Where Light Is Needed

Solo Exhibition Carlos Fernandez
November 2019, Dienstgebäude

Carlos Fernandez was born in 1986 in Costa Rica, but his constant search to extend ideas of home and work space have taken him across the ocean and into his new present context: Switzerland. This is the starting point for the exhibition Where Light Is Needed, a project shown at Dienstgebäude art space in Zürich and the result of the artistic residency Freiraum Index.
With a background in agronomy and horticulture, Carlos work oscillates between the methodological workings of the land and the beauty hidden behind its labour. As an artist and a teacher, his practice provides insight into the processes and cycles that power the changes visible in agricultural land, while offering new perspectives into the aesthetic qualities achieved through these same processes. The changes in colour and the smell of the earth, the heat of the summer and the sound of the birds are all abstracted and reconstructed into a new picture of territory.

The thin line between his artistic practice and daily life, allows the viewer to play an active role in a story yet to be told, connecting the body to a place and place to home. The intimate space achieved through this methodology, not only provides a fertile space for the germination of ideas but also allows new aesthetics to emerge through exchange, one of the motors behind his work and the basis for biodiversity— a concept that Carlos uses to describe the natural world as well as that of imagination.

In the explorations of the city of Zürich, Carlos comes across the old botanical garden, a jewel hidden behind the old city walls. It is here where, on the highest point of this hill, Carlos discovers the Gessner garden and the story behind the man to whom it pays tribute— a Zürich born naturalist, linguist and botanist that dedicated his life to travel, observation and representation of the natural world.

Both Gesner and Carlos use observation and representation as a means to explore a new language— one visible in the work that we see here today. What began as educational work has transformed into a technique where layers of information are superimposed onto one same frame, continuously covering und uncovering different levels of information. Much like Gesner, his work seeks to create a new order of nature through descriptive and systematic representation of the plant world. But unlike Gessner, Carlos reality is composed of what we see as much as that which we don’t. Figures almost dissolve in his paintings, softened images that force the viewer to sharpen the eyes in order to grasp.

Much like the herbal plants displayed at Zürich’s old botanical garden, Carlos pays special interest to herbs, their role within urban ecosystems and their power as healing agents. Many of these herbs, also knows as weeds, are part of the spontaneous vegetation that can be found in modern cities. These unwanted and unplanned vegetation flourishes in the in-between spaces and, like the layers of Carlos’s paintings, appear and disappear where and when one least notices.

Where Light Is Needed is an invitation to look through the surface, whether it be the earth, the canvas or the urban structure of the city, in search for the singular within everyday life. Like an immersive installation the exhibition unfolds in different layers, using different mediums to explore the life of these unwanted plants. The small mounts of earth and the plants held within them spur from the concrete with the same resiliency that they do on the city wall— isolated cases that are brought together under one same light, a light that creates space as it reflects on the surface, providing a place for the unexpected to flourish.

Text by Violeta Burckhardt