17.12.2016 - 02.02.2017
Despite being one of the artistic disciplines par excellence, Contemporary Painting seems to be the subject to a crisis situation which is sort of chronic. Painting remains autonomous, it still sets its own rhythm and, consequently, it still comes up against the same frictions in relation to other genres which are more conceptual in nature. Nevertheless, although it is true that this practice might find itself in an exhaustion time, it is also true that exists a meta-referential trend where Painting is vindicated through a self-critical analysis about the medium itself; meaning a Painting that, apart from the visual narratives, it talks about the Painting itself. In this line of research, we can find Germán Portal?s work (Montevideo, 1979). Germán Portal is a painter who focuses his work on an exhaustive exploration of the act of painting nowadays. To this effect, the artist uses two complementary strategies. On the one hand, a fake lack of style which allows him to release himself from the authoritarian burden of the gesture and to experiment unabashedly. On the other hand, he has a fixation about categorized periods in the History of Painting, for instance the Twentieth-century Avant-garde Art Movements, the Baroque or the Italian Renaissance. So, his artwork freely travels through the historiography of art, retrieving those aspects that he considers more interesting to be confronted to the present from a formal rigour that becomes, in turn, a discursive position. It?s an exercise of Art demythologizing where the imitation, the sense of humour and the misunderstanding work as systems of reinterpretation of the pictorial tradition. In short, it is a conceptual revision that fantasizes about new approaches, interpretations and functionality of painting through an uninhibited attitude: subtle, veiled and almost invisible parody. And, if in 2015, at the La Capella?s Espai Cub in Barcelona, Germán Portal re-intrepreted Avant-Garde Art Movements from a very ?do it yourself? position which gave rise to pieces which were akin to Picasso?s, Brancussi?s or Giacometti?s but using common things as main materials (wire, cardboard, silver foil). And, after that, he revisited Post-War Art at Galería silvestre in Madrid ? in that case, doing it from the perspective of the non-finito, the unfinished ? now, the artist revives the Renaissance concept of bottega: the artistic workshop, an area reserved for the raw material, the working place where the master?s skills merged into his assistants?s skills, to the point that his individuality could be questioned. On account of the market requirements, great figures of the XVI century, such as Tiziano or Tintoretto created their bottegas in order to be able to meet their deadlines, which were becoming less acceptable to just one hand. As time passed, that ability - promptness in delivery, the infallible brand ? became defect. Throughout history, the artworks created by the bottegas were considered to be of minor importance. In a certain way, and that?s one of the more interesting aspects to Portal, the assistants?s excess precision in their imitation of the master was also the reason why they started to distance from his style progressively, and thus, it was a cause of the relegation of the bottega?s works to a secondary level. To his first solo exhibition at Galería silvestre in Tarragona, the artist focuses his interest in the stage imaginary of the bottega so as to exhibit a compilation of pieces where he plays with the misconceptions related to the authorship concept and with those subjects associated with the pictorial tradition. Following the flexible framework of the workshop, where the unfinished pieces coexist being spread about the space without the need to justify a criterion, Portal turns the gallery ?the place where the final presentation is performed ? into a sort of working space where everything seems to be half baked. A large canvas placed on an easel, an unfinished mural intervention, a selection of different sized landscape paintings and, finally, an installation created from several figurative drawings without a particular subject matter. In conclusion, Portal?s Bottega stages four interconnected blocs in which the pictorial execution times appear to move and drift apart. At first sight, everything is recognizable. We find landscapes and empty spaces, without any action, without any story. We also find characters (individuals, animals?) devoid of scene and context: a large celestial landscape where nothing really happens below its magnitude, natural environments where you need to gaze at something that doesn?t exist, or something that has disappeared, eccentric erroneous places, characters waiting to take action? Everything seems to be voluntarily displaced, waiting for the lastest gesture that wouldgive meaning to the whole thing. A last gesture that would help us to position ourselves, to trust in what we see, in what we expect. But our suspicion grows. Because, Germán Portal?s work doesn?t seek to recount what happened on the surface of a painting, but unveil the artifice of the pictorial illusion. David Armengol Germán Portal 's website.
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