Yo no sé si tenga amor la eternidad
pero allá, tal como aquí
en la boca llevarás
sabor a mi

Alice Amati, London
17 April – 25 May 2024

What if walls could talk? Share their stories, what they’ve seen, felt; the memories they hold, like echoes, rippling through our everyday life and person. Omniscient, they know. They are like ghosts, or ‘fantasmas’, in Spanish. This translation into English is not quite a complete one, though; a ‘fantasma’ is something between the amorphous, both sentimental and symbolic. Charged with a particular energy, they inhabit the worlds of nostalgia, yearning, respect and wonder.

Sofía Salazar Rosales’ (b. 1999, Ecuador) practice speaks to said ‘fantasmas’. Drawing from the languages of sculpture, installation and architecture, Salazar Rosales’ responses are part of the spaces they inhabit. Crossing mediums, they defy pigeon- holed categorisation, extending and unraveling unseen and unsung details of the world around us. Rather than existing as completely new works, they are each reformulations of past ones, as if they were an ongoing story. Akin to the patina on walls, they accumulate, morph, change.

There are certain recurring motifs, though: how they slump, droop, hang, titter, tense; are pulled by gravity and also defy it. In their materiality, Salazar Rosales embraces a balance between tenderness and precarity with a leaning towards what is made by hand: glass, beads, stitching, casts. In each assemblage there is a systemic delicacy and unique levity morphed with a whispered monumentality that feeds into fuelling them with their own charge. Look closely and you’ll note little details; a seed, a talisman, a personification of each creation in its current formulation.

The analogy to ‘fantasmas’ is one that came to Salazar Rosales on a plane. Originally from Ecuador and Cuba, she moved to Europe for her studies, first France – Lyon and Paris – now Holland. In a moment of movement, displacement, there was a thought for what is left, and what is retained. Like what one tastes after a meal or a bite, or the sound that is recalled after hearing a song. Indeed, the title of the exhibition takes its cue from ‘Sabor A Mi’ a song originally by Àlvaro Carillo Alarcon, which is a ‘bolero’, a quintessential South American genre that croons and is associated with a past time. Slow and romantic, heavy with desire, they soften the realities of our present day and unveil the glowing haze of memory.

Unlike a ‘fantasma’ though, which is a masculine term with the pronoun ‘un’, Salazar Rosales refers to her works as ‘ellas’, the plural for she. In their femininity, they resemble ‘una cancion’ (song) or ‘una memoria’ (memory), existing in this realm of sisterly kinship. Released into the world and particularly into a space with precise intention, there is a pervading sense of protecting. When peering closely at ‘When the axial skeleton decides to speak’ (2024), for example, you may notice a hanging seed; a talismanic bulls eye or ‘ojo de buey’ that speaks to Salazar Rosales’ Cuban heritage and the Santería belief system.

There is also the aspect of holding; literally, conceptually and emotionally providing support. For example, ‘We are contextual and sentimental & Meeting space(s)’ (2024) that Rosales refers to as ‘dos enamorados’, which translates as two lovers, involves two leaning bags atop a mat. There is also ‘They ask to stay’ (2023) in which cast plantain bananas hang in a beaded mesh bag, stitched assiduously by Salazar Rosales’ hand. Beyond their held drop, there is a considered conversation around them as an agricultural product, one that has been at the heart of so much control, market manipulation and inequality in Ecuador and other parts of Latin America. A tackling of the economics and imbalance of source versus consumption.

Ultimately though, Rosales’ work dances. It introduces each element with a faint sense of play, as if a song were playing in the distance and you could be overheard humming, softly. Like a poem, ‘Sabor A Mi’ resembles a string of words, sentences and punctuations written to a past time yet existing in a present moment for us to absorb. A note from a former self, place, lover, that one is to keep for our future selves.

Text by Jennifer Ellis

Photo byTom Carter