The Timothy Taylor Gallery hosts late works from Antoni Tàpies, dating from 1999 until his death. Large-scale canvases are spread out on the white walls of the gallery. Its content manifests in the form of textured figurative shapes, applied on a wooden canvas, and enhanced with paint, hair, and other mixed media. The Catalan artist, throughout his prolific career, has introduced a new language to interpret contemporary situations into astonishing pieces of art. The idea of an art piece being confrontational is inherent in Tàpies’ symbolism. He aims to disrupt and irritate his audience by bringing to the fore, repulsive yet authentic matters.
All the pieces exhibited at Timothy Taylor in “Repulsion and Desire” articulate the body, violence, sex, and bodily excrement to bring back the conversation to our own self. In a society turned to the outside, even during the years in which he painted those pieces, it seemed important for the artist to re-centre the audience inside his own body instead of externally, where it usually comforts its own fears.
The artist takes traditional subject matters considered as disgusting and intimate, and presents them to the audience, who are invited to meditate on life, society, and blend it all with their inner reflections. To the novice, Tàpies’ works may appear brutal at first. For the experienced, familiar with the artist’s language, the crude explicit shapes of genitals, pelvises and mucus, all in a religious background, mirror their personal interpretations, or shut them off, leaving them apathetic. None of these options are right or wrong, with the objective having been to create a reaction via the art.
Though the content may not necessarily be inviting for the audience to reflect, the placement of the texture and spatial collages are intriguing. Some of them are made out of what looks like wet crystallized sand and alien elements such as newspapers, paint can lids, and hair, which makes us wonder if they originate from a head, or from somewhere else. Figurative silhouettes of male and female body parts, open eyes or noses, blend into the landscape of abstract outlines, and symbols such as crosses and numbers. The work of Tàpies cannot be compartmented into any particular movement. The connections and dissimilarities between figuration and abstraction are responsible for the circulation of imagination into the microcosm conceived by the artist in direct relation to his audience.
Despite the entertaining nature of all the works, due mainly to the depiction of primitive human conditions, there is a serious underlying tone which resonates in the uneven lines and shades of colours. Brown, black, white and beige compose the territory on which Tàpies has laid his pain. The title of the exhibition suggests two opposed states, one being attraction (desire) and the other aversion (revulsion). By representing both, intertwined in the paintings, Tàpies suggests that we find a common ground, a middle in which the audience could distance themselves from current social traumas and come close enough to feel and reflect with their own experiences.
Antoni Tàpies at Timothy Taylor (16 February – 18 March 2017)