IN THE CATCH OF MOVEMENT: VICTOR VASARELY

When talking about Op Art one wonders what a difference makes concerning plastic geometry or abstraction based on forms. Investigating optical art means going a step further and understanding its location within the artistic coordinates of the mid-20th-century. In this style, there is, in fact, colour, form and abstraction, but its vocation towards the representation of the movement separates it from pure static figuration and absolute formalism. The works of this pictorial movement hide a double face that only the spectator can discover. In effect, they seem to move when the spectator himself moves.

Vasarely in his working desk, Annet-sur-Marne, 1964 (detail) ©Robert Doisneau

Vasarely was a fundamental character in the configuration of this creative trend, which emerged almost as a natural evolution of the movements of the early 20th century, in a postmodernist stage obsessed with fungibility, the representation of the movement and the impact of new techniques and images in the world of cinema and photography. And one of the main challenges of these creators was the generation of movement on flat works. It is here when visual games enter the scene and do so based on geometry and colour.

Victor Vasarely, "Marsan-2", 1964-1974 (detail), acrylic on canvas, Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest

In the mid-60s, the Hungarian Vasarely let his imagination run wild, fueled by the trends and the artistic atmosphere of Paris, the city where he settled down from an early age, to host that strange combination of lines and curves that are also characteristic of the era in artworks of great visual impact. The false volumes, the spheres in apparent perspective, the patterns with unreal folds... configured a catalogue of today emblematic images.

Victor Vasarely, "Doupla", 1970-1975, acrylic on canvas, Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest

Although Op Art it was an ephemeral movement, like many others that happened in the condensed and productive period of the beginning of the century, its legacy is still present. The beginning can be identified with the opening of the exhibition "Le mouvement" in the Paris gallery Denise René, in 1955, a space that always fostered the avant-garde of the moment. The set of pieces gathered for the occasion gave name to the movement of kinetic art, in which Op Art can be considered included. The visual representation of dynamism, of change, of movement, in short, led these artists to explore and expand the possibilities of traditional forms in both painting and sculpture.

Victor Vasarely, "Gixeh II", 1955-1962 (detail), oil on canvas. Szépmúveszéti Múzeum, Budapest

Vasarely trained as a graphic designer, studies that have left a clear imprint on his work. His choice of shapes and colours at the top of his artistic production is always clean and flat. Although the interest to investigate in the expressive potential of the linear and contrasted drawing began time ago, it is from mid-50’s when his style defines and consolidates, giving rise to some of the most paradigmatic works of this movement.

The Thyssen Museum dedicates to this artist the exhibition "The Birth of Op Art", which will be open until the 9th of September. A unique opportunity to approach this creator and know in-deep his career.

 

One of the purposes of the “Art Madrid-Proyector’20” program was to offer the opportunity to get to know the work of some invited creators, and, through an interactive talk, allow the public to open a direct dialogue with them. For this reason, from February 12th to 14th, were organised three masterclasses at Medialab Prado with Patxi Araújo, Olga Diego and Lois Patiño, all authors who work with the moving image, but who approach their projects from a diametrically opposite perspective. With this agenda, we were able to discuss three essential lines of current video-creation: the fusion with technology and artificial intelligence, the shaping of performances for documentary purposes and video art with film overtones. We already had the opportunity to remember the session with Patxi Araújo and his site-specific work "Sherezade" created for the Medialab Prado façade. Today we will talk about the meeting we had with Olga Diego and Lois Patiño.

Olga diego, photo by Javier Adiego

Olga Diego’s masterclass has as title: “The flight as a creative matter”. Olga is a multidisciplinary artist who in recent years has focused her work on sculpture and performance or action art, which she later documents with photography and video. This last aspect is one of the most interesting for her when she reflects on how the transformation of the piece from an experiential format to a recorded one takes place, and how individuals have become used to consuming this class of less invasive final products, from a space of comfort that our private devices offer.

One of Olga's main lines of research is related to autonomous flight systems and the creation of artefacts capable of rising with little energy. Can one create a material lighter than air itself? This idea has led her to experiment with numerous scientific forms and concepts, as well as taking a historical journey through the beginnings of flight and the progress of humanity to invent devices capable of flying. It is not just about recovering the history of aviation, something that has a much more technological and commercial side, but to investigate the ideas, experiments and tests that analysed the behaviour of air, the dynamics of flows and the design of individual aerodynamic structures, a concern that the human being showed since the Renaissance, with Leonardo Da Vinci.

Olga Diego, photo by Mario Gutiérrez Cru

Olga recovers many of these concepts and applies them to her recent projects. In her latest proposals, she has also worked with inflatable figures, as an alternative to conducted flight, using plastic materials for its construction. Her last exhibition “The automatic garden”, which could be enjoyed at the Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art and the Lonja del Pescado Exhibition Hall, also in Alicante, is a gigantic installation made up of almost a hundred inflatable-electronic sculptures inspired by the beautiful, extravagant and suggestive characters from the Garden of Earthly Delights, by El Bosco. This cloud of humanoid and zoomorphic figures, which move and beat thanks to the electronic mechanisms that keep them permanently inflated, also portrays the excesses of man, his lack of concern for the invasion of the environment, the overexposure to plastic and the exploitation of natural resources. A composition that focuses on "sin", as an indirect message that was also conveyed in the work of El Bosco.

Masterclass of Lois Patiño. Photo by Marta Suárez-Mansilla

For his part, Lois Patiño's career is intimately connected to film work. “Time and image” was the title of his masterclass. His video pieces, whether brief or feature-long films contain a concern closely linked to film language, but on a path that leaves conventional narratives aside. Among the main motifs that occupy his work, Lois opts for more contemplative aesthetics, where the expressive power of the image itself is prioritised, without seeking too many added effects in conventional cinema through sound effects, dialogues or other devices.





This is why Lois's work is so poetic and lyrical. His proposals incorporate technological innovations to cause very concrete effects in his works, but all of this helps to delve into the issues that concern this creator and that, since his beginnings, have been present in his work.

Lois Patiño, foto de Mario Gutiérrez Cru

Lois Patiño has always been interested in the relationship of the individual with the landscape and how it can modulate our way of behaving in society and determine our idiosyncrasy. To what extent are we dependent on our environment? How is culture defined by its connection to the landscape? These and other questions plague the author's work in which many contemplative images abound.

In addition, Lois presented us in scoop the trailer for his latest feature-long film "Lúa vermella" that a few days after the masterclass was officially presented at the Berlinale - International Film Festival in Berlin 2020.