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Of lights and shadows

Rafael Armengol

January 2020 - March 2020

Rafael Armengol, passion (intact) for painting


            almost eighty years ago, Rafael Armengol was born in Benimodo, a small municipality of Ribera Alta, where his parents ran a trade. The boy immediately noted for his skill in drawing, delighting teachers and friends with their creations on the school blackboard. Sometimes a gift that's a conviction, because it forces you to get out of the usual path and forces you to reach almost chimerical and intractable challenges. Jose Ortega y Gasset warned that the mass man is one who recognizes "like everyone else" and yet, that will not cause anxiety. In fact, most people live happy in that timeIn your home everyday, without having to think too much, not make big decisions. Instead, every creator is subject to the existential weight to excel and be different: the painter wants his latest exhibition is more acclaimed than the last, the writer who overcomes his latest book sales and criticism of the precedent. An artist moves away by definition mass and distress if it is "like everyone else."

The artist lives with the anxiety and the uncertainty: the need to overcome, to say something new, rummaging in the depths of oneself something not said, a new idea, an unexpected way a feat that is acclaimed by fans and especially by critics. But after more than sixty years he is striving, as in the case of Rafael Armengol, what else can you say? What else can the look of the artist discover his followers? How you can surprise and delight them? How to reinvent itself again?

And yet, it is possible. And this new exhibition is a good example. I have to admit that when I saw the first picture of the series Of lights and shadows I was somewhat puzzled: there were Mao Zedong and Nero face to face with the armengoliano complement sprouts, as a frieze. A few months ago Rafael Armengol just expounded a series of Tiepolo in the University of Valencia, who had been fortunate to curate and prologar: revisitations recognized one of his classics, full of nuances. Ghirlandaio, Piero della Francesca, Giorgione, Mantegna, had previously passed through his eyes and his chromatic games, to make them a classic itself.

Therefore, that picture was a counterpoint to the above, a creative escape, a desire to open a new avenue of expression. But what he wanted to tell? Actually, the artist is guided by impulses and Armengol with that first gropings performed his usual table. Mao and Nero as epitomes of huge men and the same time catastrophic for its time, of which depended so many human destinies. Painting in that it was admiration, but also a sharp critique of messianism that, to that desire overflowing with power. In 1939, Thomas Mann published a text entitled brother HitlerWhere he described the German dictator as a frustrated artist, whose artistic disappointment was directed toward the rest of humanity with an effort of unprecedented destruction. If Hitler had succeeded as an artist how many deaths, how much suffering, would have saved the world!

These figures Mao and Nero, Armengol opposes that of Lou Andreas-Salomé, the great Russian-German, free-spirited and rebellious writer. Four large canvases, Armengol plays with the iconography of this writer, friend of Nietzsche and true icon of his time. Accompanying pictures with reproductions of Greek friezes of the Parthenon, in a counterpoint that refers to the eternal works, the durability of the pure and beautiful. A resource that also uses in its following tables on Hypatia of Alexandria, the great mathematical persecuted by religious dogmatism and presented as Armengol example of wisdom and humanity. The intense gaze of mathematics, with those eyes of Byzantine icon, dazzled by its depth and its drama, as one who has discovered the essence of the laws governing the world.

Thus, the painter of Benimodo get going by drawing an exhibition, new discourse in his work and absolute originality. Perhaps it linked to production of the seventies, with those master paintings dedicated to the slaughter of the pig, truffled political references and complaints. In those boxes meetings of businessmen headed by a chorizo, Armengol and denounced a reality that has been the prevailing trend of Spanish politics in recent decades: that is, a political system riddled with corruption and trafficking influence, direct legacy of Francoism.

Undoubtedly, this is a first initiatory steps, a few feelers that will in the coming years a more complex and multifaceted, more settled and trenchant series. But is spectacular renewal capacity involving these tables. Gallery Shiraz can feel very happy and proud to show for the first time these works. And Rafael Armengol having developed its nearly eighty years, a new series, exciting and powerful, which masterfully combines whole world: the magnificent mastery of drawing and color.

1996, the essayist George Steiner wrote a series of essays on their enthusiasm for reading, which he titled passion intact (No passion spent). At his advanced age, Steiner was still reading and rereading the same passion, the same outburst and enthusiasm in his beloved youth. Something very similar could be said of Rafael Armengol, about his passion for painting intact. A renewed desire every day. A work every day deeper and perfect.


Martí Domínguez

University of Valencia