FRANCISCO FARRERAS:  MELANCHOLY AND THE SEARCH

FRANCISCO FARRERAS:  MELANCHOLY AND THE SEARCH

Texto publicado en el catálogo
FARRERAS (22/04/2014-05/06/2014)
Madrid, 2014: Galería Odalys, pp. 3-8
 

Tirelessly in search of the center, perhaps a yearning and melancholy aspiration, Francisco Farreras (Barcelona, 1927), in his long and fertile trajectory, has been a seeker of utopias.  Creator of forms, reflexive investigator of the enigmas of space, one can affirm that perhaps his principal utopia has been the search for order in his own work, that “burning the midnight oil” in the intent…which today one can consider fulfilled…to establish amidst the chaos of reality, from the wreckage of time and the passage of hours, a beautiful universe which seems to have surfaced as if from nowhere.  One must point out that the melancholy referred to is no profound delving into the past but is more a modern strain of melancholy, a contemporary sign which is established in a deliberately radical way:  today’s artist anticipates that the most important part of his creation – in Farreras’ case his lifelong project as an artist – is to propose forms in Space.  No order will be able to arm, then rearrange, the fragments of a destroyed reality.  For this reason our artist frequents the use of solitary signs:  the sheer magnitude of the mute extension of space, foretold by De Chirico; the importance in the sense of reality in fragments, forms or lines, volumes and remains, that thus seem to recognize their solitary essence, recomposed again in a space enclosed in their essential silence.

In pursuit of interrogations relating to space and time since his very beginnings, distinct norms have accompanied this “audacious” painter, as he was described[1] when his works were shown in the section of “Geometric Abstraction” in the Biennale of Venice in 1958.  Although

Farreras’s works may be deemed to be more or less geometric, in the end it is only a matter or appearance.  His creation has always been a specific art of rigorous contention, art based upon reflecting the trembling structure underlying, yet revealed by, the forms he created.  I often think how well suited to the artist was the adjective “aristocratic”, penned by the poet Frank O’Hara during the presence of Spanish Art in the MoMA of New York in 1960[2] where Farreras was represented by three imposing works. Singular director of the museum in New York, O’Hara “the brief”, accentuated the poetic resonances in the works of our painter explaining how they “invite a specific poetry to appear, that of the physical means”.[3]  At this point one must also mention Farreras’ presence that same year, 1960, in the Solomon Guggenheim Museum exposition “Before Picasso; After Miró”[4] where he participated with three important collages.  There too he was to assume the words of James Johnson Sweeney concerning the intensity of his work.[5]  To conclude this overview of his adscription to a poetic and orderly art – poético silencio we wrote on another occasion[6] – we must remember his presence in recent exhibitions[7] which have reinforced the necessary vindication, even today, of Spanish creation during that period:  the existence of a silent trend of order in our art, creators who happily vindicated the artes geometricae within the hubris of informalism, and which ultimately would sentence the direction of Farreras’ work toward the international horizon.   By the decade of the sixties he would have his own calendar of attitudes regarding constructive art.  “He works in silence”[8] – wrote the art critic Manuel Sánchez Camargo in the fifties, referring to Farreras’ work – “in a elevated and remote ambiance ”[9], anticipating the solitary character which was the constant note in his creative personality.  The just vindications of Paul Auster regarding artists enclosed in their marble towers…represented in literary creation by the poet Hölderlin…in painting find the Van Gogh of Arles or the Morandi stranded on Via Fondazzo in primary position, and in the case of Spanish artists, aside from Farreras’ own isolation, that of Palazuelo in his Parisian tower of Saint-Jacques.

If we began emphasizing the melancholy and radical modernity of Francisco Farreras, another note to be stressed must be of a painter with international flair; if the term were not so hackneyed we might consider him to be a true cosmopolitan.  His painting always escaped the dictates of the trends of the times, the informalism which swept over the entire horizon of artists during the fifties in Spain.  As revealed in his unpublished “Memoirs”, he has always been an indefatigable traveller and a well-informed artist.  I refer, for example, to his various stays in Paris during the fifties and his long period of residence in America, essentially in New York, during the sixties.  Represented there by the Bertha Schaeffer Gallery, he would become a different artist.  Marked by a distinguished character, he became acquainted with international artistic trends, was a fervid visitor of American museums, and an omnivorous flâneur to the point where, as I have told him upon occasion, without doubt the “Confieso que he vivido” already used by poet Pablo Neruda would be a good title for his memoirs, so far from the typical introspection of traditional Spanish painters of that period. At this point it is necessary to underscore how the artist’s work always follows that less beaten path.

With regard to the works exhibited in the Galleries Odalys and ArtPaso, Bonnefoy’s observation that “the word is full of ashes” brings to bear upon Farreras’ penchant for constructing his compositions from elements seemingly from another era.  They are his words.  In this reference to time, the above-mentioned ashes constitute one of the (im)materials used by Farreras to (secularly) exalt his compositions, fostered by his innate capacity to create great art using the most humble of materials:  paper, wood, small objects, cords and ropes, wooden fragments, moldings, etc.  Without exception, these works chosen from the last few years of the new century – from 2000 to 2012 – exhibit a monumental air in spite of their varied sizes.  All the more impressive are the smaller works where the painter has achieved a world of calm light not incompatible with a tense serenity.  In this double exposition one can comprehend the most emblematic work of Farreras and his capacity to create, as if by some artistic alchemy, new surfaces and unknown spaces from impoverished materials.  Deliberately limited and intense, never abandoning the hallmark of earlier works, intentions, and collages, he is unique in his capacity to absorb all materials in a sort of totus on the surface creating a new territory for reflection.  His talent for creating art from mere nothings has been astonishing, the trait which has been the emblem of contemporary creation and which has placed him in an elevated position among creators of our time.  His alone is the world which delves to the very core…joining the recondite with the disclosed, the full with the void, the narrative with the suggested.  A burst of what is not stated and what only appears to be.  Capable of uniting violence and delicacy, the voluptuous and the austere, his work has been a permanent investigation dedicated to the narration of a deliberate descent into darkness only to emerge in a sort of creative ascent, a revelation.  Paintings of nocturnal or auroral nature, serious and essential, mysterious or straightforward in their solitude, they demand reflection.  Calmness and simplicity combined, their impetuous, creative energy is capable of producing a brilliant, near supernatural light.

Farreras belongs to a singular school of ligneous poetry frequented in the XX century since the first avant-garde movement.  Refer to Miró, Arp or Schwitters, or those from the Southern School, Torres García and many American artists:  Juan de Andrés, Washington Barcala, Águeda Dicancro, Francisco Matto, Juan José Nuñez, Ricardo Pascale, Roberto Piriz, Nelson Ramos o Julio Uruguay, among others.  Recently the works of Federico Méndez have found a solid number of followers in Spain, among them Manuel Ángeles Ortiz, Basterretxea, Ferrant, Chillida, Mendiburu, Lucio Muñoz, Rueda, Esteban Vicente, Villelia, and others.  “Madera Española”,[10] lyrical timber, builder of forms and volumes bathed in subtle colors or monochrome silence.  With Zurbarán in mind (here is Space supported by intangible atmosphere, wood with almost bone-like appearance), the artist has long frequented multiple painting in the form of murals – diptychs, triptychs or multiple sections – where in spite of the voice of treated wood, the silence ever respected by the critics reigns.

A creative, disinhibited voyager, his works range from the bare, nearly arcane paintings such as number 591A (2002) – a secret box full of brief signs to indicate a dispensable conceptual art,[11] not far from certain minimalist postulations – to creations of great complexity such as seen in the works of 2008, numbers 849A and 853A.  In these works the closing of space is achieved by linear wooden constructions –I am reminded of some of the photo-textures by Carlos Eduardo Puche –and seem to be a compendium of the disjecta membra of reality…again a reference to melancholy.  Another proposal by Farreras is the construction of paintings with the structure of a horizon, of a composition in two parts, a Rothko-like landscape so typical of that painter’s silent works:[12]  exemplary cases

of this are numbers 910A and 917A (both from 2009) and 918A and 945A (finished in 2010).  Occupations of space, as in numbers 106B (2008) or 937A (2010).  Brief signs, delicate scriptures, spatial traces as in numbers 638A and 657A (both from 2004).  Praise for the underlying order of the tortured materials in numbers 77 BPF (2003) or 651A (2004).  Taxonomy of remains converted to fossils, possible heir of Cornell’s utopia:  number 51B (2003).  And yet another remembrance of Barcala, fraternal woodworker, in number 27B (2002).

Altarpiece or lectern, the woods of number 618A (2003); numbers 769A and its mirror image 771A (both from 2006).  White, brief number 634A (2004).  Reminiscent of zen austerity, the lunar circle of number 934A (2010) is reflected as well in numbers 585A (2002) and 656A (2004).  Kimono with ceremonial aspect the “tiny” number 940A (2010).

A familiar work, the impressive number 984A, chronologically concludes the exposition.  “…Ineloquence y essentiality:  as if a no-man’s land, as a deserted heath, as an Elliot-like Wasteland”[13] wrote Juan Manuel Bonet of this relief of quasi sacred appearance.  This imposing relief, a hermetic scenario of a shadow play, speaks of dispossession; the space to be represented has long left the world of mere appearances, the banality of real space.  His creation is an art in tension:  a calm area which, nevertheless, does not avoid the petrified, mineral cosmos where the created forms emanate from its many enigmas rather than its certainties.

At this point, having begun with melancholy, it now seems the appropriate moment to venture that the art of Farreras is also a study in exile and meditation on that exile, in the words of our currently favorite poet, Yves Bonnefoy.

Defender of mystery; as such we conclude another text on this painter.

May silence, again, reign.

 

English Translation:  Marilyn Galusha

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[1] I refer to his participation in the 1958 Biennale of Venice (Spanish Pavillion, XXIX Biennale Internazionale d’Arte, Padiglioni delle Nazioni, Venezia, 14 June – 19 October, 1958), where the commissioner Luis González Robles included him in “delle tendenze più audaci dell’arte contemporánea”.

[2] Text in the catalogue of the exposition, first celebrated in the Museum of Modern Art, Frank O’Hara – New Spanish Painting and Sculpture, New York, 1-31 July, 1960, p. 10.  (Itinerant exhibiton, various museums in the U.S.A.).  “Despite the enormous stimulus Spanish artists have received from international trends, and from the international art situation into which they were willingly thrust, they remain different, aristocratic, intransigent, articulate”.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.  Before Picasso; After Miró.  New York, 21 June – 20 October, 1960.

[5] James Johnson Sweeney, introduction to the catalogue op.cit.  “the art of the younger Spanish contemporaries of today (…) in their basic regard for the material expression, in their pride of independence from alien influence, in their chromatic constraint and under-statement, in their concrete, pictorial, yet basically non-illustrative, intensity”.

[6] Alfonso de la Torre, “Francisco Farreras:  Silencio”, “The Fifties”. Ámbito Cultural – El Corte Inglés.  Madrid, February, 2013.  pp. 126

[7] We refer, for example, to the review of constructive art and its most normative tendencies in the exposition “La sombra de Oteiza en el arte español de los cincuenta”.  Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza, Alzuza – Ibercaja, Zaragoza.  2009 – 2010.

[8] Manuel Sánchez Camargo.  “Farreras, pintor abstracto”. “Revista” year IV, #192.  Barcelona, 15/21 – XII – 1955.

[9]  Ibid.

[10]  The term coined by Juan Manuel Bonet in “Arte y Madera”, “Maderas Españolas”.  National Museum of Visual Arts, Montevideo, Uruguay. 2006.

[11] “The fact that I am also quite reticent to accept the theoretical interpretations (often futile and gratuitous) which are accorded the topic of art has influenced me to recognize that intuition, with the indispensable support of what we know as CONCEPT (abstract notion quite difficult to define) continues to be the primary motivational force of my work”.  Francisco Farreras, text from “Serie Blanca”.  Rayuela Gallery, Madrid.  2001-2002.  (Capital letters are the author’s).

[12] When Rothko was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Yale in 1969, he expressed with clarity: “When I was young, art was a solitary practice:  there were no galleries, no collectors, no critics, nor money.  Yet it was a golden age for we had nothing to lose and an entire vision to gain.  Today nothing is the same.  It is an era of immense abundance of activity and consumerism.  I cannot venture which of these two circumstances is better for art.  But I do know that many of those who find themselves immersed in this form of life and desperately searching for a space of silence in which to put down roots and grow.  We all hope that they find it”.  Mark Rothko, “Acceptance speech for an honorary Ph.D. from Yale University”.  1969.  “Mark Rothko.  Writings on Art (1934-1969)”.  Paidós Estética, Barcelona.  2007, p. 219 (from “The Papers of Bernard J. Reis, 1934.  1979”.  Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.)

[13] Juan Manuel Bonet. “Fifty Years Later”. “The Fifties”, op.cit., p. 14.