather, of constant interaction between perfect, but artificial, forms, and perfect, but natural, shapes. To this end, Infante and Goriunova make frequent recourse to the concept of the grid and the net, a chequered sequence which elicits the image of entry and exit and of imminent transport from here to there, emphasizing that the higher, lighter and elemental space where angels tread is beyond the grid and that our everyday regime is but a pathetic travesty of the immense and unfathomable firmament beyond.

However, as with all the Artifacts, Infante and Goriunova impose no compunction upon their visual resolutions: there is no ideological agenda, no overt temptation, no obvious command to raise the veil and travel to the enchanted shore. Take it, or leave it, seems to be the message, meaning that we can cruise the sensual highway through the coloured configurations and enjoy the brilliant plays of light and surrogate delight in peeping at, but not entering into, the lighter space. In this way, the Artifacts defend the shapely viewer from shapelessness -- rather like the luxury liner which anchors off the wild Amazon whither its tame passengers, however, do not embark.

So as to reinforce this tension between the dark veil and the enchanted shore, Infante and Goriunova construct hyperbole or, rather, the hyperbolas, dynamic shapes of tensile coils which both keep the Artifact intact and provide it with elasticity and oscillation, qualities which, once again, prompt the viewer to hesitate and to remain transfixed on the threshold separating here from there. The hyperbola, essentially, a spiralic, symmetrical and open curve formed by the intersection of a circular cone with a plane at a smaller angle, also constitutes a metaphor for infinity and, therefore, for the timelessness or lighter space which, manifestly, lies on the other side of the Artifact.

The hyperbola is a major unit in the Infante artistic vocabulary, for even the early structures such as the project for a necklace of lights intended to encircle the Earth (1960s) already bore the genesis of the hyperbola. Captivated thereby, the viewer glimpses chaos and experiences entropy, but, fearful, still continues to glance back to the world of reason and sobriety. Indeed, the new Artifacts are so elegant and gracious in the crochet lightness of their colours, forms and textures that they tempt us to go backwards rather than forwards, even if the call of the wild is almost irresistible.

The grid system of the new Artifacts plays a double role, because at once it reveals the beyond, whether that beyond be a cloud, blue sky, water or vegetation and veils all those things. The result is a half-truth, an allusion and an innuendo, because until we advance into the wilderness we cannot understand its force, energy and lighter space. Even so, for some, Lighter Spaces may be merely beautiful divertissements set against the elements; for others, they may be sirens beckoning to the vault of heavens; and for yet others, tragically, the here and there remain parts of the same limbo: Nothing will change, Theres no way out [ . ], wrote Blok in 1912.

Nonetheless, Lighter Spaces still carry a saving grace which transcends territorial directives -- and that is their technical perfection, their harmonious assembly of form, colour, rhythm, weight and gravity and their strong esthetic presence. Infante and Goriunova seem to be proposing that the Artifact, therefore, may be regarded both as a reassertion of the here and now and as a bridge to celestial spheres but also as an independent work of art, untrammeled by any of these prerogatives. Therein lies the delicate permanence and secret majesty of Lighter Spaces.


A. Belyi: Lirika i eksperiment (1909) in his Simvolizm, Moscow: Musaget, 1910, p. 254.

N. Gabo and A. Pevsner [Pevzner]: Realisticheskii manifest, Moscow, 1920, one page only.

A. Blok: Noch, ulitsa, fonar, apteka, 1912.

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