Artist: Antonio Saura
Dimension: 130 x 97 cm
Technique: Oil on Canvas
About the Artist
“Antonio Saura was born in Huesca in 1930 and died in Cuenca in 1998. Begins painting and writing in 1947 in Madrid while suffering from tuberculosis and confined for five years. Initial artistic research and pictorial experiments. Takes Arp and Tanguy as influences, yet his work already stands out thanks to his highly personal style. Creates numerous dreamlike and surrealist drawings and paintings that usually depict imaginary landscapes and employ a very colorful palette in flat, smooth applications of paint. First stay in Paris in 1952. Second stay in Paris in 1954 and 1955 during which he meets Benjamin Péret and associates with the Surrealists, although he and his friend and fellow painter Simon Hantaï soon quit their circle. By this time, he is using the technique of grattage, or scraping, and adopts a gestural style and a radically abstract, always colourful manner that features an organic design grounded in chance. Begins painting by occupying the space of the canvas in several very distinct ways, creating formal structures that are highly personal and which he will continue to develop in the ensuing years. First appearances of forms that will soon become archetypes of women’s bodies or the human face. These two fundamental themes will come to dominate the greater part of his output. In 1956 Saura embarks on a new range and level of work that will eventually form his major series, Ladies, Nudes, Self-portraits, Shrouds, and Crucifixions, executing these pieces on both canvas and paper. In 1957 in Madrid founds the group El Paso, which he heads until it breaks up in 1960. Meets Michel Tapié. First solo show at the Rodolphe Stadler Gallery (Paris), where he will regularly exhibit throughout his life. Stadler will also introduce the painter to Otto van de Loo in Munich and Pierre Matisse in New York, both of whom will represent Saura in the coming years. Limits his palette to blacks, greys and browns. Asserts a personal style that is independent of the movements and trends marking his generation. His work follows in the tradition of Velázquez and Goya, and is soon hanging in the major museums. In 1959 brings out the first of a number of printed works; Saura will prove quite prolific in this medium over the years. Illustrates numerous books in an original way, including Cervantes’s Don Quijote; Orwell’s 1984; Pinocho, Nöstlinger’s adaptation of the Pinocchio story; Kafka’s Tagebücher, Quevedo’s Trois visions and many others. In 1960, begins working in sculpture, creating pieces that feature welded metal elements depicting the human face, figures and crucifixions. In 1967 settles permanently in Paris, joins the opposition to the Franco dictatorship and takes part in numerous debates and controversies in politics, aesthetics and artistic creation. Enlarges his thematic and pictorial range. Along with the Femmefauteuils (or Womenarmchairs), begins the series Imaginary Portraits, Goya’s Dogsand Goya’s Imaginary Portraits. In 1971 abandons painting on canvas (which he will take up again in 1979) in order to concentrate on writing, drawing and painting on paper. In 1977 begins publishing his writings and is involved in creating stage designs for theater, ballet and opera. In 1983 produces a new and important series of portraits called Dora Maar or Dora Maar Visited. From this year until his premature death in 1998, returns to all of his themes and figures and brilliantly develops them anew, producing perhaps the best his work has to offer”.
Text taken from http://www.antoniosaura.org
What does this work say (to me)?
When this painting is looked at the first time it may appear to be an abstract painting but then suddenly one discovers there is a terrifying creature mocking at you in a devilish, shameless and soulless way.
It seems to come from the darkness revealing itself thanks to the light casted over it.
Abstraction and figuration meet on this canvas for allowing the painter to portray the human emotion of fear whereas it comes from religious grounds or from a feverish mind that is struggling to cope with the heaviness and cruelty that life can create it does not matter. It will touch everybody in a different way taking even the shape of a funny cartoon if you are lucky enough for your eyes not to see the depth of it but just the distorted expression of a face.
Vara was painted just 14 years after the ugliness of World Word II finished, the echo of its cruelty, senseless and painful essence touching still many artists trying to make sense of all of it, some of them choosing to show the deep abysms the human soul can dig itself into when lost and led by hatred and violence.
Probably the artist’s intentions were different than this but when I look at a painting I prefer to try to join the dots I find and in doing so I create my own interpretation. Many times it aligns with the artist intentions, others not. The more it speaks to me the more I want to have it or the more I admire, like or love it.
Some of the aspects I always like about Saura’s work is his color palette: predominantly black, grey and white with splashes of brown; the way he creates the space that we see as if he is carving darkness, the duality of his paintings and the graphic element exhibited thanks to the linear, intuitive movement of his brush on the canvas.
Because of this, this painting takes a sort of atavic, primal character that goes back, back in time and deep, deep in our subconscious mind.
In what Room to place it?
Any room (but the bedroom) is perfect for this great work. If you enjoy a touch of drama place it when it can be the focal point, it won’t pass unnoticed and certainly it won’t be forgotten.
As a medium size piece it will require distance, air and great lighting that help to keep that contrast vibrant and sharp.