Painted in 1989, Portrait of a Lady appears at first glance to be precisely that. The composition and the clothing in this painting lend it a strong Old Master like feel. And yet it becomes clear that this picture bears the scars of the rigours and torments of its age, of the Twentieth Century. Portrait of a Lady appears to have been ravaged by history. It has a texture reminiscent of graffiti covered walls, of décollage; it appears blasted, ancient and yet searingly current, the product of a long struggle to exist that demands our attention.
The fact that the face is not visible takes away the picture's supposed usefulness as a portrait, and yet adds so much more to the implied violence that has been enacted against it. Is this a political erasure, the removal of the traces of someone now deemed persona non grata? Is this the product of some Stalin-like, Orwellian disappearance, an editing of the past? Portrait of a Lady taps into both existential and specific Spanish political anxieties in showing this attack on an image that speaks so much of the culture and heritage of Spain. Combining a Pop-like willingness to plunder and salvage a history of icons and images with a distinct political and philosophical sensitivity, Valdés has created an image that is haunting and evocative, topical and timeless, specific and yet, in the wider turmoils of this world, dauntingly universal.