Lorenzo Belenguer’s work straddles the realms of sculpture, painting and drawing. In one area of his practice, he transforms metal objects into sculptures that evolve from the visual rhetoric of Minimalism and double as ‘canvases’.
Belenguer is like a hunter who trawls the city for found objects, sometimes sourced as locally as the back garden of the studios’ church. The work is then dictated by his discoveries, which include steel grids, a mattress reduced to its mesh of springs, and blacksmiths’ tools. These he reads as masculine objects. He intervenes with these structures by oxidising the metal elements in salt water or acids and dabbing them with paint of primary colours. This transforms how the objects are read, emphasising the points at which layers of meaning converge. For example, the artist paints the cone of an old anvil a vivid yellow, thereby morphing it into phallic form. In “Homage to Pollock” a spring mattress becomes a three-dimensional, and strangely fluid, abstract canvas.
Belenguer’s work also encompasses drawing, which he interprets as the more “feminine” side of his practice. For an installation he made at the Florence Trust, he drew repeated simple portraits of a female face, which he distressed by placing the sheets of paper into water contaminated with rusted iron. These drawings fill the walls of a niche space he has built, no bigger than a telephone kiosk, from floor to ceiling. A layer of chicken wire covers them, so the niche resembles a cage, perhaps a prison cell. Alongside the niche, a metal basket holds a stack of additional, still-to-be-used, drawings.
The artist describes his female figure as a generic everywoman wearing a head covering. She might be read as being Muslim or the Virgin Mary, as a woman of the Renaissance, the Victorian age or of post-war Britain. Belenguer says she is emblematic of society’s increasingly conservative, and coercive, policies toward women.
These drawings were selected for a group show at the Tate Modern in May 2010.