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LANDSCAPES OF NEW YORK · 1996-1997



This series was to be the beginning of a new phase in both the life and work of Pablo Rey. From a personal point of view New York meant the freedom in the sense of finding, thanks to the physical distance, the solitude he both wanted and needed to enable him to take the decisions which would be decisive in shaping his future. Finding oneself so as to later confront painting is an act of courage and respect. Respect for oneself and honesty towards others. Measuring oneself up to painting and asking it what more one can contribute, to arrive at the conclusion that only through hard work can the answers be found, is a first step towards what will translate into pictorial maturity in one’s work.

New York was a turning point not only in Pablo Rey’s life but also in his work. “I remember when I first moved in to my studio in Brooklyn and began to paint, I made some pictures which were strongly influenced by the last ones I had made in Barcelona before travelling. They immediately seemed distant and contrived and I realized that to continue what I had been doing until then made no sense. My world and my situation had changed radically, one might say they had made a 180º turn, so I decided to make a fresh start in my work and begin again from scratch out of the new experiences of being in America”.

 


Pablo Rey artwork, Landscapes of NY, pinting detail

 

The factors to be taken into consideration in order to understand the pictorial transition, how these changes were assimilated and to see how they all participated in the end product are diverse and varied. From the changeover from oil to acrylic for merely technical reasons which would play a decisive part in the execution of the work, down to the incorporation at different times and to differing degrees of the influence of American painting in the work of Pollock, Kandinsky or De Kooning.

After abandoning figurative painting, his work went on to join in the debate on presence in representation. The pictures became created intervals which explored their own space within the field of painting. They uncover a way of looking which is able to dissolve and scrutinize appearances. In Landscapes of New York Pablo Rey primarily starts out from street images. It stimulates him to express the world which surrounds him. In this new series he portrays his personal vision of the different landscapes which make up the city, landscapes of the soul, of the feelings which the great urban spaces awaken, translated into atmospheres which incite a tangible visual sensation. It excites him to express the reality which surrounds him, the images of the streets, the sensations he receives. He is interested in feeling the life force of the city, with special attention to the wall and graffiti, although he is more interested in the idea, in the visual concept and the attitude rather than in the formal imitation of what the above mentioned elements represent.

It’s strange that New Yorkers should find the title Landscapes surprising, when referring to urban areas, removed from the idea of nature. Perhaps because of this bucolic view of landscape which entered European perception in the 17th century, where the countryside as well as being a place where peasants and farmers worked the land, went on to adorn the interiors of palaces.

Situating Pablo Rey in New York transfers to modern times the image of a dark jungle which was also a metaphor for a turning point in Dante, substituting the foliage of the natural world for the steel, glass and asphalt; searching for this being able to change the world. The physical distance between New York and Barcelona, being away from his family, friends and above all the paternal influence of his father implies building a bridge towards personal freedom of decision. Taking on this responsibility entails asking oneself profound questions such as who one is and which path one has to follow. These are other reasons which emphasize the importance of his time in the United States and hence Pablo Rey’s assertion when saying “in New York I found myself as a painter”, and there began his search for painting.

 


Pablo Rey artwork, Landscapes of NY, pinting detail

 

Obviously his previous fine art training is ever present, but the aim of the master is to live up to painting and not just paint for the sake of painting. For this reason Pablo Rey always remembers how hard it is, the burden it entails, to take up a brush after Velázquez or Cézanne. Taking on this responsibility as a painter probably leads him to confront his cultural heritage and something like Informalism appears on the canvas. Incorporating the material but searching for an emptiness, just the opposite of the Informalism practised by certain Catalan artists midway through the 20th century. It seems almost as if in his search for the hidden truth he was willing to tear up the painting, even the canvas while trying to find the hidden mystery.

His language expresses itself in creating from the threshold, as a meeting space between the concepts of construction and destruction. Sometimes one has the feeling that he is working from behind the canvas, from inside reality, penetrating its skin, even tearing it to pieces. The act of rectifying some existing thing through correction carries with it the idea of this freedom at the head of the pictorial process, paying as much attention here to the discourse as to the process. Oil entices one to soil the picture impregnating each act of correction with paint. Painting with acrylic prevents one from correcting the painting and as a result freeing oneself to use other methods to realize the need to modify the space. In this process he even uses a sanding machine on the painted surface of the canvas. Chance, implicit in the execution of this new working method and the fact that he was using a completely different process from painting brought him closer to the freedom he had been looking for.

The correction of some existing thing in the search for a new reality outlines the path found in painting. Past and present unite before the objectives which Pablo Rey sets out for painting. That which exists moves away from the shape of physical things, even from references to them. Areas of consciousness emerge, consciousness understood as the true essence of being, the truth as a presence to be found in the magic of representation. This new reality involves building a new and autonomous picture space.

Art critical text by historian Pilar Giro. Summer, 2005.


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