GUSTAVO TORNER. IN PRAISE OF ENTROPY

GUSTAVO TORNER. IN PRAISE OF ENTROPY

Texto publicado en el catálogo
TORNER ENTRÓPICO (31/03/2015-17/05/2015)
Cuenca, 2015: Semana de Música Religiosa-Catedral de Cuenca
 
TORNER. IN PRAISE OF ENTROPY[1]
Alfonso de la Torre

You’re the dark room / he’ll always remember

Cesare Pavese

Torner web 1

GUSTAVO TORNER
Self portrait
1952
Oil on canvas
37 x 28.5 cm
Private collection

 

An artist looks out at the world from his studio. The sixties had just began, and the studio is located in the upper part of Cuenca,[2] suspended almost in mid-air, hanging over the sky like the ancient Greek monasteries of Meteora. Long behind him now is the tough destiny that once lay ahead of him as a forestry engineering student in the mountains of Teruel, trudging their cold bare wintry slopes, and his solitary retreat in a pension of the city of Teruel as he patiently crafted the illustrations of the colossal Flora Forestal de España (Spanish Forestry Flora), with classical music humming lowly on the radio and the water frozen in the washbowl as his mirror, echoing the waste land of Eliot’s poems in the silence of Teruel.[3] Letting the days slip by one after another, lost in thought, deciphering the details[4] that will unmask the mysteries concealed beneath the heather, the pine trees and the holly[5], scrutinising the secrets of the plants, capturing the essence of Nature. It is the promise of the fantastic beyond, and tramping the cold nights is the price to pay for the authentic dawn ahead: salvation, in the sense of a true life, lies in waiting. It is Novalis, “nothing is so remarkable as the great simultaneity of Nature. She seems to be present in her fullness throughout. All the forces of Nature are active in the flame of a light; she represents and transforms herself perpetually everywhere. She drives leaves, flowers and fruits together, and in the midst of Time is at once Past, Present and Future. And who knows in what singular sort she may be also working from the distance, or whether our system of Nature be only a sun in the Universe, linked to it by bonds through one light, one attraction and one influence, which things will presently reveal themselves to our spirit, out of which we shall then pour the spirit of the Universe over this very Nature, and shall participate the spirit of this Nature with further Nature systems.”[6]

Scrutinising the flora and the soil, tree stumps and bark, he already sees surrounding nature through the eyes of an artist,[7] a romantic creator. In fact, the artist would define himself as a hypocritical romantic, spelling out the meaning of his avowal: “a romantic in cool guise.”[8] And then, the page of the calendar turns to 1953. He returns to Cuenca, his mission accomplished, though it is still some years into the future before the city is “discovered” by abstract artists, and its old quarter still remains sadly aloof, an abandoned promontory, like a boat run ground a long time ago on the shores of Castile. Meanwhile, Torner continues his measurements in silence, bringing to mind Rimbaud looking at the provincial town out of the corner of his eye. Here, in its sad stillness, he defines and transforms himself, becoming a new man who finally knows himself: “I am sent back to the soil, to seek some obligation”[9], looking at the marvellous images like the poet.

Solitude. Still solitude.

 

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Cuenca. View from Gustavo Torner’s studio. Luis Pérez-Mínguez, 1973

 

Later on, sometime in the early sixties, his life found a new starting point in a thoughtful observation commanding a view over the Huécar gorge—the Painter in Cuenca Raúl Torres spoke about in 1962[10], reminding us of our title “An Entropic Torner”—keeping a watchful eye on a beautiful yet sullen and abrupt landscape. The rocky crags, the sky and the surrounding orchards almost encroach into the room where he paints, “through a large window that brings the landscape inside his home.”[11] Down below in the gorge, in the orchards, the dogs bark at night. And the music still hums low, the books are still piled high. At dawn the roosters crow. At dusk, the bells toll, and across the way, in San Pablo, the Lazarite monks intone Gregorian chants.[12] This “quietism” is captured in some early figurative paintings of both urban and natural landscapes in which I sometimes detect echoes of Wifredo Lam’s silent views of Cuenca,[13] or of other immemorial vistas by Carlo Carrá, and it is not at odds—an intentionally awkward painting with an unfinished air (probably gleaned from Cézanne)—with boundless intellectual curiosity and restless serenity. When talking about his art and about those paintings, Torner once said that: “there is no leap into the unknown from those paintings to the ones I am making now. In any case, there have been several intermediary stages in which the shift to abstraction can be noted. I wanted to finish those paintings with an old-style painterly quality, in other words, making the brushwork imperceptible (…). Yet they are not totally finished works, and this feature confers them a more modern look (…).”[14] Seen from his studio, the view is almost like the tracking shot in a film, “one begins painting landscapes and gets closer and closer to the subject matter. This only happens in Cuenca, because its landscape is divested of depth. It comes even closer until it becomes a landscape of limited areas, and all this using traditional techniques. And then comes the beginning of mixed media with new materials, until gradually achieving the maximum expressive effects with these materials and techniques (…) trying to achieve that expression almost exclusively through texture, that is, the purely material aspect of the painting (…).”[15]

“You’re the dark room / he’ll always remember,”[16] Pavese wrote about Carrá, and certain works from Torner’s early days engrossed in his studio readily reveal some of his juvenile interests and reading, speaking of open books full of promise about Van Gogh[17] or Picasso[18] besides the ever-present Cézanne: “one of my first paintings was a copy of Cézanne. Cézanne was the first who deliberately left an area of the canvas unpainted, yet considering the painting to be finished, showing that he is no longer interested in the painting as a window but as an object. For him, conceptually speaking, the paintings are no longer windows, but objects where the painter can place things. He does not want it to be a hole open onto a reality, no matter how unusual that reality may be; a reality that in the Middle Ages would have been a ‘non-visible reality’, as in heaven or hell. That is why I agree with the opinion that considers Cézanne to be a forerunner of our present notion of painting.”[19] Torner represents interiors, which are also fragments of inhabiting space, where books on art and painters are depicted in the foreground, rendered in the adulating reading of youth, resting next to a cup of tea and a pipe, or books piled on shelves. Could that portrait of a tormented Van Gogh, his ear severed, be mere coincidence?[20] There is nothing coincidental in Gustavo Torner’s work.

In praise of a room to think[21].

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GUSTAVO TORNER
Still life with Sweets
1954
Oil on canvas
70.2 x 80.2 cm
Private collection

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GUSTAVO TORNER
Still life with Book
1955
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 cm
Private collection

From that moment onwards, and over the following decades, his world would evolve within a radius of barely two hundred metres around him, in an imaginary triangle. Two if its vertices are key places that would later “grow” just a few steps away: the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in the Hanging Houses, and Espacio Torner, the space devoted to Torner at the San Pablo church, both buildings already visible in his photographs from 1955, half way between foreshortening and the haziness induced by fog.[22] And the third vertex is the Cathedral[23] which features in so many childhood memories that we are reminded of Rimbaud’s claim that “when I was a child, my vision was refined in certain skies.”[24] In 1956 Torner had already painted the Cathedral from an unusual angle, elevated over the rocks like a sculpture rising from the stony promontory. The same Cathedral[25] for which he would create stained glass windows in the nineties, in which he included some of those childhood memories. And also nearby, just a short walk away, were the homes of other artist friends.

I believe that one of the milestones in Torner’s entropic worldview would be a pastel drawing from 1955 in which he depicts his studio in the old family home that still stands in the lower part of the city. Torner believes that metaphors are useful in understanding certain things of the world:[26] an interior—with just a few pieces of furniture, the aforementioned shelf crammed with books, a table and a rug—from where he looks out at the landscape. From this hermetically sealed room, the artist covers the surface of painted works with images of nature, one of which can be seen leaning on a chair. The door of the room is closed and the title is obligingly tautological: “Interior.”

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GUSTAVO TORNER
Interior
1955
Pastel drawing on paper
50 x 32 cm.
Collection of Gustavo Torner

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GUSTAVO TORNER
The Window
1954
Oil on canvas
60.3 x 50 cm
Private collection

But he leaves no doubts about his self-absorption, so energetic, so creative, so devoted to the aforementioned obligation to seek after. Torner wrote, “above all else, there is a love for the world, for nature.”[27] There are also other symbols from these years of initiation: a painting titled “La ventana” (The Window, 1954), a canvas of different planes, with a cubist and geometric air, which is not strange, since this atmosphere would remain a constant throughout his work: the conversion, the internalisation of what has been seen, the wonderful images transubstantiated into almost geometric forms. But the artist continues inside his studio, as we are reminded by the window frame and the views over Cuenca. The title continues to allude to his observation from within his studio, sheltered inside, and offers yet another tautology: it is simply “The Window”. Another work this time from 1955, “Desde la ventana” (From the Window) reiterates that looking out from inside.[28] Another group of painted views seems to be looking not so much for a faithful reflection of the real as for a space hidden among the shadows.[29] As Rimbaud might say, we are not in the world, true life is absent.[30] Pleasure from a timeless corner, the dark passage[31] bathed by the still life, the place any poet would choose for writing. In praise of the severity of lines and planes, a divested fleeting space that could be anywhere, the quest for the mystery of the everyday that might allow this entropic practitioner to “interpret the world”,[32] in what would then seem—once again, quoting Pavese—to reveal a shuddering produced by the everyday things around him, a fear not exempt from the pleasure we get when we sense the vibration of the day: “One shudders to feel the morning trembling so virginally, as if none of us here were awake.”[33] A determination not to be modern, a late artist, a restless watcher with the declared will to place himself on the margins of any search for the new, which he reiterates by categorically rejecting the formal and contrived alliance with the modern,[34] through the praise of the shadowy, still corner, a visual metaphor (Zóbel dixit) that will allow him to arrive to the universal from a far-removed enclave. Evoking emotions through the serene power of certain pictorial forms seems to be the constant goal of our ever eccentric entropic artist.[35]

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GUSTAVO TORNER
Plazuela de San Andrés (Cuenca)
1955
Oil on canvas
60.2 x 73 cm
Private collection

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GUSTAVO TORNER
Barrio de San Miguel II
1955
Oil on canvas on HDF board
65 x 57 cm
Private collection

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GUSTAVO TORNER
From the Window
1955
Oil on HDF board
29 x 36 cm
Private collection

A hypersensitive artist capable of composing the metaphors of his creation, a painter with an analytic gaze which the already-mentioned Zóbel described as follows: “His is a subtle, hypersensitive and analytic gaze, always searching and sometimes finding. Torner looks for the mystery in the everyday, and when he finds it, he must make up a visual metaphor capable of re-enacting and expressing it.”[36] Or, as pointed out, quite early on, by Juan-Eduardo Cirlot, he is “perhaps obsessed by the poetry of floors”,[37] and in signalling this looking downwards, he brings us back again to entropy, to a looking inwards, and also about being “sent back to the soil”, to seek some obligation.[38]

We have so often talked about that stillness of many painters, cooped up indoors, meditating around the mysteries of the visible. The artist happily tucked away in Via Fondazza, or another one, ripping his canvases in the solitude of his studio in Milan. A world that fits into a single room. Inventing solitude, a journey around a room, the world of artists’ seclusion, like the intense year Van Gogh spent in Arles, or Morandi’s atelier in Bologna, where he lived and worked for over half a century.[39] The washroom on the terrace of the family home in Figueras, or Molí de la Torre, the house where Dalí played at being a genius.[40] Like Palazuelo in his tour Saint-Jacques,[41] or Hölderlin in his tower in Tübingen. In praise of solitary studios, rooms of suspended time painted by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Friedrich or Hopper, to which we could now add Interior, a drawing on paper made by Torner.

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Provincial Exhibition Gallery, Institución Fernando el Católico, Gustavo Torner. Naturalezas vivas al aire libre, Zaragoza, 28 February-12 March 1958

UNFATHOMABLE REGIONS

Il y a dans le rapport de ces régions quelque chose d’inépuisable et de mystérieux.  Il y a une qualité qui ne parvient pas à son terme.  Il y a plusieurs régions étagées, enfermées (…) ou au contraire sur le piédestal de roc, de lumière et d’abstraction, tout en haut.  Entre ces lieux-là comme les seuils du ciel où les masses glaciaires et les pointes écaillées sont situées sur les bords d’un paysage décharné et heureux (…) la roche argentée de ligne classique et dans l’ouverture immense des eaux vertes : il croit, si son esprit lui est entièrement favorable, ressentir l’esprit de Dieu immanent dans de tels objets (…).

Pierre Jean Jouve[42]

In 1955, Torner took forty four photographs of Cuenca and exhibited them that same year in the city, and shortly after that in Zaragoza in what became one of the earliest art-photography exhibitions made in the listless languishing Spain of the post-Civil War years.[43] There is no doubt what the subject matter those photographs dealt with was Nature, but nature seen while travelling, a reference again to a tracking shot that ranges from the distance (landscapes of fields and rocks) to distorted proximity: cracked rocks, stumps, lichen, tree barks, old pieces of wood, walls and graffiti or inscriptions… There is also a liking for the haziness other photographs often engage with, where he captures landscapes of an unfathomable mysterious region in a wider scope: fog, shrubs, the night, or water that seems to change as it flows, unveiling something akin to a presence in nature.[44] In my view, those photos would eventually prove essential in that hasty crossing-through everything that made Antonio Saura exclaim: “Incredible! The things you used to make and how fast you cross through everything,” from which we may well infer that his gaze was precisely what took him so quickly towards nature, “only Nature.”[45] Something he would deal with during his “withdrawal” from painting on the surface of the canvas or the paper. Indeed, in the early 1960s, with his well-known two-part works or binary compositions, collage became a key presence in his practice. From his matter-based works with their compact appearance, yet perhaps more magmatic in their nervousness, sometimes looking as if they had been broken by their own inner self, like those on view in this exhibition: “Plateado I” (1959); “Ratón” (1959); “Azules” (1960) or “Blancos, grises, marrones” (1960). And from there to works where the surface seems to be torn between horizon and earth, often presenting contrasts between the two areas. In fact, the lower section is often peopled with materials that help to shape his ideas: soil with roots, scrap metal, metal elements or fabrics, ligneous fragments, feldspar, and hemp, like those rarely seen before and now on display here: “Negro – Azul y blancos” (1960); “Rojo – Marrón gris”. Or the extremely rare work with a crude, intricate presence “Blancos – Azules” (1961). Also on display is a work that used to belong to the collector Amos Cahan, “Diversas texturas blancas” (1962), exhibited very close to the ineffable “Rosáceo-Verdoso” (1962) that presided over Gerardo Rueda’s home in Madrid, and also related to “Gris, con rojo” and “Fuera de serie o Marrones y blancos,” so mysterious and sometimes extremely dark, in other days dazzling and always refined, with a dramatic effectiveness, and all of them from that same watershed year of 1962. Something clearly explained by an artist capable of expressing himself with eloquent precision that is rather uncommon in our art history (which, on the other hand, he says does not exist)[46]: “it must have been the first time that I added a rusty piece of scrap metal on a smooth surface painted with a flat colour. It is a totally mysterious process. Sometimes we are fully aware of what we want to do, but when the work is finished and we see it as valid, intuitively, that validity may not correspond to the initial intention. In this case I was interested in showing the power of the material itself—reality, what exists—and time, its other measure, and the most categorical way of doing so was also the simplest: gluing the emblematic matter, be it found or exhaustively sought for, next to an inert, smooth surface, which may even seem non-natural due to the chosen colours and textures that, as such, would never exist in nature.”[47]

At the end of the day, this is the artist who claimed that “nature is everything.”[48] Incidentally this journey of his through nature is not so far removed from that embarked on by other radical abstract artists of our time. I am thinking of some celebrated artists like Mondrian and Ben Nicholson,[49] Rueda and Zóbel. Travelling through everything perhaps to remain still (in the sense of keep revolving around the same reflections):[50] “I believe that it has never been a drastic change, not even in my early stages as a painter (…) I began creating some highly detailed botanical watercolours. After that, my first works as a painter were landscapes. In 1958 I had a photography show in a gallery in Cuenca, something unusual at the time, with tree barks as the subject matter. Then, following with landscape paintings, Cuenca offered me a unique, truly remarkable landscape that has no horizons, with a view of the steep banks on the other side of the river gorge. It is all vertical, like in the painting of the Cuenca cathedral seen from behind: the cathedral and the rocks reaching down to the river, everything outlined with verticals. Then, as it happens, my evolution is like a film tracking shot in which you come closer to the rock, see the lichens, the mould, the porosities, and you paint the rock at the size of the painting. Then you explore the possibility of doing it with the same material, that is, with crushed rock, and subject it to the same process of exposure to the elements: it has endured rain, it has dried, been covered by mud, grown over with mould and lichens. And those are my works from the fifties in which, if you allow me to say, I arrived at abstraction by intensifying realism. Then, to give the real a more real appearance, you add a non-real piece in the two-part paintings. A background with a colour never seen in nature at a very large size, as in a two by two canvas. Here on display is nature, matter at its purest; a more elaborated nature will come later, assembled objects (…) What I mean is that I never took a leap into the dark (…) Ultimately, through their art, artists question the world, and look for analogies. An either conscious or unconscious constant runs through my work, an obsessive concern, namely, that reality is something we see, but also something invisible, unknown (…) It is the play of appearance, of perception, that things are not always as we perceive them.”[51]

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GUSTAVO TORNER
1959
Machetti bookstore and gallery in Cuenca. The tiles on the façade were designed by Torner (50 x 200 cm approx. each).

Or, in other words, underlying this understanding, art does not necessarily have to be materialised in one single way,[52] and, as Fernando Zóbel[53] explained in his unrivalled essay on Torner, this helps to avoid reiterations: the way he creates is based on his way of thinking.[54] To use the artist’s own words: “a way of looking at your surroundings and then thinking about what you have seen and communicating the result. With the doubts and anxieties all this entails (…) underlying all my works is the same way of understanding art, which does not have to be materialised in one single way.[55]

“We seek plenitude,”[56] to heal our wounds, he wrote in 1958. It is the mysterious power sensed in the exact word, the hope all traditions sense, “that man is half-way between God and the darkness of matter; that he bears within him a spark of God; and, as well, that he is free. He is able to determine his salvation.”[57]

Phenomenology of the sacred and an affirmation of poetry in art; a defence of art creation as ethics, as pure brilliance, is a good conclusion for our artist’s word. We are in the cathedral of Cuenca.

And, what does Torner ask from art? (Remember Torner’s entropic nature). He asks himself. “Gustavo Torner interviews Gustavo Torner” and answers: “a new measure of man. Not a mere manual ability, even if it is an extraordinary one. Bearing witness to the sublimeness of being man. To help me see the wealth of the world, to understand it a little bit more, to hate it even. The magic of art can make the terrible coexist with the sublime, for it asks the most profound questions. Art does not teach through answers, but by broadening the scope of the questions.”[58] Questions that, like arcane wisdom, are left echoing in the air, facing the solitary landscape.

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Exhibition at Galería Machetti, Torner, Cuenca, 22 August-4 September 1959

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FERNANDO ZÓBEL
Gustavo Torner’s studio, 10 November 1963, with the poster (left) for his exhibition at Dirección General de Bellas Artes, Pequeña antología, Madrid, 1963
Drawing. Ink on paper
26 x 21 cm.
Private collection

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Gustavo Torner
Cuenca, December 1962

_________________________________________

[1] Used in this exhibition in a figurative sense, the word “entropy” speaks to the artist’s constant inward-looking as a sign of his work, in which chaos and creative balance, order and complexity converge naturally. His unique creative order is a by-product of that difficult balancing act. The word’s connection with science and Torner’s clear interest in the latter were also critical in choosing the title, resonating with the concomitance of order and disorder shown in the stained glass windows in the Cuenca Cathedral, as well as its allusion to the DNA structure, the Big Bang, or primeval water. For a better understanding, see Rudolf Arnheim’s conceptual analysis in “Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order” (1971), in which the writer explains the possibility of reaching a new type of harmony by revising the complexity of the real.

[2] Torner worked at in the Teruel Forestry District from 1947 to 1953. After that he moved to Cuenca where he continued working as a forestry engineer, and he remained there until the mid 1960s.

[3] BONET, Juan Manuel: “Gustavo Torner, escritor” in TORNER, Gustavo: Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones. Valencia: Pretextos, 1996, pp. 9-10. Bonet wrote about Torner’s relationship with Eliot’s poetry: “With the translation of The Waste Land (Barcelona, Cervantes, 1930) by Ángel Flores which he had come across by chance at the beginning of the previous decade, in an obscure printing house in Teruel, where he had been destined for many years.”

[4] “I was always, and still am, interested in detail. In the previous period, the detail was in the outline of things, which had to be sharp, and never confusing. Then, when I started doing these informal things, my attention shifted to the detail on the crust of things, but not inasmuch their edges as their texture.” Gustavo Torner in: OLIVARES, Rosa. “Gustavo Torner. La creación es un gran riesgo” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, ibid. p. 91.

[5] We are referring to around fifty works made by Torner in 1949 for the new edition of Flora Forestal de España and Estudio sobre la vegetación y la flora forestal de las Canarias Occidentales (1951), directed by Luis Ceballos Fernández de Córdoba. Watercolours on paper (1946-1953).

[6] Novalis: The Disciples at Säis and Other Fragments (translated from the German by F.V.M.T. and U.C.B.), London: Methuen & Co., 1903, p. 131.

[7] ANTOLÍN, Enriqueta. Conversación II. “La mayoría de las pinturas no son arte, son sólo pinturas” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. p. 117: “I drew what I saw: plants, tree leaves. I had to walk through the mountains and look at those things with the eyes of an artist (…) finding new aspects of the world. Art has the power to unveil realities that elude the human eye but which nonetheless exist, in the same way that viruses and galaxies which nobody has ever actually seen also exist.”

[8] Ibid. “Some people claim my painting is cold, but I agree more with the statement that defined me as a hypocritical romantic. A romantic in cool guise”, p. 121.

[9] BONNEFOY, Yves. Rimbaud. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Bonnefoy’s thoughts concerning Arthur Rimbaud’s relationship with “provincial towns” may very well be applied equally to Torner. Ibid. pp. 4 and ff. For instance: “It may be that the barren face of small-town dereliction is a favourable condition for perceiving the most essential freedom.” Ibid. p. 5.

[10] TORRES, Raúl. Gustavo “Torner, pintor en Cuenca”. ABC, 9/XII/1962, pp. 57-59.

[11] MORENO GALVÁN, José María. “Visitas al arte español: Pintores en Cuenca”. Triunfo, 25/IX/1965, no. 173, pp. 30-37.

[12] TORRES, Raúl. “Gustavo Torner, pintor en Cuenca”, op. cit.: “When we started talking a couple of hours ago, maybe three, Torner switched off the record player. Up until now the only accompaniment to our conversation has been the background noise of the upper part of the city: the ringing of a bell, the voices of children playing in the fields below, or the horn of the odd car crossing over the Huécar gorge. Suddenly, opposite us, the voices of the boys studying at the monastery of the Lazarite brothers could be heard: they sing Gregorian chant superbly. The sun had gone down in Cuenca on this autumnal day, and the voices of the Lazarite brothers turned on. Gustavo and I went on talking with the sound of the chants in the background.” Ibid. p. 57.

[13] Wifredo Lam’s period in Cuenca and an account of some of the works he painted there are examined in depth in: DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. La poética de Cuenca. Madrid: Ayuntamiento de Madrid-Centro Cultural de la Villa, 2004, pp. 11-15.

[14] TORNER, Gustavo. “Conversación I” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. p. 61.

[15] TORRES, Raúl. “Gustavo Torner, pintor en Cuenca”, op. cit. The term “tracking shot” is used in this article by Torner himself.

[16] “Sei la camera buia / cui si ripensa sempre”. PAVESE, Cesare: “La tierra y la muerte (1945-1946)” in Cesare Pavese. Poesías completas. (ed. Italo Calvino). Madrid: Visor, 2008. Translated by Carlos José i Solosora.

[17] See “Bodegón de los bombones (o) Bodegón del libro”, 1954.

[18] See “Bodegón de la sobremesa”, 1954.

[19] TORNER, Gustavo: “Conversación” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. p. 68.

[20] “Autoportrait à l’oreille bandée” (“L’Homme à la pipe”), 1889.

[21] “(…) I was a self-taught artist. That is to say, I looked a great deal, I looked at all the paintings I could find, I read as many books and magazines as I could (…) And technical books too. I read and looked a lot. As far as the History of Art is concerned, the periods I’ve been most interested in are Italian pre-Renaissance, German pre-Renaissance, Spanish realism, the Baroque period, the odd Mannerist artist, Romanticism, Cubism… Mondrian—the only one I name expressly is Mondrian—Art Informel and Surrealism (…) the Romanticism of Turner or Caspar David Friedrich. I am more interested in Northern countries than in the whole of French painting.” OLIVARES, Rosa: “Gustavo Torner. La creación es un gran riesgo” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. pp. 95-96.

[22] “I like fog because it makes everything hazy,” is a sentence by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, cited in DE LA TORRE, Alfonso: Vari Caramés. Veri(tas) Caramés. Un estado mental. Cordoba: Universidad de Córdoba-El ojo que ves, 2015.

[23] DE LA TORRE, Alfonso: La poética de Cuenca, op. cit. “In his early steps as an artist, in 1948, he painted some landscapes of Cuenca in the style of Dürer. Their intense mood and the depth of their conception could be related with the above-described works Lam created in the city.”

[24] BONNEFOY, Yves. Rimbaud, op. cit. p. 25.

[25] “Catedral”, 1956, MNCARS Collection. On display in this exhibition.

[26] TORNER, Gustavo: Conversación. In Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. p. 50.

[27] TORNER, Gustavo: “¡Oh dicha de entender, mayor que la de imaginar o la de sentir!” in Torner. Madrid: Ediciones Rayuela, Colección Poliedro, 1978, pp. 7-8.

[28] “Desde la ventana”, 1955.

[29] See “Plazuela de San Andrés (Cuenca)”, 1955.

[30] BONNEFOY, Yves. Rimbaud, op. cit. p. 12. “In Rimbaud, trust in nature is intact; trust in the grass, the flowers, the dawn, in the clouds above the high seas. His well-known thirst is perhaps no more that the transfer to earthly springs still accessible of another more secret thirst that remains unquenched.” Ibid.

[31] “Calle de Ronda”, 1955, an area of Cuenca near the studio he had since the early 1960s.

[32] “Trying to make art, which sounds terrible, is like wanting to interpret the world, and when actually making the object that is the artwork, wanting by analogy to reproduce its relations, which we actually do not know, but only sense. The great poets know much about that” TORNER, Gustavo. “¡Oh dicha de entender, mayor que la de imaginar o la de sentir!” in op. cit.

[33] “Sentite la mattina scuote vibra /vergine, come se nessuno fosse sveglio”. PAVESE, Cesare, op. cit.

[34] Enrique R. Panyagua dedicated several pages to this question, symbolised by his statement “I never wanted to be a modern”. See PANYAGUA, Enrique R.: El arte de Gustavo Torner. Salamanca: Caja Duero, 2003, pp. 42-45. The issue is also dealt with in TORNER, Gustavo: “Conversación” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. pp. 61-62: “when I met Saura for the first time I recall his surprise at my not wanting to be a modern (…) One does not have to defend modernism: one either is modern or one is not. And that’s all there is to it.”

[35] “(…) the artistic origins of this radical modern are also disconcertingly radical, for they are in no man’s land. His origins are, indeed, rather eccentric.” CALVO SERRALLER, Francisco: “Travesía de Gustavo Torner” in Torner. Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 1991, p. 12.

[36] ZÓBEL, Fernando: “Pensando en Gustavo Torner” in Torner, op. cit. pp. 3-6.

[37] CIRLOT, Juan-Eduardo: La pintura de Gustavo Torner. Cuenca: Imprenta Conquense, 1962, n/p.

[38] “(…) I am sent back to the soil, to seek some obligation.” Rimbaud cited by: BONNEFOY, Yves. Rimbaud, op. cit.

[39] Fifty five years, from 1910 to his death in 1964.

[40] Cited by DALI, Salvador: Vida secreta de Salvador Dalí. Buenos Aires: Editorial Poseidón, 1944, pp. 116 and ff.

[41] DE LA TORRE, Alfonso: Pablo Palazuelo. 13 rue Saint-Jacques (1948-1968). Madrid-Alzuza: Fundación Juan March and Museo Oteiza, 2010-2011. Palazuelo lived for nearly twenty years at 13 rue Saint-Jacques.

[42] JOUVE, Pierre Jean: Dans les années profondes (1961). Paris: Gallimard, Poésie, 1995, p. 21.

[43] This issue is addressed later in this essay. The exhibition held at Escuelas Aguirre, Torner, Cuenca, 1-7 April 1955, featured six photographs (nos. 55-60 of cat.: “Paisajes, nocturnos”). Torner also exhibited fifteen photographs at the Palacio Provincial exhibition gallery, Institución Fernando el Católico, Gustavo Torner. Naturalezas vivas al aire libre, Zaragoza, 28 February-12 March 1958. Those photos were also exhibited on their own at Galería Machetti, the gallery he himself had designed (1959): Galería Machetti, Torner. Fotografías, Cuenca, 3-20 April 1960. Indeed, in 1959 he designed the interior and the furniture for Librería Galería Machetti in Cuenca, and also two mosaics for its façade (50 cm x 200 cm approx. each), featured for the first time in this publication.

[44] “There is, above all, love for the world, for nature. A conviction that the mere materiality of things, their simple ‘being’ is in itself a value. (…) Could this be something of what has been already termed as ‘the spirit of matter’, a ‘presence of nature’?” TORNER, Gustavo: “¡Oh dicha de entender, mayor que la de imaginar o la de sentir!”, op. cit.

[45] PANYAGUA, Enrique R.: El arte de Gustavo Torner, op. cit. p. 46.

[46] TORNER, Gustavo: El arte, víctima de sus teorías y de su historia; acceptance speech at San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Madrid, 1993.

[47] TORNER, Gustavo: “Gustavo Torner entrevista a Gustavo Torner” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. p. 101.

[48] PÉREZ JOFRE, Teresa: “Gustavo Torner, la pulcritud del estilo” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, Ibid. p. 84: “Nature, reality, the world. Nature is everything: from black holes or the Big Bang to the atom, from the biggest to the tiniest, from what we see to what we do not see. Reality is just the part we see and know, but I want reality and nature to coincide (…)”. Ibid.

[49] The question of the fascination with nature is studied in DE LA TORRE, Alfonso: Nicholson y Rueda. Frente al Mar [Ben Nicholson-Gerardo Rueda. Confluencias]. Madrid: Galería Leandro Navarro, 2013.

[50] Already in 1962 Torner had told Raúl Torres that the botanical works “are related with what I’m currently doing”. TORRES, Raúl: Gustavo Torner, pintor en Cuenca, op. cit

[51] PÉREZ JOFRE, Teresa: “Gustavo Torner, la pulcritud del estilo” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. pp. 82-83.

[52] ANTOLÍN, Enriqueta: “Conversación II. La mayoría de las pinturas no son arte, son sólo pinturas” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, Ibid. p. 119.

[53] ZÓBEL, Fernando: “Pensando en Gustavo Torner” in Torner. Madrid: Ediciones Rayuela, op. cit., pp. 3-6.

[54] “The most disconcerting thing about Gustavo Torner as an artist is perhaps that outwardly his works do not bear a resemblance to each other. They do not seem to have what we know as “a family air” that allows the layman to readily recognise them as his work, making a quick identification easier, and easier to imitate and maybe to forge. The contrary has even been said (of course, only verbally), namely, that Torner does not have a style, that each one of his works seems to have a different origin, etc. However, I believe that the opposite is true. I believe that not only does Torner have a style, but that he has a great deal of it. The thing is that people tend to confuse technique—a certain way of using materials—and style. And Torner does not have a particular way of doing, rather a way of thinking. His way of creating is a by-product of his way of thinking, and for that creation he has at his disposal—and indeed uses—a rich variety of techniques and media, from the most traditional to the most original and shocking. I would dare to say (perhaps exaggerating a bit) that every time Torner is faced with the need to create a work he invents the necessary technique to make it. His concepts are constantly changing, and with them his techniques. What never changes is his mental process (of course, a mental process that is visually magnified). And that mental process is Torner’s style—a neat, subtle, sharp, elliptic, daring, sensuous and extraordinarily intelligent style. Once recognised, it becomes unmistakable.” Ibid.

[55] ANTOLÍN, Enriqueta: “Conversación II. La mayoría de las pinturas no son arte, son sólo pinturas” in Gustavo Torner. Escritos y conversaciones, op. cit. p. 119.

[56] TORNER, Gustavo: Gustavo Torner. Naturalezas vivas al aire libre. Zaragoza: Institución Fernando el Católico, 1958. “It is like dressing a wound instead of curing the illness that causes it. We need something to hold onto, something safe however small it might be. And there is nothing. We look for plenitude and what we find is mediocrity. And then, we switch on the radio, listen to some music and suddenly realise that that’s it. Sometimes, visiting museums we get fed up with so much painting. All of a sudden, one painting has the strange power to reconcile us with everything, with our exhaustion, with our boredom, with the rain falling outside, with the disappointed faces of our fellow visitors. That means that we have had a glimpse of something that carries a lot of truth.”

[57] BONNEFOY, Yves: Rimbaud, op. cit. p. 35.

[58] TORNER, Gustavo: Gustavo Torner entrevista a Gustavo Torner, op. cit. p. 104.