January 5, 2020

Prado Paintings

It was 1969, I was 13 years old. My family was en route to Australia. We had decided to immigrate to Sydney to join the majority of the relatives on my mother's side of the family who had immigrated there several years ago from the Philippines. My father was retired from the Air Force, living at that time near Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida pan handle. We took space available flights through Frankfurt to Madrid and lingered there for a week before we hopped on an embassy flight that hopped from Riyadh to Deli to Bangkok and a month long layover in Manila where we hung out with my grandparents in Malate.

Since I was born in Madrid, Spain always held a special allure for me. For years, I was already drawing and studying art in any way I could. It was mostly reading art history books and copying the illustrations. I had already known about the Prado and its treasures of Velásquez, Goya, Bosch, El Greco and Rubens. I had already read Irving Stone's "The Agony and the Ecstacy" a few months prior in Florida, a vivid memory. I remember asking my parents to buy a book on figure drawing at a bookstore in Frankfurt. That whole world was glowing, alluring for me. I spent most of that week in the Prado and I took a day trip to Toledo. I remember vividly the "Burial of Count Orgaz". There was an exhibition of Goya's Caprichos in the lower level of the museum. The week glittered.

It was this specific moment of my experience in the Prado, after the sequence of the galleries of those great artists... that I came upon Goya: his cartoons for the tapestries, his court paintings and then his Black Paintings. Then the truly seminal moment. I was standing in front of the famous "Saturn Devouring his Children" and Goya's world of paint telescoped into my eyes and mind. My entire visual field, my whole visual world was that painting and only that painting. Time, frozen. Everything and everyone around me disappeared and the only things that existed for that long, super-saturated moment were this painting and me. I don't know exactly how long that moment lasted. It could have been forever, or it could have been only a minute, it could have been both.

As the ordinary world returned to my senses, a resolution grew within me to become an artist, to become a painter, to return and remain in that realm so saturated with paint and churning with arts' urgent impulse. This is the subject of the ten paintings illustrated above.

A fifty year commemoration. Crazy, that so much time has slipped by already. The memories are as sharp in my mind as yesterday. I used an edge mask that undulated in a way that recalled the Classicism of the Prado's architecture. It was a bridge from the reliance from the masking of years of previous work to the facture of paint-as-drawing that I could do with my daubing tools like a finger dragging onto a monochrome bed. It was also a flippant commentary on the purity of the traditional purist monochrome, a friendly insult for the abstract absolutism of end-game modernism. And then I was able to exploit the hand-made letterpress-like cardboard stamps, each imprint a very special moment as the tools marked data onto the painting's surface.

A passing moment, there will never be another fifty year anniversary of this kind again... unless I commemorate my Navy days in 2024-29. An intriguing possibility...

Posted by Dennis at January 5, 2020 12:39 AM

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