Antoni Tàpies | Cultural Heritage. Goverment of Catalonia.
Antoni Tàpies

When Matter Becomes Art

The best example of abstract informalism and one of the most noteworthy Catalan artists of the 20th century is the Barcelona-native painter and sculptor Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012), who was above all else a man of culture. Drawn by philosophy, literature and music, he drove the foundation carrying his name to promote contemporary art and he was an active defender of Catalan culture.

The son of a bourgeois family linked to the publishing world, his artistic calling started when he was 11 years old when he saw an issue in the magazine D’ací i d’allà dedicated to modern and International art. Practically self-taught, the start of his career was marked by illness during which he sought refuge in drawing, painting, literature and music. Finally, when he was 22 years old, he left his career in Law to dedicate himself fully to painting.

In 1948, along with Joan Brossa, the philosopher Arnau Puig and the painters Joan Ponç, Modest Cuixart and Joan-Josep Tharrats, he founded the artistic group Dau al Set. During this period, his work was dominated by figurative surrealism, often with influences from Joan Miró and Paul Klee. The Capsa de cordills (1946) or the unusual Collage and Pintura exhibits in the Saló d’Octubre were proof that there was already a shift towards dream abstraction. Starting from here, experimentation is constant, especially in so-called “material painting”. He uses waste material for his works (ropes, paper, marble dust, straw, clothing), he intensifies his collages and his taste for plentiful material which, often, reaches authentic low reliefs.

His palette is austere: ochre, brown, grey, black (Gran pintura grisa, 1956). At the same time his creations have a strong iconographic nature with crosses, moons, asterisks, letters, numbers, geometric shapes, etc. (Pintura en forma de T, 1960). For the artist, influences by existential philosophy, these elements have an allegorical meaning, evoking themes like life and death, solitude, lack of communication or sexuality.

During the 70’s, he created his first sculptor pieces using the assembling technique. In the 80’s, the use of cay and bronze allowed him to develop more personal work. Of note is his Homenatge a Picasso (Ciutadella Park, 1983), and the ceramic mosaic in the Plaça de Catalunya square in Sant Boi de Llobregat (1983), as well as the Núvol i cadira installation (1989) and the controversial Mitjó (2010).

Antoni Tàpies is one of the most International Catalan artists. He has won the most prestigious prizes and recognitions and exhibits on his work have been seen around the world: Tokyo, New York, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Venice, Milan, Vienna and Brussels.