'I am just a narrator who comments on the history of painting in various ways, using new materials: it is like a game that consists of changing the code and the key to the artwork.... Many of my colours, materials and textures are the product of relived experiences of other masters. My painting involves much reflection.' (The artist quoted in Valdés 1981-2006, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2006, p. 21).
Reminiscent of Dominico Ghirlandaio's 1488 portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, Perfil Con Malla Roja (Profile with Red Mesh) executed in 1995 by Manolo Valdés is a dramatic rendering of timeless beauty. Harking back to Renaissance Florence, Ghirlandaio's iconic work is celebrated for its noble elegance as it embodies classical formal qualities such as the absence of facial expressions combined with idealized body proportions. In Valdés's updated version, impasto brushstrokes are thickly and gesturally applied evoking movement and expression within a mysterious profile. The technique reinforces the work's subject where an overlayering wet-on-wet method echoes history's multilayers and narratives. Equally, the uneven surface of the canvas demonstrates a vivid and loose form of painting. The female figure's features are not revealed allowing for open interpretation whilst Tornabuoni's aristocratic background points to an art that belonged to an upper echelon of society. The rich palette dominates the canvas, evoking a sense of timelessness. The formal clarity of the Florentine composition is substituted for a robust burlap canvas which conjures a raw and liberated form of representation. Perfil Con Malla Roja enjoyed strong publicity when first featured on the catalogue cover of the internationally reputed Galeria Mário Sequeira in Portugal. Characteristic of Valdés's oeuvre the chronological concept of time is ruptured, this deliberate manipulation of Perfil Con Malla Roja offers various implications on the notion of beauty, time and ultimately our own aesthetic paradigm.