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Spanish abstract art master Antoni Tàpies’ solo exhibition “Antoni Tàpies – Dialogue with Objects” recently opened at the Shanghai Foreign Disaster Art Center.
This art giant influenced many contemporary Chinese artists more than 30 years ago.
It was April 1989, and the Tapies Print Exhibition sponsored by the China International Cultural Exchange Center was held at the National Art Museum of China. Tàpies’ artistic style has deeply shocked people in the Chinese art world since the “1985 New Wave” and inspired a research boom on Tàpies in Chinese academic circles. In the mid-1990s, young artists and critics including Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Gongxin, Ding Yi, and Huang Du paid a special visit to the Tapies Studio in Barcelona, Spain.
Why Tapies has such great magic starts with his artistic style that breaks through imagination.
“I want to celebrate the mediocrity of life”
Today’s contemporary art works can be made of any material you can imagine: vegetables, discarded paper cups, titanium, soil… Tapies had already been exploring this half a century ago. In his works, cardboard, sand and even the socks he wears can become creative materials. He is able to uncannily combine marble powder, lime powder, and oil paints in the same picture, breaking the imagination of ordinary people.
Zhang Zikang, the curator of this exhibition and director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum, said: “Antoine Tapies is a master of handling materials in art. He has always explored how his creations react with different materials and can better express his ideas.”
When creating some works, Tàpies would leave traces of his own life in the works: his footprints, palm prints, shirts, gloves, etc. Among the documentary video works of Antoni Tàpies presented in the exhibition, the artist explains: “I want to celebrate the trivial banality of life. I will also show a chair, a pair of scissors or a chair in a cosmic dimension. Inspired by a pair of shoes, I wanted to show the viewer that an armpit can be as transcendent as a portrait of God.”
Influenced by Zen culture
The Buddhist scriptures say: “One flower, one world, one leaf, one Tathagata”, which means that through a flower, you can see the whole world, and through a leaf, you can realize the true meaning of Buddhism. When explaining his intention to “praise mediocrity”, Tapies mentioned: “A grain of sand contains the entire universe. This is my influence from Eastern philosophy, especially Buddhism.”
Tapies has a deep connection with Eastern culture. As early as the 1950s, he cleverly integrated the thoughts of Chinese Zen Buddhism and the brushstrokes of Chinese calligraphy into his creations. In his book “Painting and Nothingness”, he directly quoted the content of the refined chapter of Shi Tao’s “Bitter Melon Monk’s Painting Quotes” as the title. In 1987, Tàpies established Spain’s first and only Oriental Library in Barcelona. In his view, Eastern culture not only influenced his painting creation, he also promoted the dialogue between East and West through his works.
(Antoni Tàpies, “Memories”, 1999, paint on board, collage)
“Obscure and difficult to understand” is the intuitive feeling of many viewers towards Tàpies’ works. His works often use tawny and gray-black as the main colors, giving people a sense of loneliness, desolation, and instability. The “cross” symbol often appears in the works, and some people think it represents “death” or “Christianity.” Tapies said: “Those who study symbols should understand that the cross does not only represent death or Christianity, but can also represent many things. It It is a universal symbol that can mark space, territory, and many other things, and it can also represent destruction or negation.”
In addition to symbols, Tàpies also likes to leave letters in his works. He said: “The letters I use are all in special forms, and sometimes this special shape is the key to expressing esoteric words or magical incantations. Sometimes, it is a philosophical idea that I want to convey, and sometimes, they may be something I love. The person’s name.”
Among all the symbols, he most commonly used “A” and “T” connected to each other, which has a double meaning. One is the acronym of Anthony Tapies; at the same time, it is also the abbreviation of “Anthony” and “Te Lesa” combination. He and his wife, Teresa, met at a young age and have been together their entire lives. Tapies said: “Artists often float in the sky, and she brings me back to earth. She lets me know that artistic creation must start from bits and pieces of life.”
“I hope my paintings can cure diseases”
Artists who are remembered by history all have extremely strong egos and philosophical foundations, and Tàpies is no exception.
The young Tapies witnessed the cruelty of World War II. He said: “When the first atomic bomb exploded, all of our lives were changed, including my view of the world and my view of the universe. At that time, it seemed that everything The world was suddenly obsessed with exploring the nature of matter.” Tapies chose to use a variety of material elements to explore the nature of the world and the core of reality.
Influenced by Buddhism, Tapies often thinks about pain and why it is such an integral part of life. “It’s not about being obsessed with pain or having a morbid fascination with suffering, it’s about trying to understand and find answers and find ways to overcome pain,” he said. “That’s why the human body parts in my work, like Feet, legs or arms can be compared with the thanksgiving offerings such as wax figures of human limbs and organs that devout believers enshrine in churches. Through these offerings, they pray for answers to their wishes. These offerings may not be for prayer, but for grateful.”
“I always wanted my paintings to have a power, like a powerful magic that would give you an electric shock just by touching it, or something more powerful that could cure a disease. By touching this magical painting, you can It’s like putting a sacred amulet on your body, and the pain will disappear.” Tapies said: “That would be my most ideal painting.”
(Unless otherwise noted, the pictures in this article are provided by the artist and Taylor Gallery. This article only represents the author’s own views. Author’s email: [email protected], editor’s email: [email protected])