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|A Tree Grafted|
Raul Ortega Ayala's art focuses on varied habitual themes which he explores through a detailed and absorptive process. Once this process of direct exploration is over, he uses the materials and experiences that he encounters to produce a group of works which the artist calls souvenirs.
Having spent over two years working as a gardener in London the artist's new series of work entitled 'An Ethnography on Gardening' will feature a selection of artworks which were first presented at his solo exhibition at the Museo Experimental El Eco, Mexico in December 2008.
Through positioning himself as a practicing gardener within a team employed in both private and public spaces in London, Ortega Ayala covertly undertook research into the world of gardening. Enabling him to take this culture as his subject he embarked upon an interdisciplinary and contextual approach to fieldwork in the everyday. The series of work that stems from the artists time as a practicing gardener is spilt into groups such as, The Public and Private, From the Imaginary to the Monstrous and Control and Compartmentalization; referring to the artists experiences and past histories associated with gardening as a cultural phenomenon.
If an ethnographic model tends to adopt the role of both cultural observant and assimilation into the world in which you are studying, Ortega Ayala does this by deliberately immersing himself in these conditions, engaging in the uncertainty of proximity and critique. Utilising a variety of media, the materials and issues raised by his work, are driven by the context in which they are set. A progression from the traditional ethnographic model, where the subject is turned into objects and then theory, Ortega Ayala transforms the context into his subject and produces complex enquiries and statements that infer his concomitant relationship to a certain field. By referring to the works as souvenirs, he allures to curio as documentation and display, interrogating representation and the (re)presentation of artistic enquiry.
As a Mexican employed for the duration of this project in the UK the immersive process of working as a gardener raised questions about the artist as ethnographer but also as immigrant, allowing a double sense of alterity and self-reflexivity for the artist. Thematics of the hybrid, access and observational rigour are played out in the exhibition within a practice that inherently examines the source and experience of knowledge, whilst questioning the spatial models of interior and exterior occupancy.
Ortega Ayala was born and currently lives and works in Mexico, he completed his MA at Glasgow School of Art and Hunter College, New York in 2003, he has exhibited both in the UK and internationally, with solo exhibitions both in London and Mexico City. He will exhibit in At Your Service, an exhibition curated by Cylena Simonds at the David Roberts Art Foundation, Fitzrovia in April 2009.