Artists

A very special portrait night! by Michele Del Campo

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ENGLISH: What a fantastic gathering of talents in just a few square meters we had last Thursday! The place was my studio, and the names of the artists will sound familiar to many who appreciate painting at its highest level of representational skills. Some of them came from far away and knew each other by name or were virtual friends in the social media, but had never met in person before, some others were good old friends that regularly share space in high profile society exhibitions. There were all sort of drinks and food on the table, and the noise of our excited conversations was high, but when the time to draw came, suddenly absolute silence! I switched on the spotlight and each of us took turns in sitting still in the middle for 12 to 15 minutes. We all got busy at sketching against the clock, and in all sorts of mediums: pencils, sanguine, charcoals, pens, watercolours and even ipads! We ended up having a collection of everyone's portraits, and we could appreciate each others different approaches, but it felt so delightful to recognise ourselves in each and every sketch!

ESPAÑOL: Qué reunión más buena de talentos en apenas unos pocos metros cuadrados tuvimos el pasado jueves! El lugar era mi estudio y el nombre de los artistas sonará familiar a muchos de los que aprecian la pintura en su más alto nivel de habilidad representativa. Algunos de ellos vinieron desde lejos y se conocían de oido o eran amigos virtuales en los medios sociales, otros eran ya buenos amigos que exponen regularmente en sociedades inglesas de alto perfil como la ROI (Royal Institute of Oil Painters). Había todo tipo de bebidas y comidas en la mesa y el nivel de ruido de las concitadas conversaciones era alto, pero cuando vino el tiempo de dibujar, de repente el silencio absoluto! Encendí la lámpara y cada uno de nosotros se turnó sentándose en el medio desde 12 a 15 minutos. Todos estábamos ocupados a dibujar contrarreloj en una gran variedad de medios, desde lápices a sanguinas, a carboncillo, a bolis, acuarelas y hasta ipads. Terminamos teniendo una colección de retratos de todos los artistas presentes, y pudimos admirar los distintos acercamientos de cada uno, pero fue muy divertido reconocernos perfectamente en todos los dibujos!

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From left: José de Juan, Glenn Fitzpatrick, Adebanji Alade, Michele Del Campo, Haidee-Jo Summers, Peter Keegan, Graeme Messer, Nur Shodjai, Edward Ofosu.

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Group exhibition in Madrid by Michele Del Campo

ansorena-exhibition-july-15 ENGLISH: Starting a new phase in Madrid, after several years away, I am so proud of exhibiting with a gallery that is new to me, but it is one that has always been the reference for the best Spanish realism: the Galería Ansorena. Jewellers, auction house and contemporary art gallery, Ansorena is a big name in the Madrid high society, from as far as 1845. There is no better way to start with a gallery than to be accompanied by such high level artists like Miguel Coronado, Alberto Martin Giraldo, Hugo Alonso and Bea Sarrias. Definitely not to be missed!

 

ESPAÑOL: Empezando una nueva etapa en Madrid, tras varios años sin exponer, estoy orgulloso de empezar con una nueva galería, una que ha siempre sido el referente del mejor realismo español: la Galería Ansorena. Joyeros, casa de subastas y galería contemporánea, Ansorena es un nombre prestigioso en la sociedad española, desde tan lejos como 1845. No hay mejor manera de empezar con una galería que en una muestra de altísima calidad, con artistas como Miguel Coronado, Alberto Martin Giraldo, Hugo Alonso y Bea Sarrias. ¡Una exposición así no se puede perder!

 

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The birth of Fundación Arcilla, not just one more Foundation... by Michele Del Campo

fundacion arcilla artistas ENGLISH: Artists have always felt the need, in general, to create in the solitude of their studios, lost in their peculiar world and obsessed with that research of form and content that for many is their reason to live. Not even universities facilitate much the encounter and the exchange among talented artists, I still remember how I was feeling the necessity to isolate and work outside the classes in order to continue creating without meeting the harsh criticism of professors and peers, all too advocated towards the "conceptual" tendencies of an art form where manual skills are banned. This is why I had always found it difficult to meet talented representational painters, apart from some that worked in my same gallery, until the social media have helped us find each other and communicate. During the last 2 or 3 years, in fact, thanks to internet I have been able to meet up, dine and socialise with those painters that before I admired but I didn't think that it would be possible to get to know personally. That encounter among painters of a certain professional level is fundamental in order to create a spirit of group and to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information. Spain, a country still inmersed in a deep economical crisis, is the country to which I owe a big part of my formation and my professional development, and where there is a solid tradition of realist painting at the highest standard. But the crisis has actually favoured that connection among artists that now feel the need to find solutions all together, uniting forces and targets. The same traditional model of the art gallery as the only entity to affirm and strengthen the value of an artist has changed with the crisis, and the collective of artists today is more aware of their own responsibility in creating their own oportunities to exhibit and sell their work, especially after the closure of many important galleries all around Spain.

The idea for a Foundation that gather the most talented and famous artists in Spain was born from the valuable effort of some patrons and forward-looking artists and from the opportunities created by the new social media in internet. The artists will not only be painters or sculptors, and not only bound to the representational style, there will be also actors, musicians, poets, video artists, etc. This new association is called Fundación Arcilla and it officially opened its headquarters in a new building named "ArtEXpacio" with an exhibition of realist painting, to which I participated, last Thursday 11th June in Madrid, and it is already working towards national and international projects.

In the UK, where now I live, the artists that use traditional mediums have joined forces and formed exclusive societies since a very long time ago. Examples of societies are the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP), the New English Art Club (NEAC), the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI), the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS), the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE), the Pastel Society (PS), the Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA), the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) and many more. Almost all of these societies have found in the central Mall Galleries their perfect space for exhibitions, promotional and didactic activities, taking turns to use the space. This way, the societies have succeeded to create a point of reference for all the people who love contemporary art in its traditional forms. The prospect that "ArtEXpacio" could become a sort of Spanish version of the Mall Galleries, seems finally real to me, and I am very proud to have been called to be part of this new reality with artists of very high level. As artist and co-founder Modesto Trigo said in his inaugural speech, the direction towards which the Foundation is bound depends on the will and the action of each of its members. It is certain that we all know each other now, we all share a sincere admiration for each other, and we share the same determination to cooperate and contribute to this wonderful project that will hopefully give visibility to the traditional art forms in their contemporary vision.

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SPANISH: Los artistas siempre han sido en general muy solitarios, metidos en sus estudios, perdidos en su mundo visionario, obsesionados por esa búsqueda de formas y contenidos que para muchos es una necesidad vital. El mundo académico de las universidades tampoco facilita demasiado el encuentro y el intercambio entre los artistas de talento, todavía me acuerdo de como yo sentía la necesidad de aislarme y trabajar fuera de las clases para seguir creando sin incurrir en esas críticas demoledoras de profesores y compañeros de la universidad, todavía tan abogados hacia las tendencias más "conceptuales", donde las habilidades manuales son un engorro. Es por eso que siempre había encontrado difícil conocer a pintores realistas de talento, a parte los que trabajaban con mi misma galería, hasta que recientemente los social media nos han abierto a la comunicación y al encuentro virtual. En los últimos dos o tres años, de hecho, gracias a internet he podido encontrar, cenar y socializar con muchos de esos pintores españoles que antes admiraba pero no pensaba que sería posible llegar a conocerlos personalmente. Ese encuentro entre pintores de cierta trayectoria profesional es fundamental para crear un espíritu de grupo y para facilitar el intercambio de ideas y de información. La crisis en España, país al cual debo gran parte de mi formación y de mi desarrollo profesional, y donde hay pintores de grandísimo talento y tradición, también ha ayudado esa cohesión para buscar soluciones colectivas entre pintores, para unir fuerzas y caminos. El mismo modelo tradicional de la galería de arte como único reducto para afirmar y corroborar el valor de un artista ha cambiado tras la crisis, y especialmente tras la clausura de muchas galerías de arte importantes por toda España, el colectivo de los artistas es hoy más consciente que nunca de la importancia de su propio papel en crear oportunidades para exponer y vender su obra.

Es desde el valioso esfuerzo conjunto de unos cuantos mecenas y artistas de ideas clarividentes y desde ese nuevo movimiento colectivo social impulsado por internet que ha surgido la maravillosa idea de crear una Fundación que una los artistas de más talento y fama de España, en el ámbito de la pintura, de la escultura, de la poesía, del teatro, del video arte, etc. Se llama Fundación Arcilla y su sede y espacio de actividades, "ArtEXpacio", se ha inaugurado el pasado jueves 11 de junio en Madrid, con el objetivo de promocionar sus trabajos en ámbito nacional e internacional.

En el Reino Unido, donde yo vivo ahora, los artistas que se expresan en los medios tradicionales están congregados en sociedades exclusivas desde hace muchísimo tiempo, como la Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP), New English Art Club (NEAC), Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI), Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), Royal Watercolour Society (RWS), Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE), Pastel Society (PS), Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA), Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) y muchas más... Casi todas estas sociedades han encontrado en el espacio muy central de la Mall Galleries su centro de actividades promocionales, didácticas y expositivas, ocupándo su espacio por turnos, y de esa manera han conseguido crear un punto de referencia para todo ese público que ama el arte contemporáneo hecho con técnicas tradicionales. Que ArtEXpacio de la Fundación Arcilla se pueda convertir en una pequeña Mall Galleries española, un espacio de actividad, promoción y difusión de las varias formas del arte español, lo veo hoy posible en España, y estoy encantado de haber sido llamado a formar parte de este maravilloso grupo de artistas de altísimo nivel. Como dijo el artista Director y co-Fundador Modesto Trigo en su discurso inaugural, la dirección a la cual está encaminada la Fundación, y su éxito, será determinada por la voluntad y el operado de todos nosotros, los artistas que han sido invitados a formar parte de ella. Seguramente se nota el entusiasmo colectivo de los artistas, todos ahora nos conocemos y compartimos esa admiración recíproca y esa voluntad de colaborar y contribuir a este maravilloso y necesario proyecto para recuperar el valor del arte español. Con profundo agradecimiento a esos fundadores que han dedicado su tiempo y sus energías a este importante proyecto.

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En plein air, a British struggle and passion by Michele Del Campo

_MG_9343 ENGLISH: Last Friday I had the pleasure to paint from life with Haidee-Jo Summers and Adebanji Alade, such a high level there, for a very enjoyable afternoon of work and chatting. We took a couple of models to the sides of a canal that didn't look as picturesque as we decided it to become on canvas, and that is the beauty of improvisation: you don't need to go too far away to find inspiration, any small spot with some interesting colour or pattern could become a nice background for the models, in fact this place was convenient for us because it is just outside of my studio building, The Chocolate Factory. Having grown up by the Mediterranean sea, I still find that England is too difficult a territory for en plein air painting, if one is looking for strong lighting contrasts coming from the direct sun and needs to work over more than one day with the same conditions. In fact the best thing to do in here seems to be either avoiding the ephemeral sun completely, in order to be able to work over several days with similar lighting conditions, or, in those lucky bright days, to leave everything aside and rush to do a painting in just one quick session. In this case we had a typical variable weather, with sun, wind and clouds alternating, a very difficult condition to capture. It was difficult also for the models, who stoically resisted most of the times the temptation to adapt their clothing to the abrupt changes of temperature. Nevertheless it is always fulfilling to paint from life outdoors, and England is perhaps still the homeland of the plein air painters, and those painters that sometimes we encounter in our Mediterranean countries working in the streets are especially foreigners, many Anglo-Saxons among them, of course!

ESPAÑOL: El pasado viernes tuve el placer de pintar del natural con Haidee-Jo Summers y Adebanji Alade, para una tarde muy agradable de trabajo y conversaciones. Pusimos dos modelos a posar a lado de un pequeño canal, el cual no parecía tan pintoresco como lo pintamos todos nosotros en el lienzo. Esa es la belleza de la improvisación: no se necesita ir demasiado lejos para encontrar inspiración, cualquier lugar con ciertos colores o formas se puede convertir en el perfecto fondo para los modelos, y de hecho este lugar lo elejimos por comodidad, estando justo fuera de mi estudio, The Chocolate Factory. Habiendo crecido a lado del mar mediterraneo, tras varios años viviendo en Reino Unido todavía pienso que inglaterra es un territorio demasiado difícil para la pintura al aire libre, si uno busca los fuertes contrastes de luz que la luz directa del sol origina, y si uno necesita trabajar en esas mismas condiciones durante más de un día. De hecho, lo mejor que se pueda hacer aquí es evitar el sol por completo, porque es una condición demasiado efémera, si se plantea hacer un cuadro que dure varios días y se busca por ello una condición generalmente estable. Otra solución sería la de dejarlo todo en cuanto salga un día afortunado de sol más o menos estable, pero completar la obra en el mismo día. En nuestro caso, tuvimos una típica sesión variable, con viento, nubes e intervalos de sol, unas condiciones difíciles de capturar para los pintores, y también para las modelos, las cuales resistieron la tentación de adaptar su ropa demasiadas veces a las variaciones de temperatura tan bruscas. Y sin embargo, inglaterra quizás sigue siendo la patria de la pintura al aire libre, y en nuestros paises mediterraneos los pocos pintores que se ven pintando en la calle son sobre todo extranjeros o turistas... Muchos Anglosajones entre ellos, claro!

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Open Studios invite by Michele Del Campo

michele del campo, studio_MG_3074-1          Sat 15 and Sun 16 November,  12-6pm,  free entry The Chocolate Factory, Clarendon Road, N22 6XJ London  Studio 9a, first floor, Unit B104

ENGLISH: Next weekend I will open the door of my brand new studio and welcome anybody who wants to see my space, my work and say hi to me. In fact I am taking part to the popular N22 Open Studios event, which last year attracted more than 7.000 visitors, and there is no better chance to discover what goes on in this beautiful building, The Chocolate Factory, with 120 creatives of all disciplines. For the occasion I will also put some paintings, original drawings, giclee prints and catalogues on sale!

ESPAÑOL: El próximo fin de semana abriré las puertas de mi nuevo estudio y daré la bienvenida a todos los que quieran ver mi espacio, mi trabajo y hablar conmigo. De hecho tomaré parte en el popular evento N22 Open Studios (estudios abiertos), el cual el año pasado registró la visita de más de 7000 personas en dos días a los 120 artistas que trabajan en este edificio maravilloso que es The Chocolate Factory. Para la ocasión pondré también varios cuadros, dibujos, estampas y catálogos a la venta. ¡Os espero! OPEN2014-invite-2

The end of Soho artist studios by Michele Del Campo

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ENGLISH: In 2010 an organization that provides studio space for artists offered me the great opportunity to rent a studio in Soho, a very central and fashionable area in London. Beside our building had to be built one of the underground rail stations of Crossrail, the biggest construction project in Europe, which will link the west with the East, passing through the centre through a series of newly excavated underground tunnels. From my window, just at the end of the worksite, I can see Oxford Street, perhaps the most famous commercial and turistic street of London. The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are just 15 minutes walking distance towards South, and so it is the British Museum, towards East. Also in the East, but just 10 min. away, is Covent Garden, and within the same distance are Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, towards West, and these are just a few of the many nearby touristic attractions. The same street where my building is, Dean Street, is full of history. For example, this street was regularly frequented by writer Charles Dickens, during his early career as an actor in the Royalty Theatre. In Dean Street also lived his childhood years Karl Marx, in very poor conditions, and his close collaborator Friedrick Engels. In Dean Street there was also a famous private club for artists and bohemians, The Colony Room, frequented by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and, more recently, by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. But everything has an end, and the most central and sought after building for artist studios in London has been sold to a new company, owned by Crossrail. After receiving a very recent warning about the end of our lease, before 31st August all artists have to hand back the keys, and many of us are still looking for a new studio. For sure there won't be any more chances to be so close to the centre, nowadays artists studios tend to be in old factories in the outskirts, but my 4 years in Soho have been a privilege that I will always treasure among my memories as an artist.

 

the Crossrail worksite seen from my window in 2010. Beyond the worksite is Oxford Street.

ESPAÑOL: En 2010 una organización que gestiona edificios con estudios de artistas en Londres me ofreció la gran oportunidad de alquilar un estudio en Soho, un área muy central y a la moda de Londres. Nuestro edificio estaba a lado de una zona de obras que formaba parte del proyecto de construcción más grande de Europa, la nueva línea de trenes Crossrail,

    The Crossrail worksite from my window in 2014

que unirá el sur-oeste al nor-este de Londres, pasando por el centro a través de nuevos túneles subterráneos. Desde mi ventana, más allá de la zona de obras, se ve Oxford Street, la famosa calle comercial más turística de Londres. La National Gallery y Trafalgar Square están a 15 minutos andando hacia sur, la misma distancia que el British Museum, hacia el este mientras Covent Garden, siempre al este, está a tan solo 10 minutos, igual que Piccadilly Circus, al oeste, entre otros lugares turísticos famosos. La misma calle donde está mi edificio de artistas, Dean Street, tiene muchísima historia. En esta calle estaba el teatro Royalty Theatre, que frecuentaba mucho el escritor Charles Dickens, en sus comienzos como actor. En Dean Street también vivió su infancia Karl Marx, en condiciones muy pobres, y su colaborador Friedrick Engels. En Dean Street también surgió un club privado de artistas y bohemios, The Colony Room, frecuentado por Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon y, más recientemente, Damien Hirst y Tracy Emin. Pero todo tiene un final, y el edificio de artistas más central y buscado de Londres ha sido vendido hace poco a una nueva empresa, propiedad de Crossrail. Tras  recibir un aviso muy reciente, el día 31 de agosto todos los artistas tienen que entregar las llaves, y muchos no hemos encontrado todavía un nuevo estudio. Seguramente no habrá más posibilidades de encontrar un espacio tan cerca del centro, hoy los estudios de artistas tienden a estar en viejas fábricas abandonadas en la periferia de la ciudad, sin embargo, mis 4 años en el Soho han sido un privilegio enorme que quedará siempre entre mis recuerdos más entrañables como artista.

"L'Illustratrice" (The illustrator), oil on linen, 162x114cm

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A great experience at Patchings Art Festival by Michele Del Campo

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ENGLISH: Last week it was a great experience participating to Patchings Art Festival. The main peculiarity of the festival is that it shows artists creating their works in public and it gives visitors the chance to talk directly to them about it. It was my first participation to the event and it was so interesting to see such a diversity of styles and approaches to painting, but also to other disciplines. Certainly it was a feast for the visitors, and most of them were artists themselves, or amateur artists looking for inspiration, hints and tips. I started from scratch a big-size painting of 190x200cm, but I was chatting a lot and I did not advance too much, however we were there also to enjoy meeting and speaking with people. I am also very happy that my painting "Redhead" was awarded the Royal Talens Award and the Artist's Exhibition Award in the Patchings Open Art Competition.

For those who could not make it to Patchings, there is a very similar event, where I am also going to demonstrate, Art in Action, near Oxford, from 17-20 July. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

ESPAÑOL: La pasada semana fue una experiencia muy bonita participar en el Patchings Art Festival. El objetivo principal de la feria es de mostrar a los artistas mientras crean sus trabajos y dar a los visitantes la posibilidad de hablar directamente con ellos acerca de sus trabajos. Era mi primera participación en el evento y fue muy interesante ver tanta variedad de estilos y de conceptos, no solo en la pintura, sino también en otras disciplianas artísticas. Ciertamente fue un deleite para el público, y la mayoría de ello era compuesta por artistas o aficionados en busca de inspiración y de consejos. Yo empecé de cero un cuadro de gran formato, 190x200cm, pero charlé mucho y no adelanté demasiado el trabajo, aunque astaba allí también para encontrarme con la gente y hablar con ella. También estoy muy contento de que mi cuadro "Pelirroja" fue premiado con el "Royal Talens Award" y el "Artist's Exhibition Award" en el concurso "Patchings Open Art Competition".

Para los que no han podido visitar Patchings, estaré pintando en otro evento muy parecido, Art in Action, cerca de Oxford, desde el 17 al 20 de julio. Espero verte allí!

 

readhead, michele del campo, patchings 2014

 

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Fiona-Peart,-Jaidee-Jo-Summers, Michele Del Campo

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michele del campo and ken howard at Patchings

Antonio López García, the endless painting by Michele Del Campo

Lately I frequently travel to Spain since there I can find and access more easily the spaces that I need as backgrounds for my paintings, avoiding the bureaucratic obstacles and the rigidity of rules in England. In one of those trips, last September, I was bound to Valencia but I first passed through Madrid in order to see Antonio López García’s retrospective exhibition in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, just before it closed (it is still possible to see the exhibition, but it has now been transferred to the Museo de Bellas Artes in Bilbao, where it will remain until 22 January). As I expected, it ended being one of those exceptional exhibitions that make you love art and, give you food for thought for a while.

I had already seen a few of Lopez’s works when I lived in Madrid but in the Thyssen Museum I was able to see all together 130 important pieces between paintings, sculptures and drawings. The exhibition, although it contained also important earlier work, concentrates especially on the artist’s last 18 years, which is the time from his last retrospective at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid.

For the frenetic pace of the XXI century society, an artist like Antonio López is an exceptional and mysterious case. In fact, many of the exhibited pieces have been developed throughout many years. Ten, fifteen or even twenty years are not exceptional cases within his production, moreover his work is never dispensed from further modifications in future. The artist himself writes in his brief introduction of the catalogue that many of the exhibited paintings are “in process” and there are others that he would continue retouching, some with radical changes, but he can’t because they have already been bought by collectors. In the artist’s words: “'the painting is never finished, it always remains open'. A painting can be abandoned because of insuperable difficulties, because there is a deadline or an exhibition opening date, because one is tired or he wants to start a new work. 'Therefore the painting remains suspended, but never finished'” (p. 36 exhibition catalogue).

Antonio López never works only on a piece at a time, he always works on several pieces, according to the inspiration of the moment. His work is often condensed in those 15 or 20 minutes of the day when the lighting and colour conditions are cyclically the same. The work is often interrupted when the season changes and it is resumed the following year. This way of working often leads him to drastic changes in composition, after reconsiderations or modifications in the reality, due to nature or to the human intervention on things. Thus, his paintings incorporate in their multiple layers of paint the intimate experience of a man who has grown up every day, every month and every year along with his subject matters.

For example, the painting “Terraza de Lucio”, which he started in 1962, was meant to be the portrait of three friends of the artist, Lucio, Amalia and Eusebio. However, Antonio López started the painting from the background, as he usually does, but, after a couple of seasons, he interrupted the work for some reason. Many years passed and, first Eusebio, then Lucio and finally Amalia, desappeared from this world. Nevertheless, Antonio passed by the old house by chance one day, asked his new tenants to see the old balcony and decided to ask them permission to continue the painting.

His three characters were never placed in the picture but in the cracks and the stains that the time has left lies the experience of the artist and the image of his old friends, while the fresh flowers that spread out in the terrace remind the cycle of life that always renews. The composition has been changed and readapted several times. This is testified by the number of boards put together like a puzzle around the central and original one.

Antonio López’s realism is not cold and mechanic. In fact, seen from life, his paintings with their dissolved and scattered patches of colours,  their visible corrections and dragged brush strokes, communicate love for both the process and the object represented. A love transmitted to both the expert viewer and the non-initiated. That obsessive gaze and that infinite patience to represent things while continuously transformed by the time are attitudes more proper of the intimist poet than the acclaimed contemporary artist. In fact, the tendence of young artists, born in a cynical capitalist culture powered by the mass media, is to take shortcuts to reach objectives of easy, quick and effortless success. How many times I have already seen retrospective exhibitions of contemporary artists in the most important museums and I have noticed a big drop in quality in the latest works, due perhaps to the hurry to fill up the big exhibiting spaces and the tendency to satisfy the arise of a larger demand. In such a speculative society it is a difficult decision for a quality artist to step aside from the tendencies in order to enjoy the creative process with no pressures.

Nontheless, Antonio López has never stopped making art for the sheer pleasure of making it. In fact, even in his late years (he is now 75 years old), when many would expect from an artist of such profile a struggle to extend his legacy and place more of his work in the museums, he finds delight also in copying ancient Greek sculptures with the passion of a humanist. An exercise snobbed by many young aspiring artists, bred in universities where they are taught that they can forget the past and just look into the future, as they are already able to express themselves and create autonomously. It is from these exercises of confrontation and absortion of the cultural inheritance of the past that admirable works -such as "Mujer durmiendo" (Sleeping Woman) or "La mujer de Coslada" (The Coslada woman) - are born. And it is from this philosophy of self-improvement following the best tradition that comes the richness and complexity of his language, which assembles and integrates the wisdom of the drawer, the sculptor and the painter.

ESPAÑOL

Últimamente viajo frecuentemente a España, ya que allí puedo encontrar y acceder más fácilmente a los ambientes que necesito de fondo para mis cuadros, evitando los obstáculos burocráticos y la rigidez de las normas en Inglaterra. En uno de esos viajes, el pasado septiembre, mi destinación era Valencia pero decidí aterrizar primero en Madrid con el propósito principal de ver la exposición antológica de Antonio López en el Museo Tyssen-Bornemisza, justo antes de su cierre (todavía se puede visitar la exposición, que ahora ha sido trasladada en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao y permanecerá abierta hasta el 22 de enero). Como esperaba, esta resultó ser una de esas exposiciones excepcionales de arte contemporáneo que te hacen amar el arte y te proporcionan abundante material de reflexión. Ya había podido observar alguna obra de este gran maestro cuando vivía en Madrid, pero en el Museo Tyssen pude contemplar de cerca muchas obras en conjunto, no solamente de pintura, sino también de escultura y dibujo. La exposición se compone de 130 piezas con un especial énfasis en los últimos 18 años, que es el período que ha pasado desde su última retrospectiva en España (1993, Museo Reina Sofía).

Para los frenéticos ritmos de la sociedad del siglo XXI un artista como Antonio López es un caso excepcional y misterioso. De hecho, muchas de las obras en muestra han sido realizadas a lo largo de muchos años. Diez, quince o incluso veinte años no son excepciones en su producción y además esas obras no están exentas de eventuales ulteriores cambios en un futuro. El mismo Antonio López escribe en la breve prefación del catálogo que muchos de los cuadros expuestos en el museo están en proceso y hay otros que seguiría retocando, con cambios incluso radicales, si no fuera porque no le pertenecen, ya que han sido adquiridos por algún coleccionista. En palabras del artista: "'El cuadro nunca se termina, siempre queda abierto'. El cuadro se abandona porque se han encontrado dificultades insuperables, porque hay un plazo de entrega o una fecha de apertura de una exposición, porque se está cansado o porque se sienten ganas de comenzar otra cosa. Entonces 'el cuadro queda detenido, pero nunca terminado'" (Catálogo exposición, p.36).

Antonio López nunca trabaja en una sola obra sino en varias a la vez, siguiendo la inspiración del momento. Así que muchas veces su trabajo se concentra en ese cuarto de hora o veinte minutos en el cual las condiciones de iluminación y colores se repiten cíclicamente cada día. El trabajo a menudo se interrumpe con el cambio de estación y se retoma en el mismo período del año siguiente. Esta manera de trabajar aparentemente anárquica le lleva a realizar unos cambios a veces drásticos de composición, tras replanteamientos o modificaciones en la realidad debidos a la naturaleza de las cosas o a la intervención del hombre. Así sus cuadros incorporan dentro de sus muchas capas de pintura las vivencias entrañables del hombre que ha crecido cada día, cada mes y cada año junto a sus sujetos. Por ejemplo el cuadro "Terraza de Lucio", empezado en 1962, iba a ser el retrato de tres amigos del artista: Lucio, Amalia y Eusebio, pero el pintor empezó por pintar el fondo, como suele hacer, y tras dos primaveras, por alguna razón, interrumpió el proyecto. Pasaron muchos años y, primero Eusebio, luego Lucio y al fin Amalia, dejaron de existir. Sin embargo, Antonio quiso volver a visitar el viejo piso, ya habitado por otra gente, y entonces decidió retomar el trabajo interrumpido. Los personajes del retrato ya nunca aparecieron en el cuadro pero en las grietas y en las manchas que ha dejado el tiempo queda atrapada esa experiencia del pintor y la imagen de sus viejos amigos, y las flores que aparecen en la terraza representan ese ciclo vital que siempre se renueva. La composición fue modificada en varias fases y de ello son testigos los múltiples paneles que han sido añadidos en tiempos posteriores.

El realismo de la pintura de Antonio López no es frío y mecánico. Si observamos sus cuadros de cerca, las manchas deshechas, las correcciones visibles y las pinceladas arrastradas transmiten amor tanto al proceso cuanto al objeto representado. Un amor que se contagia fácilmente tanto al observador experto como al profano. Esa mirada obsesiva y esa paciencia infinita para estudiar y representar las cosas continuamente transformadas por el tiempo, son actitudes más propias del poeta intimista que del aclamado artista contemporáneo, el cual es hijo de una cultura capitalista cínica y mediatizada que le instiga a tomar atajos para buscar el éxito fácil, rápido y sin esfuerzo. ¡Cuantas veces he visitado  exposiciones antológicas de artistas contemporáneos en los más importantes museos y me ha parecido que en sus últimas obras hubiera una gran bajada de compromiso con la calidad! Esto, muy probablemente, se debe a las prisas por llenar las enormes salas expositivas y para satisfacer el incremento repentino de la demanda. En esta sociedad tan especulativa es una decisión muy difícil para los creadores de calidad apartarse de la corriente para disfrutar del proceso creativo sin presiones.

Antonio López, sin embargo, nunca ha dejado de crear por el placer de crear, incluso en sus años tardíos (ya tiene 75 años). Cuando todo el mundo se esperaría que un artista de su envergadura seguiría esforzándose para ampliar su legado personal y poner más obra en los museos, él se deleita también en copiar esculturas griegas antiguas con la pasión de un humanista, un ejercicio que muchos jóvenes ya desprecian porque los profesores en las facultades les enseñan que a sus edades son ya capaces de expresar sí mismos y crear autónomamente. Es de esos ejercicios de confrontación y absorción de la herencia cultural del pasado que nacen obras tan admirables como Mujer durmiendo, o La mujer de Coslada. Y es desde esa filosofía de superación a partir de la tradición que viene la riqueza y complejidad de su lenguaje, que reune e integra la sabiduría del extraordinario dibujante, escultor y pintor.

Andrew Wyeth's Chadds Ford by Michele Del Campo

It is only one and a half years since Andrew Wyeth has passed away. He painted until his last days but his work looks out of time, he was one of the last heroes of the best traditional values in painting, an outsider, a poet with a brush.From New York, which I went to visit, Andrew Wyeth's village, Chadds Ford, was only three hours away, two by train, one by taxi (there is no public transport to the village). By coincidence Henry, the taxi driver, had met the artist personally and, apart from driving, he also worked part-time in the Delaware Museum, where there are also some paintings from N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and James Wyeth. The Delaware Museum was on the way to Chadds Ford, so he kindly made a stop to guide us through the museum towards the paintings of the Wyeths.

In Chadds Ford, we spent most of our two days visit at the Brandywine River Museum, a nice small museum where there is a good number of paintings from the three generation of Wyeths. I also took part to the guided tours of N.C. Wyeth's house and studio, the tour of the Kuerners farm and Victoria Wyeth's guide through the exhibited works in the museum (she is Andrew's granddaughter).

I was impressed by the luxuriant green landscape all around, the sun was still very warm and bright at the end of September, cicadas and birds still singing all around. I did not recognise the dim light of Andrew's paintings of these landscapes, although I know that in summer he would go to the coast of Maine. However, I found out that there was very little sign that what we were looking at were the settings of most of his paintings, as they look so remote in time and spirit. Then, when I visited the Kuerners Farm, where he took inspiration for about 1.000 drawings and paintings during 70 years, I realised how personal his work was, how much of his soul and of the spirit of his characters is in those works. I could compare directly the images of his paintings with the real settings and I could see how he altered the appearance of things to give them a more dramatic appearance and a deeper meaning. He omitted windows, trees, he displaced houses and hills, he altered colours, he simplified shapes, he composed always in benefit of the message.

Left: Andrew Wyeth, 'Young Bull', 1960. - Right: The original place, the Kuerners farm in Chadds Ford

 

The most fascinating thing about this artist is that his paintings are not only great individual pieces, but they form a body of work that spans for so many decades that you can really witness the passing of time and the development of the events. You look at those paintings and imagine long-gone days of a nostalgic time, but in reality, if you look around you and try to see an "undressed" reality, with no roads, fewer or no trees nor parked SUVs, everything is actually there, even some of his models are still around.

His subjects were neighbours and friends, they all became part of his life, sometimes, like the case of the Kuerners, they even gave him the keys to enter in their house at any time. All his paintings are now essential pieces of a big body of work that narrates the existence of those ordinary, peripheral lives, from their youth to their old age, through the unflattering vision of the artist. You can see the presence of those people also through their objects and their environments when they are not present in the paintings or when they have died.

For someone who has read a little about his private world and known about the people he painted, it is very poignant to see the actual places where they spent their lives and read through a series of paintings the passing of the time, the vigour of the youth, the decline of the age and the death. What makes his paintings "magical" is his poetisation of the reality, his obsession with the details that become meaningful in his paintings, they remind us of something or of somebody, they express a feeling that is easily shared by the viewer who lets himself be transported by Andrew's world.

Although he had a big recognisement during his life, Andrew Wyeth remained in his small village, isolated from the art establishment and from the modern mad race towards the visual innovation in art.