Armando Orozco Tovar
According to experts Antoni Tapies (Barcelona, 1923-2012) was the greatest painter of the second half of the twentieth century. Through his painting he discovered a unique language. He admitted that this discovery had taken a lot of hard work, because something can only be spectacularly achieved by a true artist with genuine talent and character.
Tapies spoke as did the poet Luis Vidales, quoting “Bed is where essential moments happen in life”. Vidales also stressed “Not as in the place where children are created […] When I want to write a poem, I go to bed”.
Antoni Tapies, referring to his art with equal wisdom said, “Knowing how to paint is not knowing how to copy what your eyes see, it is a scholarly attitude […] I believe that life always finds its way out, like a river…”
Surely there he was referring to his compatriot, Jorge Manrique and his verses, “Our lives are rivers / they will lead us to the sea …” Before he could be trapped in the imagined infinite sea in his mind, he would work with materials he had at hand because if he went back to the “craziness of home”, he would end up doing nothing.
Just like Flaubert, the author of Madame Bovary, he would repeat: “If inspiration exists, when it arrives, it usually finds me working.”
Upon discovering his own language, Antoni thought he had found the philosopher’s stone and tried to stop painting altogether, or to do it in a single stroke. “There is now no need he thought to do anything else…”
However, what he actually continued to paint were contrasting paintings of Abstract Expressionism contrary to the popular Informalism movement, when at the time many painters struggled with vivid and violent colours.
Tapies arrived in Paris and then later in New York, with his silent, grey and monochrome pictures and immediately caused a stir in the art world.
This Catalan artist’s painting would also bring people to the “contemplation of profound reality of absolute cosmic consciousness,” by saying “I paint with the subconscious and with the circumstances around me”.
He also said “I reject the era of art that appealed to Franco’s bourgeoisie, as well as the era of oil painting which only served to draw landscapes, still life and portraits. Take yourself down a different path to that relished by that shameful regime, which unfortunately appears to be reborn today.
In the beginning this great artist, like Picasso or Fernando Botero, sought new materials for painting that were not yet used by the painters of his day, these included marble dust, soil and cardboard. He said “When you do something for the first time, you adopt a new vision of reality”, and later stressed
The question is why did Tapies include so many crosses in his paintings? It was not because he was Spanish. “It is because these two intersecting lines are a universal symbol and represent cords of space…” he explained.
It could also be said that he used them because he did not wish to represent the two poles of the cross where the Jews and the Roman Imperialists publicly crucified the poor revolutionary, Jesus Christ, or even before Christ when the same technique was used during the slave rebellion under Spartacus.
Tapies always said “With painting you have to find a link with wisdom…” and he elaborated by saying “Taoists speak of there being a kind of bipolar vacuum in the background, which gives life to everything…” The artist, sculptor, art and social critic all know that life is too short and therefore without ever forgetting humour and irony, should only do important things.
Another very timely message for all of us who spend our days on this planet, we are left with Antoni Tapies’ quote “It is everyone’s responsibility to respect nature and animals and we should always seek the divine within all things in life…”
(Translated by Amanda Flanaghan)