Ana Barriga (Jerez, 1984) has been commissioned to create a site-specific project for one of the most iconic spaces in the CAAC monument zone, the former refectory of the Carthusian Monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas. She was invited to produce a large mural on the front wall of the refectory and an intervention in the adjoining chapel. Inspired by her interest in folk pottery, the artist attempted to draw connections between the different periods of this space’s history: first as a place where pottery objects were kept and used on a daily basis (monastery), later as a porcelain factory, and finally as an exhibition venue populated by icons/figures of contemporary visual culture, from Trump to Zuckerberg. After a lengthy process of evolution and synthesis, the end result is a large polyptych hanging in the old refectory like a reredos, consisting of 10 assembled pieces that can ultimately be read as a kind of modern vanitas: our origins, our frivolous earthly aspirations, and death as the fate that makes us all equal, regardless of our accumulated wealth and power or our ambitions and desires for greatness.

As the artist explains, “It’s a group portrait with seven heads, a number based on Russian nesting dolls. Each head that’s opened reveals its related beginnings, and therefore the interaction that exists between different forces, terminating at one end in a skull as a symbol of death. Holding the heads to keep them from falling, two allegories of Cerberus, who guards the gates of the underworld to prevent the dead from escaping, also act as buttresses of a fictional temple framing the central scene, which is flanked on either side by two symbolic realms, heaven and hell. The crowning element at the top is love, and spray-paintings in the background strip the characters of their gravity, mocking them in favour of liberty.”

The single picture hanging on the front wall of the former Chapel of Mary Magdalene shows a scene in which Adam and Eve reappear, according to the artist, “in a kind of unreal depiction, somewhere between the body of a dog and a pig, symbolically offering an image that attempts to elaborate on the human condition”. Meanwhile, beside the totemic symbol of a large cross, we see “painted friezes that depict Carthusian monks in relation to the artist’s own interests, resulting in familiar figures from popular culture such as the Judas bag, Mister Potato Head or the pop singer Maluma”.