On 15 August an exhibition of work by internationally-acclaimed Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies inspired by Mallorquin philosopher, writer and mystic Ramon Llull opens at Belmond La Residencia. The exhibition, entitled Llull – Tàpies Suite complète consists of 24 etchings and a serigraphy printed on canvas belonging to the collection of Tristán Barbará Editions. Tàpies worked on them over a 12-year period.
Juan Waelder, Belmond La Residencia’s sculptor and artist in residence was instrumental in organising the exhibition. I asked him how it came about.
First of all, Juan, could you tell me a little about yourself.
I was educated in Chile in the Bauhaus tradition. For many years I worked as a creative director in advertising agencies in Madrid and Los Angeles. I had my own agency in Palma but in 2012 decided it was time to do something else. At different stages of my life I’d worked professionally as an artist, ceramicist and art teacher and just felt it was just time to get back to my roots.
I feel most comfortable working in clay. When the opportunity arose to produce my first series of work in bronze, my work took on a new vitality.
A few years ago in a series of meetings with the previous director of Belmond La Residencia, we talked about art and creating something different to what was already being done at the property where there was an important Art Collection, and regular exhibitions. When I suggested creating a sculpture garden he jumped at the idea.
The first work I created for the hotel was the piece “ART” which you see by the driveway entrance to the hotel. You could call it a combination of my work as a sculptor and my past in advertising.
In 2011, the first phase of the Belmond La Residencia Sculpture Garden began. A number of talented artists from Mallorca, Ibiza and the USA took part and some of their works are still on display.
How did the Tàpies exhibition come about?
I was aware that it was the seventh centenary of the death of Ramón Llull and knew of the existence of the Tàpies collection because of my relationship with Tristán Barbará Editions. I asked if it was possible for this precious collection to be exhibited in the Sa Tafona art gallery.
Why is it so significant?
As far as I know, this is the only collection of work by any artist that explicitly honours Ramon Llull. It also represents 12 years of work by Tàpies so it’s important for that reason.
Could you tell me more about Tristán Barbará editions?
As an engraver in Paris, the Catalan Joan Barbará worked with Miró, Picasso, Dalí and of course, Tàpies. The collection housed in his studio in Barcelona, maintained by Joan’s son Tristán, offers a remarkable history of contemporary art, and not just Spanish artists. Tristán is a friend of mine and this was the key to him loaning the collection to Belmond La Residencia.
What is the connection between Tàpies and Ramón Llull – how did Llull inspire him?
Ramón Llull is an icon of Catalan culture and obviously Tàpies, well-known for his Catalanism, wanted to pay tribute to this remarkable philosopher, poet, writer, mystic, scientist, theologian and missionary. Llull is believed to be the first person to write in Catalan.
What is Tàpies’s connection to Miró?
They were friends and used Joan Barbará’s presses to print their etchings. I use a quote from Miró where he expressed his admiration for Tàpies’s work in the exhibition brochure: “The work of Antoni Tàpies is in the tradition of those explosions that occur from time to time in our country and that move so many dead things. It is truly from Barcelona with universal enlightenment. For this he deserves all my admiration.”
What are Tàpies’s thematic concerns and are they particularly Catalan?
Much like Miró, Tàpies’s work evolved from landscapes and paintings with rural themes to total abstraction and applying raw materials like sand to create interesting textures on his canvases. In his work, Tàpies referred explicitly to Catalan symbols such as the four red bars, the national dance called “Sardana”, the music and so on.
What does Tàpies mean to you and your own work?
Tàpies is a colossus in the history of contemporary art who has influenced everyone, including myself. I particularly admire the way he used textures and heavy materials. There’s always something new to see in his work. Even if you’ve seen the same piece two or three times, you’ll find a new detail and experience the work in a different way.
How do you feel about having been able to arrange the exhibition?
It’s been incredibly exciting and not just because we’ve been loaned 24 highly significant works by Tàpies. These are also BaT originals, which in French means Bon á Tirer (those prints that are approved by the artist to start an edition). You can imagine how special it felt to have in my hands material handled by and with original annotations by Tàpies. It’s the same feeling I had when I felt the brushes of Joan Miró.
One last question, what does Deià mean to you?
I especially enjoy the incredible environment in Deià and at the hotel and the chance to talk shop with people from all over the world! Working from my studio at Belmond La Residencia has allowed me to fulfill myself as a teacher and as an artist. As artist in residence, I love being able to offer an unusual but always welcome experience for the guests.
Thank you, Juan. I’m very much looking forward to the exhibition.
Llull – Tàpies Suite complète is at Galería Sa Tafona, Belmond La Residencia and runs from 15 August to 15 September. Vernissage, Tuesday, 16 August at 19:00.
About Antoni Tàpies
Antoni Tàpies i Puig, better known as Tàpies, was born in Barcelona in 1923 and went on to become one of Europe’s most famous artists. His ideas have had worldwide influence on art, especially painting, sculpture, etchings and lithography.
An abstract, avant-garde painter, sculptor, printmaker and art theorist, Tàpies helped found the Dau al Set movement in 1948, which was connected to the Surrealist and Dadaists. Beginning in 1947, Tàpies worked closely with poets and writers to produce graphic pieces that combined everyday imagery such as hand and footprints with traditional processes.
Tàpies began as a surrealist influenced by Paul Klee and Joan Miro. From the early 1950s onwards he began working in mixed media or pintura matèrica, adding non-artistic materials like dust and used waste paper to his paintings. He was one of the first serious artists to work in this way. From around 1970 onwards, Tàpies started to incorporate larger objects like furniture into his work.
Later on in the 1970s and into the 80s, Tàpies’s paintings began to reflect the influence of Oriental calligraphy and have a certain meditative quality to them. He died in February 2012.
Who was Ramon Llull?
The Mallorquin mystic, philosopher, logician, theologian, writer and Franciscan missionary Ramon Llull is a towering figure, especially to Catalans. He was born to a wealthy family in Palma around 1232 and died in about 1315. Although he married and had children, Llull lived the free and easy life of a troubadour. Until one night, when he was 30, the figure of Jesus Christ appeared to him six times.
Llull’s epiphany convinced him his purpose was to die in the service of God while converting Muslims to Christianity, to help found religious institutions to teach foreign languages and to write a book on how to convert someone to Christianity.
In 1274, Llull was living in a hermitage on Randa, the mount or puig in the middle of the island where he had another divine revelation. He was to write a great book, named The Abbreviated Art of Finding Truth, which would become the motivation for everything he did afterwards in life. According to Mallorquin legend, the words God said to Llull are captured in the lines and dots that appear on the leaves of a mastic tree in the monastery at Randa, named the “written shrub”.
Miramar, the monastery between Valldemossa and Deià, was founded by Llull in 1276. The monastery is open to the public and well worth a visit. Even if you know nothing of Llull and his work it’s a powerfully atmospheric place with breathtaking views of the sea and the mountains.