Saturday, May 17, 2014

Antoni Tapies

pencil on paper
Foundation Antoni Tapies, Barcelona, Spain
-Fair use-

“Like a researcher in his laboratory, I am the first spectator of the suggestions drawn from the materials. I unleash their expressive possibilities, even if I do not have a very clear idea of what I am going to do. As I go along with my work I formulate my thought, and from this struggle between what I want and the reality of the material - from this tension - is born an equilibrium.” (Antoni Tapies)

Antoni Tapies (1923- ) is a Spanish painter, lithographer and etcher, born in Barcelona. Alongside Dali, Miro, Chillida and Picasso, he is one of the great Spanish artist personalities, who had a decisive influence on European painting in the second half of the 20th century.

He studied law at Barcelona University, then gave this up to devote himself to painting. He studied for two months in 1944 at a drawing school in Barcelona, otherwise self-taught. Lived in Paris 1950-1 on a French government scholarship, and has since made frequent visits to Paris.

While the early work is still characterized by self-portraits, in the 1950s he turned to abstract and developed an understanding of painting that presented a completely new pictorial corporeality. He began to produce pictures using sand, clay, marble dust and lime, which resemble impenetrable walls. The crannied backgrounds to his works, incorporating various materials, have an almost physical impact on the viewer. At the same time, he repeatedly breaks open this wall-like surface by scratching in grooves or cryptic signs, making imprints or including other objects in a collage-like manner. In addition, he experiments with different paints and varnishes. After the paintings of the 60s with their overwhelming wealth of material, the canvases of the 90s remain positively empty.

He has allowed himself to be inspired by far eastern philosophy, so that the colorless canvases are primarily reminiscent of contemplation and meditation. In particular, the square formats of the late work radiate an integral harmony. His artistic work resembles philosophizing about polarities: the poles of spirit and matter, form and formlessness, or reality and the imagination. In this context, the body, physical experience and investigation of the self are the extreme points of reference in a never-ending search for images. Once these images have been created, they develop a life of their own, unfolding a magical power and demanding the viewer’s participation.

“With my work I attempt to help man to overcome his alienation; I do this by surrounding his daily life with objects, which confront him in a tactile way with the final and deepest problems of our existence. I want the means that I employ to create the necessary stimulus to be as direct as possible. Instead of giving a sermon on humility, I often prefer to depict humility itself.”  (Antoni Tapies)

He was awarded in 1958 the First Prize for painting at the Pittsburgh International, and the UNESCO and David E. Bright Prizes at the Venice Biennale. He lives in Barcelona.