La ceremonia

Exhibition | Marta Beltrán

From May 19 to July 31, 2017.

Public opening

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5: 00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Marta Beltrán
Curator: Susana Blas

“I do not really know what it means to be a free woman or a liberated woman, I do not even know what the difference is between a free man and a liberated man. I am one of those women who have had the possibility, the intuition or the privilege to understand the absurdity of male sexism ». Agnes Varda

In The Ceremony, Marta Beltrán (Granada, 1977) designed a drawing project for the Royal Hospital of Granada that now makes a stopover at 13 ESPACIOarte (Seville). The exhibit, conceived as an open-ended process, is now expanded and adapted to the characteristics of the new space.

The exhibition, which takes its title from a film by Claude Chabrol (La Cérémonie, 1998), compiles the artist´s work and latest research, by choosing some of her classic series in black ink on paper, together with new large format pieces that delve deeper into Beltrán´s primary interest: the semiotic analysis, primarily in cinema, of images of women. Beltran works from an intuitive and emotional perspective in order to reveal stereotypes, preconceived ideas and the social impositions that women endure.

The author expresses her process and approach in this way: “Beginning with the identification of the creative practices of fiction realized by women, or that have women as protagonists, albeit in literature, cinema or comics, I try to construct a new subjective narrative. The process begins with the appropriation of documentary photography, stills and texts from a variety of films that revolve around concepts such as childhood, motherhood, friendship, family ties between women and Identity. These are then contemplated from an angle that observes their contradictory sides”.

Marta Beltrán especially uses the decades of the sixties, seventies and eighties to select the film stills that will be the origin of her black ink drawings. In her choice of scenes, she seeks to contrast the image of women in the domestic sphere and in everyday situations, using an inventory of the spaces in the house (the rooms and the decorative objects) to create a story that combines a distanced perspective in the framing with a practice of uncontrolled drawing. This distortional drawing (irrational, uncontrolled) and the choice of format (small, medium or monumental) are definitive elements that, at first, generate in the viewer a sense of strangeness, and later, reflection.

Most of the drawings come from film stills from auteur cinema. Marta is interested in both classic and alternative cinema. During the viewing of the films she may feel a special connection with a scene, emotionally, formally or symbolically. Her mind fixes the frame and stops on the body of the protagonist actresses, who will receive a new life on paper. The scene, the figures, are traced with black ink on the white support. In that translation, she can isolate the character, or include elements in the background. Marta works it all together in an intuitive way. The hand, imbued with nerve, is what progressively proportions and balances the lines and volumes to build a distorted version that at times owes little to the original, making it difficult to recognize the source of inspiration. In general, the features of the faces harden and in the bodies, that which seemed beautiful or mysterious, becomes grotesque, sad or desperate. Only in some cases do hieratic and distancing dominate: creating a state of stillness beyond suffering, “as if everything had already happened”.

“My way of treating the material is unprejudiced and is at the service of discovery, of allowing ideas or images to emerge, even if the forms of beauty are eventually compromised. The point is that these images allow the appearance of unconscious content and create new images independent of the originals “.

Marta Beltrán

Four Nude Environments

The exhibition is divided into four environments: at first, we find The Ceremony (2015-2016) and Stolen Life (2015). The Ceremony is an installation that presents eighteen small-format drawings in the form of a mosaic, framed by a rectangle of black paint that emulates the edges of a film still. The combined view summarizes the artist´s position in relation to the reading of images and her formal strategy of transforming them. Almost all of them have been selected from films by directors such as Saura or Camus, who create a type of cinema that is highly symbolic and metaphorical. Inside of this mural is the film still that gives its name to the exhibition: Disparando (Shooting), which belongs to The Ceremony, by Claude Chabrol. That woman with a shotgun in her hand, who combines a brave stance with a dejected attitude, sums up the temperament of many of Marta Beltrán’s female characters, in which unreason and decision coexist.

Facing this mural, emerge four drawings of one of her emblematic series: A Stolen Life, whose title is inspired by the 1946 film by Curtis Bernhardt, with Bette Davis as the leading actress. In the film, identity issues are placed in the front line: the double, reality and fiction … Bette Davis plays two twin sisters in love with the same man. These pieces, with carefully finished backgrounds and a realistic and detailed facture, are good examples of her primary interest in creating an image archive based on classical cinema. She analyzes it as one of our main sources of learning about the traditional women models, of the behaviors that are socially accepted or condemned.

One of the key installations is La Pantalla (The Screen) (2016). This huge mural, conceived as a panoramic cinema screen framed by a false painted curtain, “returns to the cinema the images that the artist stole from them”; proposing a static cinematographic session that explores the differences between the appreciation of cinema and that of painting, opening communication channels between both disciplines. In fact, the bench in front of the mural forces the viewer to sit down and stop to observe the small details of a static film.

To “occupy” that enormous eight-meter long rectangle, Marta has conceived six new drawings, which abandon the detail and the picturesque tone of previous series and opt for a more energetic and expressionist line, focused on unveiling the psychology of the scenes and of the chosen characters. The six roles, maintained, relate in a forced way to the characters of the different stories, locked in a delirious screen of patches that ends up generating a scene with the air of a nightmarish neighbor’s house, a monstrous set only unified by the drawn curtain.

On the other hand, in Las Orantes (2016) the minimalist papers are exhibited, as we have already mentioned, as pieces of a disintegrated and multiform identity in which two repeated characters stand out: the young widow and the woman wounded in a stoning, both recurring images in the iconographic investigation of the artist.

And finally, we entered the workshop, in the space we have called The Closed Room (2016), and which has a special meaning for Marta as a representation of her both her studio and the mental place from which she works. The installation allows for different experiences: on the one hand, it works as an environment in which to discover, on two tables and on the floor, piled up unfinished drawings that dialogue with a mural of color images with cinematographic references. We also find some framed drawings that remind us of home furnishings and contrast with the purity and minimalism of the rest of the surroundings. And then two pieces belonging to the series Little Women (2015), which allow the general public, familiar with the popular movie of Cukor, to better understand the strategy of symbolic deformation that Marta executes. Finally, a particularly relevant piece of this space that was also conceived as a meeting place for workshops is a retro slide show on one of the walls. Discrete and in color, are the precise frames that inspired each of the pieces of the project, inviting the public to make connections and put together the pairs.

Three subjective axes cross in The Ceremony. On the one hand, the investigation of the image of women in our cultural imaginary, analyzing the cinematographic language and the clichés that perpetuate. Secondly, a reflection on the historical confinement (physical and psychological) of women in the private sphere of the home and its variants (from seclusion to “a room of one’s own”). And finally, the firm commitment to new modes of knowledge based on intuition, the wisdom of the body and the exchange of emotions that allow us to imagine new ways of relating in society, situating cooperation, collaboration and care over of competition, individual achievements and economic growth.

As I assimilate the project, it may be for me, the Chapel Hall, in its imperfection and humility, in its stripped-down abandonment of loose papers scattered by the high walls that swallow them, that best expresses one of the virtues of Marta Beltrán’s work: show what cannot be told, using a kind of emotional graphic writing. And here I will quote María Zambrano: “There are things that cannot be said, and it is true. But what cannot be said is what has to be written. […] The writer leaves his solitude to communicate the secret” [1].

In the same way, Marta Beltrán “only leaves her solitude to draw the secrets”.

Heads of long hair and forced postures float orphaned, without scenography, exposed to the bath of supernatural light that penetrates through the window, generating in the visitor a certain dizziness by the curious dance of desires and unconnected longings.

Susana Blas

Exhibition Curator

Madrid, December 2016

[1] María Zambrano, Hacia un saber sobre el alma (1950) Por qué se escribe.

La Ceremonia I

La Ceremonia II

La Ceremonia III

La Ceremonia IV

La Ceremonia V

A stolen life I

A stolen life II

A stolen life III

La pantalla I

La pantalla II

Los Orantes

Mujer con velo negro



Marta Beltrán. La Ceremonia

La ventana del arte


Exposición La Ceremonia En 13 Espacio Arte



Cultura más allá de la muralla. La ruta periférica

Cultura de Sevilla


Marta Beltrán presenta en 13ESPACIOarte el segundo episodio de «la ceremonia»



Máscaras de la violencia (J.B. Díaz Urmeneta)

Diario de Sevilla


Sevilla. Exposiciones.

Sevilla Guía


Inauguración de la exposición La Ceremonia en 13ESPACIOarte



Marta Beltrán: «La Ceremonia (Segundo Episodio)»

m-arte y cultura visua