Bellefour opens its salon with an exhibition juxtaposing the works of Laura Códega and Jochi Labourt alongside an open discussion headed by a guest speaker, live piano music performed by Pablo Tomeo and food prepared by a guest chef, Lucrecia Carrara.

The exhibition showcases works from Códega’s latest series of ‘Minerva’ paintings – intricate tableaux executed in lemon juice, where the images are revealed with the application of heat from a flame and then altered using tar, bleach or suspended in resin. An alchemist for contemporary times, Códega paints invisible layers on top of each other, covering the surface of the paper with varying densities of lemon juice. These layers correspond to the contrast of light-dark that emerges when the organic acids oxidize with heat. Códega’s selection of materials that are economical and readily-available, rejects formal art practice and the expense that it endorses. Simultaneously, this selection harbours a social and religious significance in terms of cleanliness, purity, and the desire to erase an ‘invisible enemy’. As Códega says, “The church cleanses the faithful of their sins and lemon cleanses the body of fats and bacterias”.

In its material concerns, the Minerva series corresponds to earlier photo-collage works that explore commercial media relationships with cleanliness. Milk that brandishes the slogan of ‘PURE’, presents a bizarre choice of wording for the lactate of a cow - ‘pure’ that is synonymous with being without blemish, or being without sin, perhaps at the insistence of a society searching for some sort of absolution. Lemon juice is historically and globally known for its function as a natural cleanser, an antiseptic, an antidote to venom, and bleach can be considered a more toxic and superficial counterpart, yet one which promises to leave behind it a trail of white. Using materials of erasure Códega creates complex, positive images which play out intricate scenes.

Labourt’s practice highlights the mutations that happen in the translation from photographic subject matter to painted subject. Often focussing on physical anomalies and socially marginalised characters; Labourt’s paintings bridge the gap between direct portraiture and an altered reality. On show are two works from an ongoing investigation into the dichotomy between the internal and external worlds of the individual. A beautiful and unnerving self- portrait sits alongside a portrait of the artist’s grandmother, a woman who – like many of her generation – was strongly influenced by the scrutiny and mandate of others. The sharp photographic angle and the direct stare seem to be both acknowledging and returning this critical gaze and at once imply a darker current beneath the surface.

In the pendant work, the source of Labourt’s own image has been altered, a third hand holds a beard up to the face, the head composited on to the body of her grandmother, and the scene set within her grandmother’s impeccably-kept home. The beard is simultaneously misplacing and repulsing, and at the same time offers some form of protection, a physical barrier between the wearer and the external world. Argentina is globally renowned for its’ beauty culture; it’s a good-looking nation with a booming plastic surgery business. Yet this strive for ‘perfection’ also yields a plethora of negative, personal, and internal ramifications. By mutating and/or obscuring her own image before translating it through paint, Labourt combats notions of our obligations through the eyes of others and challenges a broad social malady through personal reckoning.

Bellefour is opening its doors for a monthly salon; a night of a shared cultural context – where visual art, rhetoric, music and gastronomy are brought together in a forum for an interchange of ideas.