Waddington Galleries presents an exhibition of recent paintings by Antoni Tàpies. The sixteen works range in scale from the smallest wooden panel ‘Oval Vermell’ (Red Oval), at 1 x 1½ feet, to the monumental ‘Pais d’Avatamsaka’ (Land of Avatamsaka) at 8 x 17 feet.
The word ‘tàpies’ translates from Catalan as walls and the notion of a wall has influenced how Tàpies has approached painting since the mid-fifties, when in Paris he discovered Brassai’s photographs of walls emblazoned with graffiti. For Tàpies the idea and image of the wall, whether as a symbol of spiritual solitude or political and religious suppression, holds a multitude of meanings. In his 1970 essay ‘Communication on the wall’, Tàpies lists some of its associations as prison, the passing of time, signs of human imprints, the romantic prestige of ruins, inner contemplation… Walls also resonate with the medieval architecture of the towering buildings in the Gothic quarter of his home city, Barcelona – visually alluded to in the painting ‘A+M’, for example, illustrated above, with its dominating vertical format and solid crusted-material surface, inviting of mark-making.
These marks often appear an amalgam of Eastern calligraphy and Western graffiti. The painting ‘T negra’ (Black T) features the letter T which is frequently cited in Tàpies’ work and has numerous connotations – from the obvious reference to the leading letter of his surname and also his wife’s first name, Teresa, it also acts as a pictographic symbol of the cross, one of the oldest ceremonial symbols found in almost every culture. When the lines of the T overlap it becomes a mathematical symbol or geographical position; a kiss; a candidate’s vote; a mark of faith and also an erasure.