The Invention of Identity
by Duccio Tombadori


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You’d have to invent Felipe Cardeña, multiple personality, multi-coloured artist, even if he did not exist. In fact, he thought of duplicating his identity himself as if he were the auctioneer of another copy of himself, who is indeed someone else, and perhaps even someone else again. Indeed the bizarre autobiography of Jusep Torres Campalans, a Catalan Cubist painter, a contemporary of Braque and Picasso, appeared more than half a century ago.  The subject had a lot in common with the two, enjoying the privilege however of being pure literary fiction dreamt up by the French-German-Spaniard Max Aub, an ironic, sulphureous writer who was more of a “double” than anyone else.
It is thus scarcely important to know the true identity of Felipe Cardeña (born in 1979, a native Catalan of Balaguer as well, it would seem) which meanders like a portable icon across the covers of fashion magazines, sashays through social network videos and crops up in more or less mid-cult art shows, as the current contemporary climate dictates, pasting together images, set out in increasingly colourful, ephemeral pavilions, that proliferate and alternate in ‘all the biennials of the world’.
Felipe Cardeña shows himself in public and yet hides behind the parodying grin of an incisive mantra; he does not paint on principle and adopts the more fitting technique of collage. This is how he clads the visual epithelium, cutting out figures like a patient little boy, juxtaposing them and mingling them with harmonising care until he feels the message of the image is effective enough.
Cardeña is, in fact, and wants to be a perfect communicator. And better still you could compare his aesthetic intention to the best heat or electricity-conducting metal alloys, like gold, silver, copper and tungsten.
The aspect of Felipe’s compositions is very gratifying for those who love to be carried away by the first impression. It yields a visual education which immediately references the ‘tantric’ element, and not only because of the prevailing reference to bright colours and the impredicable, tempting shapes of female Hindu goddesses in his style codes.
The fact that Cardeña practises his set of teachings as a course of experience performed in public, does not indicate philosophical pathways to follow, but suggests ‘how’ to journey from simple, clear image to a sort of ‘nirvana’ of thought and feelings.
We’re faced with a lovely manifestation of the connective situations of visual perception identified in the minimum common denominator of cultures. The torso of Venus de Milo, a head of Antinous and Raphael’s Fornarina offers a substitute for the multiple gesture of the crossed arms and legs of Kalī, who sits enthroned in the centre of the composition, and likewise a damned man by Bosch, an Egyptian priest, the Vatican’s Laocoön, Perugino’s Graces, a maidservant by Alma-Tadema, two Faiyum portraits, Michelangelo’s Davide with references to a small Twentieth Century nude of a sleeping woman, painted by Francesco Trombadori, and so forth…
What a cultured collagist and able vulgariser our Cardeña is! If the initiation rite foresees ritual secrecy as the golden rule, the process set up by Felipe overturns it in an explicit licence introductive to the mysterious ‘life of forms’.  ‘Tantra’ in Sanskrit means warp, frame, or net, but is also synonymous with beginning and ‘essence’.
The teaching deriving from the diorama cut and pasted onto the surface is really that of the essential nature of every vain appearance, and vice versa, so that erotic references, aesthetic sedimentation, reminiscences and impressions that have been experienced are burned into the mind’s eye like a magnesium flash for a mind-blowing, persuasive effect.
Surprise, wonder and colour are all part and parcel of a serial tale that streams images on the rolling road of an internal video camera that brings together news, history, ideas and the aesthetic stimuli of various cultures.  Compared with the so-called “centric systems” which expect a subject to have  significant, rational power, the visual and hypertextual pandemonium generated by Cardeña seems to link different signs and symbols, deprived of pre-established hierarchies, or deprived of meaning.
The evident “root stock” ancestry – as the “anti-Oedipus” Deleuze and Guattari intended it – is the virtue of an aesthetic arsenal which announces, without revealing, the artist’s code of identity and expression. It evokes and celebrates the triumph of the connection, the multi-media homogeneity, the interpretative multiplicity and the loss of meaning, and elaborates a cartography of images as liberal interception of what exists.
With considerable ability to synthesize things, Felipe Cardeña develops an intelligent “metaphor of the net” and sets up a potential ABC of visual experiences with no beginning or end, and yet they ask your gaze to activate an infinite choice of narrative paths, where the image-ideogram recalls nothing other than its subtle and fleeting appearance. One, none, one hundred thousand, Pirandello would say: or a character in search of an author who in the case of the person we’re talking about has verified the definite stylistic presence of the work with his name and surname. Even if it didn’t exist, Felipe Cardeña’s identity is more than invention.