Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Room With Many Views

It is always a pleasure to sit in the Casino on the Paseo Alegre in Torrevieja. Over a strong wake-me-up cortado I took in the latest two-man exhibition. The artists concerned, Victor Leal i Francés and Antonio N Serralta, are both Spanish, live in Elche and have been painting professionally for a number of years. I met them both at the opening and discussed their work in more detail.

The paintings being exhibited are mostly locally based scenes of Torrevieja and the surrounding areas of the Costa Blanca, but I was surprised to see a familiar looking coastal scene of Dun Laoghaire from my native Ireland among the brightly coloured Mediterranean scenes on show. I was intrigued to find out why a Spaniard, Antonio Serralta in this case, was exhibiting an Irish scene in Spain. Usually artists use the excuse of capturing the light, ambiance or flavour of the Mediterranean to justify a trip to Spain rather than the other way round. I know I did. Antonio informed me that his son is presently living and working in Dublin and he painted the scene when visiting on a planned holiday earlier this year. I noticed a couple taking a great interest in the exhibition and introduced myself to them. David and Helen Coles, currently living in Torrevieja, are both amateur artists and were very taken with the Irish painting. They said they preferred it because it captured the muted colours of Ireland so accurately, making such a strong contrast to the other works on show.

What I found interesting was the fact that each artist works in a different medium. Francés in watercolours, and Serralta in oils. Instantly I tend to side with the oil painter, which is unfair at times, as the use of oil or acrylic is not always the best option. It really depends on the subject, but I am biased, and I make no apology for that.

That said, the watercolour work of Victor Francés is delicious. Sharply detailed street scenes with subtle colouring and shading in muted warm tones are counteracted with willowy, shadowy, almost wispy natural elements of trees and plantings that appear to be deliberately less defined than the surrounding buildings. There is one painting in particular of the market stalls that works really well. Almost to the point of sensing the smells of the churros frying and the sounds of the stall holders cries for attention, that you would normally associate with a ramble along there on a gentle autumn evening. I always judge a street painting by its ability to make me want to know what is around the next corner. If it draws you in at that level then you’re hooked. Victor has that ability and puts it to good use in a number of his paintings.

The oils of Antonio Serralta are detailed and quite textured, and yet still have a great sense of depth to them that has been captured with skill. In the foreground textures of the seascapes, he has managed to create a feel of where in the landscape he actually painted from. I particularly liked one that showed a slightly confused sea and dark underbelly of clouds, which in turn, creates a nice underlying feeling of movement mirrored in the gently breaking waves in the foreground. The horizon is normally roughly judged to be approximately seven to ten miles away when standing between five and six feet off the ground - the supposed height of the average human being. In this case, it helps to create a depth of field for the cloud cover of perhaps five to six miles, breaking up before they hit the horizon line.

I have always played a game when going into an art exhibition with friends or family. Separate, and then look at each painting on your own without discussion between each other. Take as much time as you like and don’t be rushed by your non-art loving, possibly bored companions, then meet up back at the start and discuss which painting you would buy if you were so inclined to do. It doesn’t matter if you never intended to buy or cannot justify spending a certain amount of your pension, or children’s inheritance, as it’s just for fun. It’s interesting how different peoples taste in art can be when not influenced by those around them. Go into the Casino this week and give it a try for yourself. You may even be tempted to take one home.

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