Antoni Tàpies

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Antoni Tàpies, 2008

Antoni Tàpies (13 December 19236 February 2012) was a Spanish Catalan artist, born in Barcelona, who from 1947 on, started to paint in a surrealistic style. Through 'Arte Povare', under the influence of Eastern calligraphy among other things, he soon developed a spontaneous Abstract Expressionism with its own symbolic language.

Quotes of Antoni Tàpies[edit]

1945 - 1970[edit]

sorted, chronologically, after date of the quotes
  • Take a look at the simplest of objects. Let's take, for example, an old chair. It seems like nothing. But think of the universe comprised within it: the sweaty hands cutting the wood that used to be a robust tree, full of energy, in the middle of a luxuriant forest by some high mountains. The loving work that built it, the joyful anticipation of the one who bought it, the tired bodies it has helped, the pains and the joys it must have endured, whether in fancy halls or in a humble dining room in your neighbourhood. Everything, everything shares life and has its importance! Even the most worn down of chair carries inside the initial force of the sap climbing from the earth, out there in the forest, and will still be useful the day when, broken into kindling, it burns in some fireplace.
    • In: 'El joc de saber mirar' ('The Game of Knowing How to Look'), Antoni Tàpies, Cavall Fort, núm 82, Barcelona, gener de 1967 - translated from Catalan; as quoted in: 'Tàpies: From Within', June ─ November, 2013 - Presse Release, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC )p. 16, note 9
    • describing a children's game in his essay, Tàpies suggests looking at a chair


  • ..[the walls in the city] witnessed the martyrdom and the inhumane repression inflicted on our people.
    • In a 1969 essay of Tàpies; as quoted in 'Marble Dust & More, in Miami's Antoni Tàpies Exhibit' by Elisa Turner, at 'Hamptons Art Hub – Art unrestricted', March 18, 2015


  • For in order to be born again, you must die.
    • In 'Tapies, or the Materiality of Painting', by Klaus Dirscherl; as quoted in Materialities of Communication, ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Karl Ludwig Pfeiffer, Stanford University Press, 1988, p. 192
    • (1970), the line is the motto of his text 'Nothing is Insignificant', written in 1970


  • The highest wisdom incarnated in the poorest body. And even in straw mixed with manure: the final substances in which, by a rare miracle, the origin and strength of life emerge anew. The circle closes.
    • In: 'Res no és mesquí', La pràctica de l'art, Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona: Ariel, 1970; as quoted in: 'Tàpies: From Within', June ─ November, 2013 - Presse Release, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC ), p. 13, note 14
    • quote on using 'poor' materials, he used in his 'Arte Povera' works


  • Reminding people what in reality it is all about, giving them a theme on which to ponder, creating a shock within them, pulling them out of the delusion of non authenticity, enabling them to become aware of their true possibilities. [quote from 1976]
    • In: Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 25


'A Report on the Wall' 1970[edit]

A Report on the Wall, Antoni Tàpies , text translated from Catalan: 'Comunicació sobre el mur', in 'La pràctica de l'art', Barcelona: Ariel, 1970,
  • ..the wall, the window or the door — and so many other images that parade in my canvases — are indeed there and I am far from trying to hide the fact. With this I mean that I do not think that images, in my works, should be considered as indifferent excuses to prop visual elements, as the 'subject-matters' were said to be for Impressionists and Fauves. From those 'subject-matters', it is further said, the ensuing abstractionists or Informalists liberated themselves. My walls, windows or doors — or at least my suggestions of them — do not avoid their responsibility and hold their full archetypal or symbolic weight.


  • Everything takes place in an infinitely greater field than what is framed by the size of the picture or by what is materially in the picture. This matter [door/window/wall] is but a support inviting the viewer to participate in the much larger game of a thousand and one visions and feelings; it is the talisman lifting or sinking walls into the deepest recesses of our spirit, opening and at times closing windows in the construction of our impotence, our bondage, or our freedom. The 'subject-matter' then may be found in the picture or it may exist solely inside the spectator's head.


  • It would take me very far back to tell the story of how I developed my consciousness of the evocative power of mural imagery. These are memories of my adolescence and early youth when I lived enclosed within four walls during the time of war. The suffering of the adults and all the cruel imaginings of my age, abandoned to its own impulses amid all the surrounding catastrophes, were drawn and etched all around me.


  • All the walls of a city, which, by family tradition, seemed so mine, witnessed the martyrdom and the inhumane repression inflicted on our people. Cultural memories stressed its urgency. All the archaeological information I have absorbed, the advice of Leonardo da Vinci, the destruction brought about by Dada, the photographs of Brassaï, all contributed, unsurprisingly, to the fact that my first works of 1945 had something to do with street graffiti and a universe of repressed protest, clandestine yet full of life, as one could find on the walls of my country.
    • Tàpies is referring to the Franco-repression in Spain.


  • Later came 'the hour of solitude'. Inside my tiny bedroom-studio, I began my forty days in the desert; I do not know if they are over yet. With a desperate, feverish rage I took formal experimentation to maniacal levels. Each canvas was a battlefield where wounds multiplied ad infinitum. And then came the surprise. All that frenetic movement, all that gesticulation, all that unending dynamism, by dint of the scratches, blows, scars, divisions and subdivisions .. ..suddenly took a qualitative leap. My eye no longer perceived differences. Everything congealed in a uniform mass. What had been ardent ebullition transformed itself into static silence. It was like a great lesson in humility for the pride of my unbridled quest.


  • One day I attempted to reach silence directly, with greater resignation, surrendering to the fate that governs any profound struggle. My millions of furious clawings became millions of grains of dust, of sand.. .A new geo-graphy lit my way, carrying me from surprise to surprise: suggestions of unusual combinations and molecular structures, of atomic phenomena, of the world of galaxies or of images in a microscope. The symbolism of dust — 'to be one with dust, here lies the profound identity, that is, the inner profundity between man and nature' (Tao Te Ching) —, of ashes, of the earth from whence we come and to which we return, of the solidarity born when we realise that the differences among ourselves are like those between one grain of sand and the next..


  • The most sensational surprise was the sudden discovery, one day, that my pictures, for the first time in history, had become walls. By means of what strange process had I arrived at such precise images? And why did they make me, their first viewer, quake with emotion?


  • Was it the culmination of a process of fatigue brought about by the proliferation of an easy tachism in the world? A reaction to escape anarchic informalism? An attempt to flee abstract excess and the urge for something more concrete? Did I see the possibility to reach even more primordial levels, the most extremely pure elements, the most essential elements of painting that the masters from the preceding generation had stimulated me to seek?


  • ..the equivalence of sounds, gratings, scratches, explosions, shots, blows, hammering, shouts, resonance, echoes in space; meditation of a cosmic theme, reflection for the contemplation of the earth, of magma, of lava, of ash; battlefield; garden; play-field; destiny of the ephemeral.. .Far from the cliché people have of artists holding the baggage of necessary originality, personality, style, etc., that calls for an outsider's discussion of the works, for the author there is, foremost, a nucleus of thought that is more anonymous and collective and of which artists are but humble servants. This is surely the zone where wisdom is deposited, the wisdom that one may really find beneath all ideologies and the contingencies of this world. It is the impulse of our life instinct for knowledge, love and freedom that has been kept and fed by the wisdom of all time.


1971 - 1980[edit]

'Memòria Personal', 1977[edit]

Memòria Personal (A Personal Memoir), Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Crítica, 1977
  • Towards the end of 1958, I greatly increased.. ..the works done with what is called poor material. I felt the need to persist and go deeper with the entire message of what is insignificant, worn or dramatised by time.. .In fact, it was the most conscious resumption of subjects that had often attracted me. In my research, I had discovered this material, one I find loaded with strange suggestions, which is cardboard. A grey, anonymous material that won't be easily manipulated, for which very reason the slightest mark of the hand torments it and destroys it. But the piece of cardboard, the box, the lid, the tray.. ..dirty clothes (socks, T-shirt, underpants...), old furniture, everyday objects; not used as a representation or theme in the picture but as real bodies, objects.
    • as quoted in 'Tàpies: From Within', June/November 2013 - Presse Release text, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), pp. 7-8


  • And in this sense [of using 'poor' material / arte povare] I've been influenced by or related to some Dadaist forerunner, Duchamp, Schwitters.. .But there are other aspects of the 'ascetic' function, of the 'sacralisation' of the world around us which I've referred to.. ..the 'supreme identity' of Samsara with Nirvana. The use of new materials, collage and assemblage, became quite widespread among some new artists of that time.
    • as quoted in 'Tàpies: From Within', June/November 2013 - Presse Release text, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), pp. 7-8


  • My drawings [c. 1945 - 1955] were almost always figures, many pseudo-self-portraits, which I often set against a kind of sun or focus, as if the whole universe radiated from my head, from a point between my eyes. My few oils make even clearer this vision of an axial character, centrally placed, facing the spectator, or turned around, with symmetrical postures, as one in prayer; they show the influence of [medieval] Catalan Romanesque art. In general, molecular rays from the periphery appear to form the central figure and converge in his head, or come out of it, and give life to his surroundings.
    • as quoted in 'Tàpies: From Within', June/November 2013 - Presse Release text, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), p. 9


  • Despite my fervour for many Surrealist painters, I was soon wary of the preeminence of those 'literary anecdotes' that made many works appear as 'genre clichés', not unlike nineteenth-century pastiches. They often ignored the visual possibilities of the painting medium.
    • as quoted in 'Tàpies: From Within', June/November 2013 - Presse Release text, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), p. 9


1981 - 1990[edit]

  • As far as my work is concerned, I felt at that time [1970's] the need to start from the 'nadir' (nothingness); not a zero, but I had to go back to my roots and finally reacquire and make my own many approaches that I had once vaguely internalized, through Surrealism, in my early years. Many of the techniques that validate the anarchic impulses of the imagination and the subconscious became important again, for example, the conscious inclusion of chance, of failure and of error. (quote of Tàpies 1983)
    • In: 'Tapies, or the Materiality of Painting', by Klaus Dirscherl; as quoted in Materialities of Communication, ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Karl Ludwig Pfeiffer, Stanford University Press, 1988, p. 192


  • At lucky moments this emanation could overwhelm the spectator in such a way, that because of all sorts of associations in his thinking, he could finally be taken to those areas which also had moved me so deeply and made me think I should draw the attention of others to it. [quote from 1988]
    • In: Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 26


  • What I did [his artistic work in the 1940's] also served as a way to spit in the face of the well-meaning bourgeoisie...
    • In 'Tapies, or the Materiality of Painting', by Klaus Dirscherl; as quoted in Materialities of Communication, ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Karl Ludwig Pfeiffer, Stanford University Press, 1988, p. 184


  • A cross could be a shape for expressing something spacious; such as the coordinators of space. That could be called its first significance or its first relevance. A cross could equally stand for crossing something out. It could also be a sign of obstruction. An overturned cross, an X so to speak, could be the symbol of mystery, something for the other side. Then I could paint a cross in such a way that a connection is made between two bars, and in doing so convert it into a symbol of the unlimited. So, many different crosses and X symbols occur in my works. [quote from 1988]
    • In: Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 27


  • Obviously, the intention was not to go back to images traditionally valued as worthy or holy images and shapes, but exactly the opposite; its main purpose had to be, to realise as sacred art anything which so far had been regarded as of little value and pitiful. [quote from 1988]
    • In: Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 38


  • My illusion is to have something to transmit. If I can't change the world, at least I want to change the way people look at it.
    • a quote from Tàpies' talk, when his museum opened in 1990; as quoted in 'Antoni Tàpies a Painter With Textures, Dies at 88', by William Grimes, in 'The New York Times', 8 Febr, 2012, p. B17


  • In our world, in which religious images are losing their meaning, in which our customs are getting more and more secular, we are losing our sense of the eternal. I think it’s a loss that has done a great deal of damage to modern art. Painting is a return to origins.
    • In an interview on the BBC arts program 'Omnibus', (1990); as quoted in 'Antoni Tàpies a Painter With Textures, Dies at 88', by William Grimes, in 'The New York Times', 8 Febr, 2012, p. B17


  • It is essential to bear in mind that the world of the mystics, like that of modern physics, cannot always be 'explained' in normal words, but often 'shows' itself the better through visual images.. [from the accumulation of matter and of objects to the radicalism of a gesture, it is a matter of] painting the essential and nothing more (Tàpies is citing here Llull)
    • in his 1990 speech 'L'art modern, la mística i l'humor' ('Modern Art, Mysticism and Humour'), Barcelona: Editorial Empúries i Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1993; as quoted in: 'Tàpies: From Within', June ─ November, 2013 - Presse Release, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), p. 12
    • insisting on his 'magma works' like 'Montseny-Montnegre' and 'Díptic amb dues formes corbes' (Diptych with Two Curved Shapes), 1988.


  • In actual fact, contemplation is not a form of inactivity but an exercise.
    • in his 1990 speech 'L'art modern, la mística i l'humor' ('Modern Art, Mysticism and Humour'), Barcelona: Editorial Empúries i Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1993; as quoted in: 'Tàpies: From Within', June ─ November, 2013 - Presse Release, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), p. 13


1991 - 2000[edit]

  • Metaphors of space have always been introduced into painting, the play of fullness and emptiness, volumes, surfaces, light and shade.. .And, in recent painting, in particular, the notion of 'emptiness' has assumed great significance.. .This interest in emptiness, in nothingness, is found in many disciplines, in particular in an important sector of modern philosophy. We know, for example, that the philosophers such as Heidegger or Sartre have, at a given moment, made nothingness the center of their thought...
    • In 'Celebració de la mel', Antoni Tàpies, in La peinture et le vide, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, 1993, p. 41 –46


  • I would say off the cuff that I am an anxious person. I worry about everything. I need to know everything. I tend to live in a state of anxiety with the feeling that life is some kind of great catastrophe. I feel the desire, or rather the intense need, to do something useful for society, and that is what stimulates me. In every situation I always look for what is positive and beneficial for my fellow citizens. I am interested in study, reflection, philosophy — but always as a dilettante. I also consider myself a dilettante as a painter.


  • When I talk of reality, I am always thinking of essentials. Profundity is not located in some remote, inaccessible region. It is rooted in everyday life. That is what great thinkers have taught me, above all the philosophers of the Far East, for whom true wisdom — which I am far from achieving — is the conjunction of samsara (the ordinary world) and nirvana (profound reality). To achieve contact with reality is not to transport oneself elsewhere, it is not transcendence but thorough immersion in one's surroundings. A reality which is neither purely physical nor metaphysical, but both at once.
    • As quoted in 'Antoni Tapies', Serafin Garcia Ibanez, in the UNESCO Courier, June 1994.


undated[edit]

'Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003,' (2004)[edit]

Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004
  • I never view aesthetic ideas as having an existence purely of their own but as a function they have in connection with political or moral values.
    • p. 24.


  • I often told the fanatics of realism that there is no such thing as realism in art: it only exists in the mind of the observer. Art is a symbol, a thing conjuring up reality in our mental image. That is why I don't see any contradiction between abstract and figurative art either.
    • p. 25.


  • The material presence of the work only serves as a conveyer launching an invitation to the observer to take part of the comprehensive game of the thousand and one emotions and visions.
    • p. 26.


  • The tattoo can only exist as part of the skin, as a drawing always is an incision in the material and therefore cannot be parted from it.
    • p. 27.


  • In the potential of absurdity, hiding in the disparate combination of the various different subjects which in themselves are nothing but daily items equally in the exclusive representation of a normal item taken out of their usual context, is by far the most radical – in its effect comparable to a Japanese Zen koan - paradox to be witnessed, which modern art has produced, one of the most forceful impulses that generated from it.
    • p. 28.


  • It is what makes conscious of the conditions and laws of observing which applied in this manner become a theme on its own. The activity of consciousness depending on the way the work itself proceeds, becomes the subject of my attention this way and it is precisely because of this voyeuristic attitude toward the own observation and experience of the subject that the conscious analytic dimension in the work shows.
    • p. 30 : About the ambivalence in his own work.


  • An image means nothing. It is just a door, leading to the next door. It will never happens that we will find the truth we are looking for just in an image; it will happen behind the last door that the spectator discover the truth, because of his own efforts.
    • p. 30.


  • The artist may rightly venture the opinion that he does not convey ideas, does not preach, nor that he intents to convert people by using mass communication techniques.. .Better than handing out all kinds of wise advice, he could show life itself; he could awake forces lying dormant in everybody, he could launch an invitation to create direct and personal experiences.
    • p. 30.


  • Starting with approaching the spot where the painting is to be done, meanwhile realising the emptiness of the mind, up to the method of 'the flying white', of the rule of the singular stroke of the brush.. ..there is a proper tradition in which the artist is fully aware of the fact that only the pure and empty spontaneity enables him to embrace without hesitating all apparitions and to truly penetrate into the roots of things.
    • p. 38.


Quotes about Antoni Tàpies[edit]

  • He mirrors [in his assemblage art like ‘Bedside Rug, 1970] the old tasks of art in a scenario of newly fashioned garbage. Despite the demonstrative humility of his choice of materials [garbage], he in no way rejects his own creative intervention. On the contrary, the gesture of the artist is all the more powerful in its contrasts with worthless materials.
    • w:Klaus Dirscherl, in: 'Tàpies, or the Materiality of Painting'; as quoted in Materialities of Communication, ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Karl Ludwig Pfeiffer, Stanford University Press, 1988, p. 188


  • [Tàpies].. ..a painter who was to create mysteries in matter itself.
    • w:Roland Penrose, in his monograph Tàpies (1978); as quoted in 'Antoni Tàpies a Painter With Textures, Dies at 88', by William Grimes, in 'The New York Times', 8 Febr, 2012, p. B17


  • Painting [in 'poor' matter] here is not a transcendence of its materials but their manifestation; and of course the support — canvas or whatever else it may be — that receives these stains, this dirt, this muck, is one more material among the others, and it is not superseded by their accumulation but defaced by them.
    • w:Barry Schawbsky, in his essay 'Matter in the Form of a Foot: Tàpies as Anti-Abstractionist'; written for the catalogue of 'Tàpies: From Within', June ─ November, 2013 - Presse Release, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), p. 11

External links[edit]

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