But there is no way past it, and it turns to the world again. Always turned towards creation, we see only a mirroring of freedom dimmed by us

– R.M Rilke (1923)

 

Jordi Diaz Alamà breaks all boundaries and rules in his new exhibition #ClásicosDesollados (“Skinned Classics”) in Museu Can Framis (Barcelona). He recomposes some iconic pieces from the History of Art and studies the landscape of a tradition that is unfathomable.

Alamà delves into the depths of what has already been painted, renews his understanding and leads us to a timeless experience. This comprises of a conscientious selection of works by, among others, Velazquez, Goya, Géricault, Friedrich, Manet and Degas forming the basis of an unexpected coupling of aesthetic mechanisms from different centuries.

 

Museu Can Framis (Fundació Vila Casas)

 

The first thing apparent to anyone who talks to him is that he’s always trying to push the boundaries of his own skills and of the art form itself. This outlook applies to his life as the Director of the Barcelona Academy of Art, as well.

Impressive draftsmanship, a powerful sense of style, and an undeniable personality create a persona that inspires awe and curiosity. What form of art is this man working on, one wonders. How did he get to where he is? What influenced him?

 

Jordi Alamà in his studio in Barcelona

Jordi Alamà in his studio in Barcelona

 

Jordi Diaz Alamà grew up on the outskirts of Barcelona. It was here that his uncle introduced and inspired him to become an artist. His uncle was an economist by profession, but also a gifted comic draftsman who would frequently play with a younger Alamà by beginning a drawing before passing it to his nephew to complete. This was the proverbial first step of a promising artistic career.

One of the first topics we covered in our conversation was how he felt his work changed after a commission for a church and his solo show ‘Queens of the Night’ in Girona (Spain) in 2015.

Abstraction is a line of my work and something I am attracted to. I started and learned traditional methods so that I had the ability to create realistic pieces, but once you achieve that, you can’t just remain in that same space. I will always try and push myself to learn something new” he shared. “My first time I began to experiment was with ‘Queens of the Night’. I was attracted to shapes and themes. I wanted to go for an edge of abstract but I feel the final pieces were still a little more classical and figurative. It was around this time when I had to take a break to work on the church commission, but after this, I could follow my path again and I got an opportunity to have my first solo show in Barcelona.

 

La Conquista, óleo sobre papel encolado a tabla, 80 x 122 cm, 2015.

La Conquista, óleo sobre papel encolado a tabla, 80 x 122 cm, 2015.

 

We went on to discuss how the commission was a challenge and stimulating to work on: Alamà had to paint something modern and contemporary on a 7 x 3 meters canvas for a church that’s completely Baroque in its style. By the end, he was quite tired with chiaroscuro, classical and color but at the same time, the commission brought him into the spotlight and the Fundació Vila Casas scaled up the show from a single room to four larger spaces. To complicate matters, he only had 7 months to finish the work.

It was good, but also a problem. All these aspects affected the way I had to work. I had to learn to strategize and be far more efficient than I had before. I couldn’t spend a whole month on a single piece. What I did instead was to spend 2-3 months experimenting with different mediums. I figured that once I got the medium right, the rest would be a matter of production. Sure, it’s not all that much easier, but it would be a better way to guide my efforts. Moreover, I wanted to show off art that felt personal and new, instead of going with the same old classical and chiaroscuro. I wanted more. I wanted classical with modern techniques.

For this very reason, in the #ClásicosDesollados exhibition, the painting Dandy McDonald, his final project from the Florence Academy of Art, is displayed next to his newer creations. That way, the viewer is able not only to sense Alamà’s technical achievement but also to see where he is coming from.

 

Dandy McDonald ( Exhibition at Museu Can Framis)

Dandy McDonald (Exhibition at Museu Can Framis)

 

I understood that technique is not the end. There is something far more interesting beyond ithe stated passionately. “Before this exhibition, I was more set to paint with classical skill and arrive with elements and concepts to contemporary art. Here, I wanted to explore new mediums and create something that felt more free and abstract with a lot of power, which is why I painted over classical paintings using contemporary ideas.

This got me curious and I asked Alamà if using works of old masters was an act of rebellion or loyalty.

Loyalty!” he declared without any hesitation. “I was honoring these incredible masters and trying to rescue and bring them to the forefront of the contemporary scene but with a modern filter. I admire and respect these works, and it would be wrong to destroy all the sublime and meticulous details of these iconic pieces. The concept of the collection is to give you the whole history of painting. The wide acrylic stains and layers of resin is a metaphor to modernity, the pure, the more neutral but as you remove the skin you uncover the traditional methods, revealing full technical history: the drawing, grisaille, verdaccio and color. Every single layer reveals a century. But the modern materials are not in competition, they are in unison“.

 

 

While showing me the works, he continued: “This collection was a redemption, and I realise this now, how much my perception has changed since my days at Florence Academy of Art. In Umbra Mortis: Disección al óleo, I was trying to capture its sublime nature, revealing the artisanship.  In Abanderado: La rendición de Breda, I’m playing with silhouettes and composition. But in Sin Corona: El Infante Don Carlos, I was in better control of the medium so I wanted something more free and aggressive with a lot of strength. Every study has its purpose. The entire series is like Divertimentos for me.  I’m very happy with this collection because it represents an evolution and a change in outlook where I can be free.

 

Abanderado, Homenaje a Velázquez: La Rendición de Breda Técnica mixta sobre lienzo / mixed media on canvas, 218 cm x 200 cm, 2017 (detail)

Abanderado, Homenaje a Velázquez: La Rendición de Breda
Técnica mixta sobre lienzo / mixed media on canvas, 218 cm x 200 cm, 2017 (detail).

 

On his views about the future and his direction as a painter, he stated:

I’m discovering and playing with new materials like wax and deciding what to do next and I have at least ten new pathways I can take. I cannot predict the future. There are so many things that affect you in different ways. I’m still exploring, but maybe one day I decide to stop and focus on one thing. The market might tell me, but nothing is certain. The only thing is to be better and try to give something innovative as an artist and connect with society. I also need a better quality of works to show at the galleries, and maybe even someday exhibit outside of Spain and Europe.

Alamà also spoke a lot about teaching. He says all his strategic ways come from teaching.

It is essential not to forget a deep understanding of the process, and teaching helps with that. Because when you give, you also receive something from everyone. It’s very satisfying to see people succeed, a sensation that makes me complete.  During my university years, I painted alone in a room and it was suffocating. Here, I have a community who inspires me every day. As an artist, we need context to discuss, explore, discover and in this way you also improve rapidly. The economic freedom also allows me to paint whatever I want and be happy with my work, rather than fulfilling a gallery’s every whim to sell my work.

It also became clear that he has strong philosophy especially concerning how art is being taught, created, shown and sold. When discussing these matters, Alamà was quite vocal about how a lot of artists get to a point in terms of realistic technique and they just stay there painting nudes but there is nothing beyond the surface.

A painting’s purpose is to tell stories that are meant to move us and express certain emotions,” he said. “It’s important to start with classical art as one writer or musician has to know the fundamentals but once you learn them you have to start composing and create something new and interesting.  It is very important for me to give this direction and philosophy to the society, and led me to establish the Barcelona Academy of Art.

 

Deconstrucción, Homenaje a Borremans, Técnica mixta sobre madera / mixed media on wood, 21,4 cm x 17,6cm, 2017.

Deconstrucción, Homenaje a Borremans, Técnica mixta sobre madera / mixed media on wood, 21,4 cm x 17,6cm, 2017.

 

Our conversation ran long and by the end of it, both of us felt in the mood for a little light-hearted banter. It was here that I uncovered these tidbits of information!

Ayuesh Agarwal:  Favourite Classical Artist?

Jordi Diaz Alamà: Sorolla and Velazquez

AA: Favourite contemporary artist?

DA: It changes every month. The best is Antonio Lopez Garcia. But not the only one. For example, I’m looking at Odd Nerdrum, Edward Hopper now, but before I was exploring a lot about Adrian Ghenie and Nicola Samori.

AA:  If you had to choose one: Form or Atmosphere?

DA: Form

AA: If you had to choose one: Line or Colour?

DA: Colour

AA: If there was one thing you could change related to your life, what would it be?

DA: I’m very happy with my life and job and if you get to live from your passion it’s the best way to live. But I also love music more and play saxophone, clarinet and various other instruments. If there was one thing I could change I would love to be a composer for soundtracks. Music is also the secret to my work. I’m composing images depending on the music I’m listening to.

AA: A painting that you will never sell?

DA: Dandy McDonald. I think the artist has to be his first collector. I’m always trying to save a work from every stage because you can always learn a thing of your past.

AA: The hardest painting you had to make?

DA: It’s for #ClásicosDesollados . Velazquez’s La rendición de Breda and Caspar David Friedrich’sWanderer above the sea of fog.

AA: One item in the studio you would never let go of?

DA: I’m a disaster in my studio so I don’t know. Maybe my saxophone because its always in my studios and stays there.

AA: One piece of work you wish you owned?

DA: I’m not a collector, but if I could be, it would be Velazquez’s Mars Resting.

AA: What piece did you enjoy most working on from #ClásicosDesollados

DA: Sin Corona: El Infante Don Carlos and El Rey Planeta: Felipe IV.

AA: One advice you would give to a younger generation of aspiring artists?

DA: I would give two pieces of advice. Work hard and be patient. The results will come along.

 

La pasión de Vallecas, Homenaje a Velázquez: Francisco Lezcano, el Niño de Vallecas, Técnica mixta sobre madera / mixed media on wood, 41 cm x 35 cm, 2017.

La pasión de Vallecas,
Homenaje a Velázquez: Francisco Lezcano, el Niño de Vallecas,
Técnica mixta sobre madera / mixed media on wood, 41 cm x 35 cm, 2017.

 

The interview took place in November 2017 at the Barcelona Academy of Art (Barcelona, Spain).

Ayuesh Agarwal

 

#ClásicosDesollados is on view at Museu Can Framis (Fundació Vila Casas) until January 21st 2018.

Photography by Aida Moscoso