Incorporating elements like dust, sand and pigments in his art allowed Tàpies to reproduce and thereby capture reality. Impressions from the civil war in Spain would lastingly inform his painterly practice. Walls, which are the primal carrier of memory to Tàpies were particularly charged through the cruelty and suffocation that they witnessed taking place on the streets of the country. Exposed to the bareness and nakedness of the human condition through his deeply personal and traumatising experience of an adolescence surrounded by violence, Tàpies would develop an individualist artistic approach that whilst informed by Art Informel and related to Abstract Expressionism would ultimately defy categorisation through its sober profundity.
Oval de Vernís is an atmospheric variant of the Matter Paintings rendered in grey and yellow. Three decontextualised crosses vertically aligned intersect the washed yellow plain that is enveloped by a somber and seemingly diaphanous grey. Characteristic of Tàpies, there is no legend to access the mystics of the work or an invitation to comprehend its symbolism and the viewer is left to explore the beguiling texture of the work. Oval de Vernís captivates the viewer’s gaze primarily thanks to the mesmerising roundness resulting from the colour choice enacted on the impasto, whilst the glossy veneer of the varnish creates a fetishistic surface that immediately entrances and attracts. The deliberate decision to execute a painting freed from associational implication results from Tàpies’ quest for truth and his high expectation towards the viewer: “A picture… is a door that leads to another door... The truth we seek will never be found in a picture: it will only appear behind the last door that the viewer succeeds in opening by his own efforts” (Antoni Tàpies cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Tàpies, 1995, p. 36).
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