'I want to be in touch with a reality which lies beneath the surface of things. Ive looked for colours which are more... I dont know its hard to explain, because these are things which cant be put into words, things which are almost like visions or mystical revelations. Its the colour beneath the superficial appearance of reality, the colour of
dream and fantasy, the colour of visions, the colour of emptiness, the colour of space' (A. Tàpies quoted in B. Catoir, Conversations with Antoni Tàpies, Munich 1991, p. 95).
Executed in 1960, Negre amb regalims blaus by Antoni Tàpies is a work that addresses the artist's mystical concerns through his investigations into materiality and colour. A rich, thickly textured horizontal tranche of brilliant blue dominates the centre of the canvas, below which a gestural, azure demi-oval surrounds a heavy mass of raised pigment. Tàpies's unique material, an iridescent, gem-like mixture of powdered marble, ultra-marine pigment and glue, sparkles against the background of profound black. Navigating the canvas, one is captivated by the unique animation of the composition, the hybrid medium offering up vectors of light that constantly change with movement. For Tàpies, one of the pioneers of Art Informel in Europe, the material is privileged above all else, embodying a vital and indeed spiritual physicality. As he has explained, 'I was obsessed with materiality... the pastiness of phenomena which I interpreted using thick material, a mixture of oil paint and whiting, like a kind of inner raw material that reveals the noumenal reality which I did not see as an ideal or supernatural world apart but rather as the single total and genuine reality of which everything is composed' (A. Tàpies, 'Memória Personal', quoted in M.J. Borja-Villel, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona 1990, p. 32).
In Negre amb regalims blaus, Tàpies has attacked the raised surface of the canvas, scraping and gouging away the paint with energetic intensity, producing claw-like marks and spiraling scratches. In piercing the wall-like surface of his work he was striving for unknown discovery. Speaking in 1981, he expounded, 'Looking for new spiritual models, I read a great deal about Eastern Philosophies: the Vedanta, yoga, Taoism and Zen. My pictures became veritable experimental battlefields. I worked like a madman, endlessly trying to adapt new materials. Eventually, this destruction in quantative terms led to a qualitative transformation. Destruction was succeeded by stasis and calm' (A. Tàpies quoted in B. Catoir, Conversations with Antoni Tàpies, Munich 1991, p. 81).
A deep horizontal line is scored across the top half of the blue band, clearly penetrating below the surface to expose the materiality beneath. The rectangular form of a doorway delineated with deep incisions, hovers in the middle of the canvas. The writer and artist Sir Roland Penrose wrote of the symbolism of the portal in Tàpies's paintings, 'as the entrance to a space, even a life, beyond' (R. Penrose, Tàpies, London 1978, p. 60). For Tàpies, the canvas was a place for deep contemplation, where one should strive for the inaccessible, that which lay behind the visible face of reality. He approached his work with the attitude of the alchemist or mystic, describing his art as 'a technique, like yoga, the koan, or the Buddhist kasinas, an aid to meditation and enlightenment' (A. Tàpies quoted in B. Catoir, Conversations with Antoni Tàpies, Munich 1991, p. 97).
1960 was a year of great activity for the artist. Like his European peers Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri and Yves Klein, Tàpies sought out a realm beyond the canvas. He divested himself from the responsibility of line, figuration and even abstraction, and pursued a portal into a mystical realm of transcendence. Whereas Klein aimed to access a realm of perception by invoking an extrasensory perception through colour, Tàpies used materiality and textural experimentation to make manifest spiritual immateriality. The vital material presence in his work connects the viewer with the universal matter that governs the cosmos.