Painted Architectures: Spanish post-conceptual Figuration. INTERVIEW with Paco de la Torre

In autumn 2017, Berlin project space MEINBLAU showed „Gemalte Architekturen“ (Painted architectures), an exhibition of seventeen Spanish artists. They are known in Spain as representing the Spanish post-conceptual figuration, and have been instrumental in renewing figurative painting over the past four decades. In their works, they use architecture and spatial geometry as a structural center: be it as the main motif, background, frame or as a symbolic element.

Estancia en Bauhaus, 2017, 90 x 65cm

Estancia en Bauhaus, 2017, 90 x 65 cm

Post-conceptual figuration is an artistic style that emerged in Spain in the early 1970s, a term coined by Paco de la Torre. The aim was to redesign figurative painting from the point of view of personal poetics. The group exhibition curated by Juan Cuéllar and Roberto Mollá was devoted to the role of the architectural and geometric image in the works of these artists in particular.

We are proud to be able to present you interview series with four of the post-conceptural Spanish artists within the following weeks: We were emailing with Ángel Mateo Charris, Roberto Mollá, Jorge Tarazona  and Paco de la Torre about their work, the meaning of architectural motives therein and the merits of painting.

all illus. (c) Paco de la Torre
Universitat Politècnica de València




Why the focus on architecture, architectural motives?  

Architecture is one of the fundamental axes of my work. The idea of constructing the image acquires a metaphorical sense. Architectural constructions as a spatial context in which time passes. I organize the pictorial space by means of conciliatory tactics between illusionist conception and the abstract language. My paintings present scenic simulations where light is converted into volume and color into object. The use of painted architecture and architectural constructions favor the shaping of rhizomes and ringlets that paralyze the tale. A figuration of a limit that would respond, to a great extent, to primitive archetypes coming from my imagination.

Nuevo estilo, 1996, 108 x 180 cm

Nuevo estilo, 1996, 108 x 180 cm

How is your working process? Where do you find your motives? Your topics?

I research the processes implied in the birth of the image and its plastic representation. In my work I use materials that come from the unconscious; I explore the process of synthesis and abstraction typical of a dreamlike language; I investigate the possibilities of memory as a model and I experiment with the mechanisms of thought through automatism.

The autobiographical nature of my work is based on the landscape of Almeria, a city located in the south of Spain, linked to my childhood and adolescence. The desert, the beach and the Mediterranean architecture give a rich iconic source brought about by these more significant metaphors.

El no de karateca, 1991, 130 x 160 cm

El no de karateca, 1991, 130 x 160 cm

Is it a conceptual approach or do the motives just happen?

My working process starts from an unconscious motivation that evolves towards a globalizing conceptualization.

Why painting? Which possibilities does painting offer to you?

Although I am not only a painter, painting is a tool for reflection and the place of action in which I develop my experiments mainly for the freedom it offers to create worlds. Painting was the first medium where images materialized and since then the medium has had an interesting group of artists that has developed over the centuries. I defend the pictorial practice which takes a position of passive resistance facing the market trends, mediatic colonisation and political activism.

Are there role models, influences, which inspire your work?

El secreto de la imagen, 2007, 195 x 160 cm

El secreto de la imagen, 2007, 195 x 160 cm

In my doctoral thesis, I defined the post-conceptual figuration as a phenomenon that encompasses a number of artists working for the renewal of the Spanish figurative painting from individual points of view. This trend emerged in the early 1970s, and I started working with the spanish neo-metaphysics in the 90s. Our works present aesthetic and conceptual keys that give an air of familiar characteristics to the set, as the recuperation of the narrative capacity of the pictorial image and innovation in traditional pictorial themes from a personal perspective, or the promotion for silence and mystery as links to the pictorial tradition.

My inspiration knows no limits, it can proceed from the word, cinema, music, architecture or design. But if we focus on painting – from Italian Renaissance artists, like Giotto, the avant-garde of the Bauhaus, like Oscar Schlemer, the figurations of interwar, like Carrá, to postmodern artists, like David Hockney.

Paco de la Torre, thank you for letting us share your thoughts.

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