"Painting is a specific activity. Just as literature comes from literature, my painting comes from painting. My work is always inspired by pieces I like, or rather I live through those pieces." (Manolo Valdés cited in Exhibition Catalogue, Valencia, Palau Gallery, Manolo Valdés, 1983)
Manolo Valdés' portraiture actively engages with the history of art and addresses in it issues ranging from representation and appropriation to heritage, style and tradition. His distinctive method combines painting with sculpture and employs diverse materials and fabrics from which he recreates often familiar icons and motifs from art history in an immensely personal and richly textured manner of figuration.
Taking portraiture as his aesthetic code, Valdés examines the power of art and the unique expressive capacity afforded to it. Texture, materials, colour and the stylisation of faces form the essential components of his language which he communicates with immediacy and vigour. In the present work, Matisse Con Pretexto, Valdés takes his inspiration from one of Henri Matisse's best-known portraits of his daughter Marguerite. Magnifying it to a monumental scale, Valdés accentuates the selected fragment's underlying code and tonal structure, revitalizing its form in a way that adds fresh meaning and new possibilities. The entirely new synthesis of form and material it presents surpasses realms of appropriation, combining instead inherited artistic idioms of the past with the formal and thematic concerns of the present. In so doing Valdés embraces and celebrates the inheritance of his subject matter and asserts his place alongside the masters within the lineage of inevitable comparison in art history.
"I am just a narrator who comments on the history of painting in various ways, using new materials: it is like a game that consists of changing the code and the key to the artwork.... Many of my colours, materials and textures are the product of relived experiences of other masters. My painting involves much reflection." (Manolo Valdés cited in Exhibition Catalogue, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Valdes 1981-2006, 2006, p. 21)
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