A CYPRESS AT THE CIRCO MASSIMO
A CYPRESS AT THE CIRCO MASSIMO
Rome 1993. 29 ½ x 433 inches (polyptych of 23 pieces). Oil on canvas
During May of 1993 I painted this cypress moving around with specific different angles in order to recreating in the background a panoramic view of the Circo Massimo.
FÉLIX DE LA CONCHA, A TOTAL PROJECT
Félix de la Concha returns periodically to Madrid, to his native Leon, which he has painted so well in some of the paintings that were in his first solo show, and returns to Cantabria where is that “Grandmother’s house” to which he has dedicated some memorable paintings and more recently a very interesting series. His land of choice, however, is out of Spain. It is Italy, which has attracted so many of our painters in the past. Rome, a city to which he arrived when he was awarded with one of the scholarships by the Spanish Academy, already occupies a fundamental place in his life, and in the development of his work. Especially after that splendid polyptych of more than forty meters long around the courtyard of Donna Olimpia, a construction from the fascist era, of 1938. In its courtyard, during nine months, he made a timeless chronicle and loaded with a strange poetry. (…)
Félix de la Concha’s way of approaching the urban motifs, his main inspiration, differs substantially from the way similar motives have been approached by others of his realistic colleagues. He is interested, as some of them, in the almost topographical tradition of the Vedutists, but he makes it compatible with a sensible preoccupation with light and the passage of hours. And with something that in principle is antithetical to the above: with a systematic spirit, a commitment of totality, of total work, that almost take us to the terrain of the conceptual. And suddenly one remembers that the prologue of the catalog for his first exhibition in Madrid was written by, precisely, Juan Hidalgo, the founder of ZAJ.
As in other of his earlier Roman series, in this one around the Circo Massimo, these two dimensions of the problem are present. Each of the twenty-three pictures that integrate the cycle, contemplated in its individuality, could be perceived as the result of the Impressionist encounter with a motive, with an hour. But that vision is not what is proposed to us, but exactly the opposite. By juxtaposing all these fragmentary visions, all the instants are relativized, which become part of a system. The spectator captures, at one point, the logic of that system, and which are determined in advance by a very complex geometric plan of slight displacements of the angle of vision that make each painting. Although always, in the foreground, the same cypress is slightly different from the previous one, and all together compose a panorama.
“I’m not attracted to the spectacular,” Félix de la Concha writes in the prologue to the ICI catalog documenting the polyptic Nine Months in Donna Olimpia. He also, a few lines later, acknowledges that one might think that this statement is ironic, taking into account the dimensions and complexity of that work. A work which has also been conceived according to a totalizing plan. And he insists, paradoxically: “I expect … to retain a certain spirit of fragility.”
Nor does this series now want to be “spectacular.” It is simply a new project sustained with integrity, with consistency, above conventions and easiness. The will that reveals to delve into a chosen direction deserves our full attention. Conceptually it is a project that is sustained, but more important still is the sensitivity that the painter denotes in each of these twenty-three confrontations with a particular angle of the Roman urban landscape. The dark green of the cypress and the light, fresh green of the grass, a whimsical branch and as disheveled of the tree, the red walls of a building at the bottom of the first sections of the panorama, the almost cubist anfractuosities and nooks of the Circo itself, the wonderfully Corotian quality of the light that bathes the scene … all this allows him once again to provide us with a lesson of good and serene painting, and to demonstrate that indeed in it the spirit of system, The reflection on the problems of representation itself, does not kill the freshness of feeling, the fragility that he himself invoked in his text I mentioned earlier. The fragility, which is the material on which the painters work, on which we, the poets, work.
JUAN MANUEL BONET
Poet, Art Critic and current Director of the Instituto Cervantes.
BONET, J. M. “Félix de la Concha, un proyecto total”. In Félix de la Concha. Despliegues (Deployments). Catalog of the exhibition held in León, Centro Cultural Santa Nonia and Casa de las Carnicerías, June 10-July 9, 1994.