Azul LXIX is rare blue painting dating from the height of Tàpies' first period of maturity after the 'breakthrough' he made to 'material painting' in the early 1950s. Rich in the deep colours, heavy materiality and the dilapidated state of the streets around his home in Barcelona, it is a highly evocative work seemingly steeped in an atmosphere of ruin, memory and timeless mystery.
For Tàpies all his work is an ongoing process of investigation into the mystery of existence made through an intuitive exploration of matter. 'A picture is nothing' he has said, 'it is a door that leads to another door...The truth we seek will never be found in a picture: it will only appear behind the last door that the viewer succeeds in opening by his own efforts'. (Antoni Tàpies cited in Tàpies, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1995, p. 36.). Time and material are, for Tàpies, interdependent and in the end, part of the same entity. Time, as a concept, can only be experienced through its effects on material. All matter is in a constant state of transformation and the precise nature or form that it takes is determined by the passing of time and, perhaps, by the intervention of a third party such as an artist. 'Like a researcher in his laboratory' Tàpies explained of the creative process he devised in the mid 1950s, 'I am the first spectator of the suggestions drawn from the materials. I unleash their expressive possibilities, even if I do not have a very clear idea of what I am going to do. As I go along with my work I formulate my thought, and from this struggle between what I want and the reality of the material - from this tension - is born an equilibrium. (Antoni Tàpies 'I am a Catalan' 1971, reproduced in K. Stiles and P. Selz Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, Berkeley 1996, p. 55.)
This was a way of working he had arrived at after a prolonged illness had forced him to explore a mystical interior space. Confined to his bed and faced by a wardrobe and a mirror, Tàpies spent much time drawing and travelling in his mind on a mystical journey seeming to take place on the other side of the wardrobe door and its mirror facing him. His development of wall-like material paintings reflects this journey and in the displacing and apparent ruin or decay of matter he recognised an expression of the passage of life as well as the trace or line of a mystical path through the material world.
This work, with its subtly incised and clawed marks animating a blue painted masonry-like ground recalls the bluish greys, ochres and blackened scarred stones and walls of the Gothic quarter of Barcelona where Tàpies grew up. These walls told their own story of the life and suffering of the Catalan city. Establishing itself like a wall of material, the incised shapes, scarred interventions and linear gougings in this painting seem to trace and articulate a story and offer an opening or an invitation into another realm.