“Our perceptions of the outside world are usually surrounded by verbal notions of what we think. We are always trying to turn things into more intelligible sign, abstractions of our own invention. But, doing this, we take out of these things most of their natural self.

Aldous Huxley. The doors of perception. Heaven and hell. 1979

Paintings of Reflections and Silences

I must admit that the title of this essay is related with a text from a painter Gabriel Rigo  in which he referrs to Núria Guinovart as an “alchemist of silence.” I agree with this statement, and I do so for several reasons. The first of my reasons is the technique she uses, the second is related to the use of neutral colors, mostly gray, and finally how she deals with different issues founded in her abstract compositions.

When we look at Núria Guinovart’s paintings we realize that is not an easy way of painting, but completely the opposite, it is a complex painting both because of the technique (she uses cement, wax and tar on a surface of porexpan or wood) and its formal or non-formal content, in which her proposals go further into, at least apparently, the inherent reality.

But this complexity is also positive and I will try to explain why. With her work, the artist is trying to discover the Needles possibilities offered by materials like the anti seismic cement, which I had not ever heard of  before (I only knew fibercement and “normal” cement) but she told me that anti seismic cement is a type of earthquake-proof cement, widely used in Japan, which is as flexible as fiberglass. Another material she uses very often is wax. But unlike an artist like Tàpies, an artist who usually works with these materials, giving them a kind of compositional first role, especially for the luminosity and transparency, it reminded me one monographic exhibition entitled “Tàpies and honey” exhibited at the foundation that bears his name. In his case wax acts differently, it is not seen at first glance, but it is treated with much more ductility and elasticity.

This interest for the material world is not something new for Núria. Around the 1980s she was very interested in recycling research and experimenting with waste materials, reusing them and creating new pictorial compositions. Thats why her artwork cannot be considered exclusively pictorial, because it goes beyond the two-dimensionality of painting and routes towards sculpture. Clearly, we can not speak exactly of sculpture, but there is some idea of tridimensionality: empty spaces as the result of removing the matter itself – she does not uses pigments very often, therefore it is the cement forming holes by itself, using the grattage technique, based on scratching the surface in rows, both vertically and horizontally, evoking the idea of spatialism, or incorporating materials that visually gives the Keeling of collage, but it’s just an optical illusion.

The color I have left aside and that to me is the main character of her compositions. When we say that a painting has reflection and silence, we see that the color gives us the key so we can have the idea that this is a thoughtful, sensitive but emotionally too hard work, which can cause anxiety – this last issue made me see the painter, though I did not really agree. The use of neutral colors, especially the different shades of gray and green, blue and sepia, is all chromatically very soft and subtle, giving the impression of being a muffled work, lifeless, but this is only a priori, because we see the opposite when we carefully take a look at each of other exhibitions. Her painting is a painting full of life, but do not confuse this vitalism with aggressiveness and red colors, because there are other ways to represent the rich personal connotations, and therefore they are emotional. Sobriety experiencing these range colors is not an opposite to the idea of movement, because the curved line, randomly spilling almost across the surface, the application of fire and, as mentioned before, the art of creating it through the grattage technique creates a dynamic and vital master piece.

Núria Guinovart enters within a painting full of abstract content, understanding expressionism from different perspectives: spatialism, matter, gesture, but also with some reminiscences form the past. The past is not understood by the materials used, which are obviously contemporary, but by the way of representing them. Her paintings seem to evoke the Prehistoric art – caves with engravings, paintings, cartoons, etc.-, and also the Romanic art. You may ask yourselves why do I mention here the Romanic art, it is not because the artist is representing a Christ pantocrator in her pictures, it is more because her works seem to be painted on a wall as a mural – she has studied encaustic techniques in the city of Bergamo, Italy. Therefore, there is a relationship with the idea of muralism.

I recognize that among all this, there is a hypothesis I have commented with the artist, which she with some courtesy accepted, and because it is one of the many interpretations the viewers may have. On the other hand, it is also positive to allow everybody have their own opinion, as an invitation to contemplate the work more carefully and not stay with the superfluous. Anyway, if that is true, that when you see the work of Núria Guinovart you understand that art has many strands, many creative ways, and this makes us keep the door open to new ways of representation, that everything is not immersed in the struggle between sterile confrontation abstraction and figuration, but that the idea of painting goes beyond, and there are more ways of understanding art than steer it in only one direction. Luckily, Núria Guinovart has understood it perfectly, and makes it clear that silence and reflection are the best antidotes to quietly contemplate the artwork.

Ramon Casalé
Associació Internacional de Crítics d’Art