22 June – 4 November 2012
Antoni Tąpies. Head arms legs body
The late works condense the brutality and direct representation of the early works, inscribed in the movements of appeasement. In tension between trace and matter, both interdependent of the other in his practice, Tąpies builds a body of work that troubles the gaze, but which is also obsessed with the materiality – the «paste like quality», as he calls it – of the painter’s work. Matter is thickness, flesh; it can be scraped, pierced, opened, covered or naked.
Antoni Tąpies. Head Arms Legs Body appeals to a sensorial experience of the object and the situation. Being able to walk around some works, feel their weight, their thickness and materiality, to stand next to them or behind them, invites viewers to use their own physical presence in order to see. Visitors progress from brutal and monumental confrontations with the works on wood facing them to an intimate rapport with the works on paper.
The materiality of painting is also that of drawing. Through writing, the frottages, the marks and the pattern of gesture, Tąpies transforms the nature of paper. For the artist, drawing is a way of cohabiting with meditation in his everyday life. His intimacy retakes the rythm of the common vocabulary: crosses, skulls, body parts, mathematical signs...
The selected works arise from the condition of a rite settled by an ageing artist, trapped in his body and mind, and yet eager to carry on working. Antoni Tąpies and his work maintained a debate with his own history, established a story of his relation to the world and his body that recovers the torments of fundamental human issues: death, life, sexuality.
Our own body is in the world as the heart is in the organism: it keeps the visible spectacle constantly alive, it breathes life into it and sustains it inwardly, and with it forms a system (…) We have relearned to feel our body; we have found underneath the objective and detached knowledge of the body that other knowledge which we have of it in virtue of its always being with us and of the fact that we are our body. In the same way we shall need to reawaken our experience of the world as it appears to us in so far as we are in the world through our body. But by thus remaking contact with the body and with the world, we shall also rediscover our self, since, perceiving as we do with our body, the body is a natural self and, as it were, the subject of perception.
Translated to English from: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phénoménologie de la perception, Paris: Gallimard, 1962
That is why, for me nowadays, drawing would be a more radical way of stressing the process again and rediscovering a form of expression which is not spectacular, but more to do with experience.
(...)insistence on the fragment is part of a certain mental concentration technique. In general, concentrating on a detail for a certain time can foster deep contemplation. That can also be achieved by expanding the size of small things. Here, time is replaced by the impact of dimensions. So my interest in the fragmentary and the expansive are one and the same phenomenon. And I would say that there are other motivations: a mutilated body, severed arms, for example, enable us to show pain and impotence as a way of fighting that very pain.
Words by Antoni Tąpies. Quote translated to English from:
Manuel J. Borja-Villel, ‘The Tattoo and the Body, Conversation with Antoni Tąpies’, El tatuatge i el cos. Papers, cartons, collages, Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tąpies, 1998
(…) Then the suggestion of the human body, I want to show it in an indirect way, through fingerprints or fragments, through signs. You must have noticed paintings with ambiguous representations of an arm, a hand, an armpit. I have even sought spots of the body that people consider ignoble with an aim to proving that all parts of the human body, even those considered the dirtiest, are as respectable as the others.
(…) At first I didn’t analyze this at all, but lately I have been studying the art of the Far East. Here this ambiguity is very important and I have realized that by simply drawing things lightly the spectators are forced to complete them with their imagination. This leads to the participation of the spectators in the act of creation, which I find extremely important.
Translated to English from: Antoni Tąpies, La realitat com a art, Barcelona: Laertes, 1982