‘I work like a poet, in fact, what I mean is that I express myself through my general sensitivity without overanalysing things.’
‘I know that there are some critics who said: “Tapiès has crossed over to sculpture”, but I don’t really think that’s true. We converted the paintings into an object, a sort of magic object.’
Steeped in majestic mysticism, Formas Curvas (Curved Forms), 1980, is a superb example of Antoni Tàpies’ pioneering Matter Paintings. Comprised of mixed media assembled over a wooden base, the richly textured and tactile surface of the work demonstrates an esoteric immediacy, characteristic of the painter’s profound and visceral approach. ‘I regard mysticism as a state of mind which is necessary to scientific thinking, as well as to art,’ he has explained; ‘it enables one to discover things which cannot be found by other means’ (A. Tàpies, quoted in Conversations with Antoni Tàpies: With an Introduction to the Artist’s Work, Michigan, 2007, p. 73). Formas Curvas is punctuated with a palpable grittiness: its surface has been perforated, scared and marked, embedding the work with primordial, otherworldly allure. Its lyrical ruts and crevices seem to invite discovery, exuding a tangible mystery that begs to be unearthed. Tàpies’ abstract style developed out of a crucial reassessment, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, of those arts formerly denigrated as ‘primitive’ or even ‘savage’ – from cave painting to Japanese prints and African masks. Through his emphasis on primal scrapes and scratchings, sweeping calligraphic markings and its earthy palette, the impact of such art forms on Tàpies’ work is deeply apparent. Indeed, he became fascinated with notions of talisman and amulet, and the great imaginative possibilities of magic that could be endowed upon mere objects. ‘The picture ceased to be a more or less naturalistic “representation”,’ he stated in the year this painting was conceived, ‘and became a magic “object”, a concept which … gave me an insight into how powerful a weapon painting can become in itself’ (A. Tàpies, quoted in Tàpies: Els Anys 80, Barcelona, 1988, p. 242).
Existing somewhere between the realms of painting and sculpture, Tàpies’ work invokes a space of contemplative introspection. From his earliest dream paintings to his textural paintings and sculptures of the 1980s and 1990s, his work has always reflected a hidden reality that seeks to both stimulate and seek recognition from the unconscious mind. From the early 1950s onwards, Tàpies’ native Catalonia became increasingly important as the basis of his pictorial landscape: he began incorporating in his work physical matter including earth, glue, marble dust and a variety of other materials to evoke a world that both hinted at yet moved beyond physical reality. Having grown up in Barcelona where as a teenager he had witnessed the stubborn resistance but eventual capitulation of the Republican government to the oppressive force of Franco’s army, the streets of his native city came to represent for him the history of the suffering of his people. ‘In the city which through habit and family tradition, was so much my own,’ Tàpies has recalled, ‘the walls were witnesses to all the torments and the reactionary inhumanity that our people were forced to endure’ (A. Tàpies, quoted in Conversations with Antoni Tàpies: With an Introduction to the Artist’s Work, Michigan, 2007, p. 34). With its swelling, curving, abstract forms, Formas Curvas offers a poetic release from an oppressive past, through an enchanted vision of an inward and reflective solitude.