It is precisely during his first years in Madrid that Millares started using the materials for which he is so well known nowadays; burlap and strings, or collaged elements such as pieces of wood, clothes, shoes or even cans, as is the case in Sin título. The painter’s use of the former two relates to his own childhood, as in the years following the Spanish Civil War rationed supplies of basic foodstuff such as beans and flour were stored in sacks of these materials. Moreover, burlap was used by the Guanche people, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands who used this material to mummify their dead in a similar way to the Ancient Egyptians. Millares, whose uncle was a palaeography professor at the University of Madrid, felt a profound interest for these mummies and other artefacts of the Guanche culture, whose influence permeates the artist’s early work. On the other hand, and following an opening of the Spanish economic policy in 1957-59 that allowed liberalisation and better access to imported goods, Millares’ use of everyday objects such as the cans in Sin título can be seen as his own take on artistic currents such as Pop Art and Arte Povera. Indeed, Millares’ work gained international recognition in the late 1950s, when after being shown at the IV Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo in 1957 the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired Cuadro 9 from that same year. This enabled the artist to travel and discover the work of Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning and Jean Dubuffet, whose gestural, highly energetic brushstrokes and textured canvases can be seen to follow a similar direction as the Spanish painter’s.
Here, Millares masterfully utilises humble materials and elevates them to express his inner anguish, derived from his own experience and his need to fight the status quo of his homeland. Twisting and writhing the very material the canvas is made of, in Sin título Millares revolutionises pictorial tradition and creates a work of great emotion and significance.
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