Hanging work under the watchful eye of Peter Paul Rubens' colossal "Martyrdom of St Andrew" is something that not all artists can endure. This is perhaps the greatest challenge of the exhibition that the Canary Islander José Luis Fajardo (La Laguna, 1941) is presenting until 31 March at the Carlos de Amberes Foundation. He has not done so in Madrid since 2010.
The collection presents a broad overview of his work. Fifty paintings and drawings immerse the visitor in abstract forms which, intermingled with some figurative elements, such as blurred faces, eyes, hands or masses of anonymous faces, evoke different sensations. It is the explosive fruit of the three years spent locked up within the walls of his house and studio because of the pandemic.
Fajardo, who has confessed that he has never painted a mouth - he once put the word silence in its proper place -, lets those who approach his paintings guess the mark of two of his friends and acclaimed artists, Manolo Millares and Lucio Muñoz, but above all that of the great master Francisco de Goya. The work of the Aragonese artist, and above all his unmade backgrounds learned from Velázquez, are perfectly in tune with the abstraction of the painter from the Canary Islands. Despite the deconstruction of Goya's reality, the figures of his famous portraits, such as those of the Duchess of Alba, can still be sensed in Fajardo's works.
For those who visit the exhibition and miss the physical presence of the artist, and the consequent possibility of entering into a direct dialogue with him, they will nevertheless find the written answer to possible questions: "What is painting if not the attempt to fix the image to another reality, or a manual gesture to gain freedom against time", reads one of the proclamations.
Or this other, of particular forcefulness: "I was entangled with Goya and the master took me by the hand to get to know the obsessions and silence of the deaf, or to search among the shot dead of the night for a breath to stay alive". Although, perhaps the most definitive inscription-answer is found almost at the end of the exhibition: "My studio has been the field of battles, a place that has witnessed doubts, mistakes and some vain satisfaction. Today, now that my memory has left me, I have signed the armistice, that is to say: PEACE", written like that, in capital letters.
Fajardo, who was a member of the group Nuestro Arte and came close to the abstract expressionism of the El Paso Group, has put together an exhibition that condenses all the stages of his work. Copies of this exhibition hang in museums and public collections such as the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, the Chase Manhattan Bank Collection in New York, the Kent Alessandro in London and the CAI in Zaragoza, and the museums of Contemporary Art in Vitoria, Valencia, La Coruña, Panama, Bogota and Havana.