EMBLEMS OF MODERN CONTEMPLATION. Victoria Combalía   (1989)

There is at this time a return to geometry which, though widely diffused, can nevertheless be analyzed. As in all the reversions we have witnessed recently, there are cases where borrowing has been superficial and is due to the pressure of fashion, and others in which reinterpretations of the possibilities of geometry are of great interest.

 

But also, the geometrical abstraction that arose during the first avant -garde had many different meanings, possibilities and even shades that make it impossible to cut them all to a standard pattern. Between the intellectual rigour and precision advocated in Theo van Doesburg's Manifesto of Concrete Painting (we are painters who think and measure, said the Dutch artist-architect), and the mysticism of a Malevitch, there are great differences in aim and even treatment. As there are, in fact, between the formalism of painters like Max Bill and Barnett Newman's search for a metaphysical absolute.

 

At this time we also see the appearance of hitherto impossible combinations, or ones which would have been labelled heterodox. For example, while texture or abundance of material used to be associated with informalism, texture now appears to give body to geometrical forms and suffuse them with warmth. Of course we could cite the example of Tapies as a precedent, since in his work a geometrical armature behind the material has been perceptible since the fifties

Tapies and Yves Klein, moreover, are specific reference points for the work of Begoña Egurbide. This artist began in painting with works that evoke those of Barnett Mewman in their emphasis en geometry and unified colour field, which gave a space of deep spiritual or contemplative resonance. Those works, exhibited in the Reading Room in Reus in 1985, could be said to intercede for a spiritual state or, according to the artist herself, provide spaces to lose yourself in.

 

They seem inhabited by silence and peace. Kandinsky's famous phrase comes to mind here: At this time a dot on a picture says much more than a human figure ... The painter needs discrete, silent, almost insignificant objects ... How silent an apple is beside the Laocoón. A circle is even more silent.

A spiritual, contemplative sense again appears in this new series that Begoña Egurbide is presenting now. Before reaching this threshhold the artist has asked herself What should be done and what not done in a picture. In searching for this kind of minimal element she has chosen the essential forms, squares, circumferences, rhombuses ... But she has not tried to reduce the texture. On the contrary, it is made explicit in layer upon layer into which she has mixed marble dust, pigment, several kinds of cement. I'm a painter who hesitates and goes back over things she told us, although she also said that she wants to make an impact through image.

 

And she does, of course, with different and sometimes disturbing results. The thickness, or the reserved patches in black, lend ambiguity to the form and give an appearance of cosmic or even archaeological overtones. Orbits that are crackled, geometries that fuse into one another or disintegrate ... But also, the tension between hard geometry and diffuse texture; the hint of other interior forms, as in material mandalas. Others, finally, go to the limits of what can be tolerated within the bounds of good taste. And needless to say, completely international as to form.

After this, Begona Egurbide seems to consider that she has exhausted the possibilities for treating these textures, which would otherwise run the risk of becoming stereotyped. They have been useful to her in breaking down the obvious, involving the spectator in sacred and monumental spaces, striking, even mystical, at any rate never inoffensive. If, as someone has said, art can be a substitute for religion, here are emblems of modern contemplation, with all the doubts —flaws and beadwork— that religion implies.

Translated by Hugh Field

 

 

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