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.


  • 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" by Serafin Garcia Ibanez in the UNESCO Courier (June 1994).
  • The highest wisdom adopts the humblest of bodies.
    • De Tweede Helft, beeldende kunst na 1945, Ad de Visser, Sun Amsterdam, 1998, p. 56.
    • About the simple materials he used at his Arte Povera time, such as straw and string.

In: 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.
  • 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.
    • p. 25: From 1976.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • p. 26: From 1988.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • p. 27: From 1988.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • p. 38 : From 1988.
  • 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.

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