EXPRESSING THE INEFABLE
‘Dialogues of the gaze’, Fundació Suñol’s current art exhibition focuses on the importance that gaze has in art, where it is no longer only about the act of seeing but goes way further than that. Art can be a link between reality, imagination and symbology, and therefore looking at it is not enough, as it also implies understanding and feeling it. Art is something subjective, personal and intimate because it manifests emotions. Through art, artists are expressing themselves, communicating with the spectators using different objects, supports and techniques. In the Fundació, there are works by 28 different artists: some paints, drawings, photos, sculptures and installations.
On this occasion the Foundation presents pieces from its own collection, made by different artists on different periods of time, which are selected and organised into various sections related to seven different subject areas: Gazing, Reading, Covering up, Value, Walking-resting, Circles or holes and Red. Each of them gather completely different works, but this organisation makes sense and is not too difficult to see why they are grouped together. For example, on the section ‘Gazing: do we see or are we seen?’ everything is related to sight. However Zush’s Sabrina Eyeya painting was the piece that had a more obvious relationship with gaze: it is a woman’s body with eyes on it. Paradoxically, its soft colours are peaceful but I found the presence of the eyes quite troubling and disturbing.
All sections make a perfect union in which all elements are related and connected one with the other. However, there is one painting in ‘Red: image and matter’ which breaks the harmony: an untitled work by Max Bill is the only colourful piece we find in the entire exhibition, and its excessively bright colours are a bit too much.
I’ve sometimes found myself visiting museums so big it was impossible to see everything, and they left me with a feeling of emptiness and disappointment because I wish I had been able to see more. This is something that doesn’t happen in the Fundació Suñol, as it is quite small and you can visit the whole exhibition in less than an hour.
Theoretically, the exhibits provide “a reciprocal gaze that turns into a three-sided active dialogue: the work of art condensing the artist’s gaze; the spectator enquiring about the work from his or her own individuality; and the immensity of the world, understood as an unfathomable vessel where art constitutes an effort to put it all in order”. Nevertheless, you need to read the information sheet about the exhibition to understand that dialogue while you walk throughout the rooms. If not, you may find yourself lost among interesting but incomprehensible art work, because unlike other exhibitions, there is neither a single explanation of the work nor the meaning of the areas.
One of the sections I really enjoyed is ‘Reading: from the object book to the book-object’, where is Jaume Plensa’s Book of life. This book has transparent pages with silkscreen prints and poems by the Catalan artist and poet Antoni Tàpies, who also has works shown there. It is interesting because it’s a reinterpretation of the concept of the book and it plays with perspective. It mixes art and poetry, and in that sense it reminded me of the ‘visual poetry’ Joan Brossa did, an experimental type of poetry which contains plastic elements or images closely related to the text. “Visual poetry is not a drawing, nor a painting, is a service to communication” said Brossa, and it can also be applied to the Book of life.
But in my opinion, the most interesting section is ‘Value: from the poetical to the political’ because it proves that art and social critique are often related. Zush, one of the artists of the exhibition, creates an “imaginary, contradictory and real” ‘Mental State’, a space of freedom where everything is possible. Still, this state is not anarchy and it uses some symbols to guarantee order, although we only see one of them in the exhibition. At first I didn’t understand what I was looking at, but as I read the information sheet everything started to make sense.
The Foundation is a private non-profit organisation which aims “to promote, disseminate and spread art in general, but with particular regard to the Josep Suñol Collection, with the objective of researching, conserving and preserving art and the study of art, obtaining help for artists, students and scholars of Catalan art worldwide”. The General Manager Margarita Aguilar believes “culture should be accessible to anyone” and that is the reason why in 2014 they lowered the entrance fee and have not raised the price since. The standard ticket is 4 euros and for students it is even more affordable, only one euro. Josep Suñol, founder, president and collector explains that he isn’t “pursuing or getting an economic benefit, but providing the necessary funds to face the activity and management of the Fundació Suñol, year after year”.
As for the location, it is really central, in the 98 of Passeig de Gràcia, where Josep Suñol was born. The building is classical from the outside but it is very modern inside. You might be blinded by the bright white walls and white floor rooms, but the art works stand out between this lightness. For Margarita Aguilar it is also “a place of meditation” and she points out that “it is quite impossible to believe that one can find a quiet space that allows you to see and learn from art in the middle of Passeig de Gràcia”. And she is right: if you visit the Foundation on a work-day you might be lucky and have the entire exhibition just for yourself. If that is the case, be sure to take your time to enjoy it. In the peacefulness of silence, it is easier to see, hear and feel Art. Art with a capital letter; Art as the expression of the ineffable.
*All translations from Catalan people have been translated by the author of the article.