It is always an overwhelming and beautiful experience to hold in your hands a book you have just received from the printers once it is finished. The smell pouring out of the flipping pages, the touch of the outside cover, the stitching and the resistance of the book’s whole structure the first time you try to open it and alter its original shape. One could say there is something rather sexy, even nearly fetishistic about the feelings one experiences while discovering all the sensations overlapping each other with anticipation. 

Are the colours finally set right after so much testing? Is the pagination spot on? No more invisible typos popping out? Check, check and check! After holding breath for nearly one minute, one wants to jump out of joy and share it with literally everyone! 

There is something quite magical about holding in your hands the finished product, the physicality of something one previously could only imagine or saw in the coldness of the computer’s screen. On a website and digital format, the work does not make such an impact, regardless of the definition or quality of the website pages or files.  

Book’s front cover, photo courtesy of the Artist

To make an Artwork, a painting or a sculpture is very different, it is way more intimate. The feeling with a book is never as vulnerable, perhaps closer to the excitement of an exhibitionist feeling naked and proud at the same time. Painting is totally in the present, gathering experiences and feelings from the past towards an uncertain future. To make a book involves looking into these experiences once they have totally passed, reflecting into what happened, exhausting bit by bit the possibilities and potentialities of looking and sensing the Artwork while connecting deeper with the reader’s imagination, making him or her part of the Artist’s journey.  

Bodies of Work aims to enhance the importance of the sense of touch, which is present in all of Jorge’s oeuvre. Once the book is in your hands, the velvety finish of the book’s cover makes one want to feel, caress and look into it for a bit longer, before letting it rest on the table once again. Also, the cover’s image which is a  detail of the painting Hoping for a Virtuous Virtuality (2022) is extremely three-dimensional. This generates a great contrast with the flatness and  thickness of the hard cover. 

The painting represents a female figure levitating, kissing towards a source of light coming from the sky, a source of light which is made out of golden threats, resins and oil paint. Is this heavenly descending light depending now on wires and threads?. The title Hoping for a Virtuous Virtuality refers to the uncertainty of the paradoxical and existential point we are nowadays experiencing. A moment where our expectations for a better future are fundamentally entangled with technology  since the virtual world we are entering into may bring us some answers and a better way of living.

At the same time the virtual world is overcoming our sensory experience, pushing us to have extremely short attention spams and live a more and more  outwardly experience of reality.

The  whole book also combines a lot of the Artworks with close up pictures, underlying  the physicality of the materials. This also contributes to the Artist’s call to return to our bodies through touching, for our sense of touch is central to anchor ourselves in our bodies. Touching things and perceiving them directly enhances our awareness and helps ups to slow down the speed at which we swallow them. In order to do this, the largest organ of our bodies, the skin, is the one that connects our inwards and outwards experience. Silicones, rubbers, plasters and resins, normally used to make moulds and contain sculptures are constantly present throughout the book recalling the importance of the skin and the  Artist’s presence in his oeuvre. 

Hope for a Virtuous Virtuality,Oil and resin on canvas, 162x130x4cm, 2022

Perhaps the fact that one can also hold all these Artworks in their hands with a familiar A4 format makes the collector feel closer to what it would be like to own the Art work. You may not have the painting on your wall or the sculpture somewhere in the living room, but that book on the shelf, or the top of the table, gets you a step closer to having the painting and gives you a sense of affinity with the Artist’s world.

The title of the book Bodies of Work is also very telling, the word “Work” is not related to any tedious job but rather a joyful journey of transformation throughout the themes and curiosities which have obsessed Jorge.  From film to sculpture, performance, drawing and painting, the book looks into the different stages and constant search through different media in order to achieve peak joyful experiences that move the Artist to reflect in our human condition and continue in his personal journey.

To enter joy within Artistic process, one needs to encounter and go beyond unpleasantness, surpassing technical difficulties of the different media is only part of a physical and emotional  exploration which demands acceptance and letting go of the different internal resistances.  All of these transformations and changes are condensed with different background colours. Each one of these Bodies of Work has a timeframe of production of two to three years. All the slight  variations of the background colours range from cream, to pink or baby blue which enrich the character and subject of each one of the periods between 1997 to 2022.   

Jorge pushes forward the thinking that the more one becomes connected with one’s own body one will be more aware of emotional and mental convulsions, like this one could eventually guide his or her energies to further express them on a creative endeavour. For him, the Artistic practice and the different materials and media he has used thorough his career have been different vehicles to enhance and fine tune his perception. In Jorge’s own words:

– Perception is one of the most precious and invaluable attributes an Artist may continually try to develop, the more a person fine-tunes his perception the better one could reach more sophisticated modes of expression. 

The book also contains some beautiful quotes and reflections of the Artist, things that he finds relevant and complement his personal and challenging works with moments of insight that help the reader to get closer to the paintings, sculptures, performances or films:

… a space of non-resistance where something beyond the limits of my skin connects the inside and outside of my body with a larger, ever expanding form of selfhood that through the sense of touch reveals itself into the object while it’s being made, to the point that it feels as if the object is actually making me.

Back and side cover, photo courtesy of the Artist

The book was beautifully designed by the Taiwanese designer Ihsi Chiu, Ihsi was trained as a fashion designer in Taiwan, her style and finesse in her designs contributes greatly to the overall look and elegance of the book. Ihsi has managed to focus on some aspects which very clearly and simply illustrate the multilayered complexity of Jorge’s work. 

Bodies of Work is a limited edition of two hundred and ten books, personally signed by  the Artist. The book can be purchased in the Artist’s website, giving the audience the chance to get a bit closer to Jorge Rivera’s fascinating works and his evolution as a person and an Artist. Jorge Rivera’s Bodies of Work is a very tasteful selection of the different but homogeneous faces that the Artist has gone through. 

Ph.D., MA Royal College of Art