PAINTING: THE LEADING DISCIPLINE

Painting has been present since the origin of the plastic expression as one of the most natural, most intuitive and stable manifestations throughout the history of art. However, its two-dimensionality has questioned its communicative capacity in the last century and has given rise to new creative trends focused on overcoming the limitations of the canvas through the search for movement, the decomposition of objects or multiple perspectives. At the same time, painting has been associated with classicism and testimonial representations of history as a technique that served the dictates of the sociopolitical pulse of the moment, so many contemporary authors have neglected it and opted for other disciplines more versatile.

Georg Baselitz, "Motiv kaputt", 1991. "La Caixa" Contemporary Art Collection

However, painting has always made its way again and has demonstrated its ability to reinvent itself and host countless messages according to the new times. For this reason, this discipline always resurfaces, accommodates new concerns and allows a more critical approach that expands the limits of art and the plasticity of the canvas itself. When it seemed that everything was said, we see that the painting can overcome its apparent limitations and host new speeches in the hands of today's creators.

Ángela de la Cruz, "Clutter VII (Yellow)", 2004. "La Caixa" Contemporary Art Collection

With this intention of revaluing oil on canvas, CaixaForum Madrid opens to the public the exhibition "The painting, a permanent challenge" where you can visit more than forty works from the La Caixa Foundation collection, started in 1985. When there were hardly any centres dedicated to contemporary creation in Spain, this institution opened the doors of its venues in Barcelona and Madrid in 1980 to become a reference to the latest art in our country. Since then, the collection has continued to grow and incorporate new names to its list.

Sean Scully, “Gabriel”, 1993. "La Caixa" Contemporary Art Collection

Nimfa Bisbe, head of the "la Caixa" collections, has curated the exhibition by making a selection of works that deal with the abstraction and plasticity of painting from an open conception, not limited to classical standards or traditional representation. With artworks by Robert Ryman, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Wolfgang Tillmans, Robert Mangold, Ángela de la Cruz, Ruben Guerrero, Günther Förg, Jessica Stockholder, Juan Uslé and Richard Tuttle, among others, the tour proposes a material approach to the painting and the use of the elements that exceed their expected dimension and reach some extent of corporeality.

 

We embark on a journey that crosses our country from end to end, which crosses the capital as an obligatory step, as one who threads the needle and tight its ends towards the corners of our territory to die to the sea. From the coast to the nerve centre of this vast space we travel asphalt and dirt ways, paths transformed into roads that attest to the passage of time and the evolution of our history. We pass through villages that were once the cradle of the great events of a common story. We recognise the names of places we study as essential enclaves of our legacy. Others arouse rather surprise and perplexity, curious, strange and bombastic, but already devoid of a genuine sense as a population.

José Manuel Navia, La Alcarria de Cuenca, parada coche de línea en Olmedilla de Eliz, “Alma tierra”, 2019

The desolate places of a progressive and unstoppable rural exodus resist oblivion thanks to road signs and an isolated tavern that remains open to quench the thirst of the traveller. The kilometres and the time surrender to our passage and throughout the route we see a bitter reality: the depopulation affects today 80% of the territory, while the big cities attract more and more people and concentrate 80% of the entire population. The image has certain similarities with the metaphor of "The Nothing" of The Neverending Story, where the emptiness was invading the kingdom of Fantasy because children did not read or let their imagination fly, which is what feeds the stories of the fairytales. In real life, these same stories are lost in the domains of oblivion, confined in a past that seems remote and obsolete, subjugated to the impositions of progress and urban life.

José Manuel Navia, Angelines en Susín, Sobrepuerto (Huesca), “Alma tierra”, 2019

However, it should be borne in mind that the place we are in today is in debt with our villages. The evolution of events cannot be explained without a shared history marked by milestones that have taken place throughout our land. We also face a serious social problem that must respond to the need to reconquer our spaces, preserve our traditional culture and take advantage of the resources that our land offers.

With the desire to value this immense wealth, unknown and helpless, Acción Cultural Española AC/E has launched the Alma Tierra project. This photographic journey through the work of José Manuel Navia offers a wide panorama of landscapes, situations and environments where there is always room for feeling, nostalgia and hope for the future.

José Manuel Navia, Belén, ganadera del valle del Corneja (Ávila), “Alma tierra”, 2019

“These villages died so that we can live and from their misfortune comes our luck. The rich manage differently, the poor are always guilty." Luis Mateo Díez, “El espíritu del páramo”, 1996.

The project brings together a total of 158 works, gathered in a book with texts by Julio Llamazares, who explains that the initiative is "an elegy, a plea against the marginalisation of some Spaniards by the rest and a call to reflection." An exhibition in the Diputación de Huesca collects a selection of photographs and gives us some of the most poetic images of interior Spain.