We are writing these lines having heard the news of the death of the philosopher Eugenio Trias. We will use one of his sentences to introduce the art of our artist: «Es sólo a través del asombro y el vértigo que se abre una grieta privilegiada y nos planteamos las preguntas radicales. Así, es en los momentos de crisis cuando emergen las cuestiones relevantes». Xavier Gonzàlez Arnau attempts to paint hope, love and spirit at a time of material disintegration. The current crisis is a fertile moment for a creator such as Gonzàlez Arnau, who does not believe in progress, and who sees the arts as a counterpoint of civilization. There is a spiritual search; painting and spirit meet in a tempo of gravity.
This implies a certain distance from the material world, from ephemeral things, from the epidermis. He admires Walter Benjamin, who said that every cultural act is an act of barbarism. The artist calls for a return to the purity of spirit of pre-civilized culture. Xavier links this spirituality with the idea of social justice. Art, for the creator, is a vehicle for the spirit, but also for communion. We are entering a new era, where only works that communicate from the heart will survive. Art that separates itself from human experience is no longer valid. Coldness will no longer be sustainable. Nor will ornamental artifice. Only need will remain.
Xavier Gonzàlez Arnau:
«In painting, and in life, what is most important is spirit»
Albert Mercadé. We are inaugurating the Youtube channel of the AB Foundation, in which we will attempt to move beyond form and formalism when interviewing the artists that exhibit at our centre. Our first interview is with the artist Xavier Gonzàlez Arnau, born in Terrassa in 1980, and resident in Berlin, who will hold an exhibition of his works at the Foundation in April and May. We meet in December, before the work and the project of Xavier has physically materialized.
Xavier Gonzàlez. I like what you say about looking beyond the picture because in my opinion, the image is the least important aspect in a painting. Obviously we register what we are seeing, but it means very little about the essence of the work. The other day, a friend of mine said “Everything that is alive wants to live. Do you think that this coffee seed didn’t want to be a flower? If we don’t let it live, what do we have, then? The answer is spirit. The work has to have spirit”.
A. M. You speak of seed, of life, of spirit. You seem to be calling for an introspective journey to the origins.
X.G. Yes, but seed and origin in their vital meaning. I mean, in the interior world we can find everything, as well as in the exterior world. An artist makes an interior journey. We could fly to Mars, but the artist has already been there. He doesn’t need to travel physically.
A.M. What you say seems to be a argument against progress.
X.G. Exactly. Everything already existed in the origin. Everything already exists in children. Unfortunately, we cannot return to that original state, which is the purest. We cannot regress to childhood with our memories. But we can from the heart. Everything cerebral is corrupt and useless for returning to the origin.
A.M. You criticize the future with regards to progress, and it seems that you defend life in the instant, which is the temporariness of an infant, who has no memory, and who makes no plans. But in your works you have spoken of history. In Gijon, you interpreted the last theses of Benjamin, in which history and the future are sources for the construction of the present.
X.G Everything is in play now. Everything is configured now. We live in an eternal state of configuration. When one paints, one must respect what has been done before. You become aware that you are participating in a spirit that is not yours, but which you are taking part in.
I find continuity to be revolutionary because it understands painting as a reconfiguration. Revolution in the sense of the movement that always returns from the sun. I believe that painting, politics and life are revolutionary, in the solar sense of eternal return that I have attempted to explain.
A.M. In your works there are many references to German philosophers, romanticism, and more: Hölderlin, Goethe, Benjamin, among others. What do you find interesting in the connection between painting and philosophy? What does romanticism contribute to contemporariness?
X.G. What I find most interesting are the holy scriptures. But our culture has piled so much sand on what is holy that I find it very difficult to understand what they are really trying to say. Catholicism has also done a lot of damage. If I were a Jew, I wouldn’t have this problem. When I say tree, I am referring, in body and soul, to a tree.
A.M. Painting is not enough for you, then.
X.G. That’s right. The only thing that is pure is poetry, in its strictest sense. Svetieva said that all poets are Jews, which struck me. I felt that she had a point. The Jews are making an effort to defend meaning in language. Poetry should mean truth.
A.M. In your exhibitions you often give a performance where you paint live accompanied by techno music. What does music represent for your work?
X.G. Music is a whole new story. I have worked with music for many years. I am a synesthete and music has a physical effect on me. When I am at a concert, I experience an out-of-body sensation and find myself on a sensorial trip. Music is part of a different dimension, that doesn’t form part of this world. It is the only impulse that does not reach the dimension of experience. Sensible and modest musicians admit that they do not feel like creators. It’s like collecting things. It isn’t the same with painting. You can decide how to restructure a pattern; you can imprint your personality into a painting. Painting is the most human discipline, poetry is the most natural and music is the most supernatural.
A.M. So, different disciplines converge in each project: music, philosophy, poetry, painting… How can you find harmony in all of this?
X.G. Yes, and I don’t know whether this is a good thing or not. What I would most like to be, though, is an artist.
A.M. To finish, let’s talk about the project at the foundation. You have had a very good year, with exhibitions in London and Gijon. These exhibitions were very critical about the idea of progress, based on Benjamin’s theses. Philosophical impulse and formal resolution were extraordinarily good allies. It is now December, three months before the exhibition at the Foundation and with the work yet to be finished. What will the theme be?
X.G. Now I’d like to paint a little hope. It is not enough to express what’s going wrong and why it’s going wrong. I’ll try to paint hope and base it on something attainable. It won’t be the joy of life, because this makes no sense in a world where there is so much suffering. I want to focus on the hope of work. It isn’t life that passes by man, but man who passes through life. If we speak of spirit, we speak of love. There are two powers in love: esteeming and wanting. Esteeming must be above wanting. Love that esteems. The project could be titled Endreça.
A.M. From Berlin, how do you experience the current systemic crisis, and what role can art play in this?
X.G. I think it is a good moment because we are leaving behind the demon of progress, which has fed off the suffering of so many people. There have been victims and, what’s worse, we have trivialized suffering: we now take it for granted. Hope could be based on the fact that there is hope as people have understood that we haven’t been able to govern our lives, we have been abandoned. People still haven’t realized that it is they who hold the reins. It’s now so clear. We have been completely abandoned. We’re not even worth the bullet that kills us. People must take charge of their own lives: in other words, face the light with the highest of spirits. It is a great opportunity. Hope lies in self-government.
A.M. Xavier, thanks for explaining this order. Let’s see how you get on with the work for the Berlin exhibition.
X.G. Thank you, especially for letting me talk before the work materializes. We live in a society that too often places value on results and not the spirit with which the work is carried out.
A.M. We’ll try to spread the spirit as well as the results Xavier, thanks.