‘I was searching for images which would be impossible to describe either as amorphous or precise, full or empty, in which one cannot tell where the bodies begin and the space ends. It seemed to be the will to show more than ever the trap of reason, the ‘net’ of the world… And I put all this into practice not with the simplifications of the classical ‘abstracts’, but rather with techniques which were more experimental and more unusual, which had been touched upon only by some of the masters of the surrealist period’ (A. Tàpies, Memoria Personal, Barcelona 1977, pp. 297-98).
Combining rich, dark colour with a highly textural surface, Form of Slanting Cupboard (1968) is an outstanding monumental work of Antoni Tàpies’ painterly oeuvre. Seemingly immersed in an atmosphere of ruin, memory and mystery, the present work represents a slanting door of a cupboard. Walls and doors have always informed Tàpies’ work; the artist’s intention is to evoke the mystery that lies beyond the door. Entering the surface of a canvas is for Tàpies equivalent to making a journey of exploration. Form of Slanting Cupboard is one of the most powerful examples of the artist’s long-lasting interest in this form. In this enormous canvas, the shape of a door is built into the heavy materiality of the painting: this is not a mere representation of a cupboard but is brought to near-sculptural life by the artist, emphasising its three-dimensionality. The thickness of the paint and the range of materials demonstrate Tàpies’ tireless experimentation with matter from two different but complementary points of view: as a refusal of artistic conventions and as a synonym for transformation, as attested by the simplicity of the object represented. This aspect conveys Tàpies’ attempt to elevate everyday and marginal objects to a higher artistic status: ‘Like a researcher in his laboratory, 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’ (A. Tàpies, quoted in ‘I am a Catalan’, 1971, reproduced in K. Stiles and P. Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, Berkeley 1996, p. 55). The shape of Form of Slanting Cupboard implies another dimension behind the solid barrier: the possibility of opening the door and revealing what lies beyond is suggested by two circular marks on the right-hand side, which resemble two handles. In this way, the work reminds the viewer of its artificiality and emphasises the paradox between the image, its metaphor and the artist’s conception of art as a spiritual journey of discovery. As Tàpies once stated, ‘A picture is nothing, 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’ (A. Tàpies, quoted in Tàpies, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1995, p. 36).