Catálogo de la exposición -Russian Suite- Sala Municipal de Expocicions - Ajuntament d'Alzira - 2003

Rosa Ulpiano


"I long to become a creator of myths, which is the greatest mystery that human work may touch."
F. Pessoa

Multiplicity ¡s a constant presence in the work of Francisca Mompó. The singular as such is not to be found. But if, within such a defense of the plural, there is an essence, where disperse elements and their selection provoke a taste for inventories, it recalls the Miroesque parts of culture which invoke childhood. And in a way, this is an essence that has remained hidden within the body of pop art. A grammar of forms whose language recreates a world of words, a vocabulary which wavers between art historical evaluation and modes of transformation. As with her conversation, her paintings lead us to navigate the intemperate plains of art, the mythopoeia of the great painters, the rapt fascination she feels for things, art, her thinking always settling on that cultural object which reappears transformed by susceptibility into myth.

Rosa Ulpiano: How important has informalism been in the evolution of your work? Tell me about the early days at the, your first exhibition.

Francisca Mompó: Yes, I began with informalism and I showed in Valencia, although I did also show the same pieces at Espais Centre d'Art Contemporani in Girona (Catalonia).
Painting has a powerful sensual side which I set out to enjoy; and it was in informalism that matter and gesture come together in a way that I liked and at the same time allowed me to manifest my fascination for Tàpies. Informalism was the mainstream dominating the art world throughout the fifties and until the mid sixties. And what attracted me was this sensuality proceeding from the gesture. But what I carne up against was that you couldn't make informalist paintings outside their time because by then it was the nineties. So, from the start I tried to go right into the roots of Spanish contemporary painting and to do that the most important and the most recent influences were informalism and pop art. So, from the beginning, I always wanted to approach these tendencies, but always from the perspective of the Spanish painters. With this in mind, I decided, together with some other students, to organise events at the Art School in which I would invite artists whose professional practices interested me. Amongst others there were Teixidor, Marti Quintó, Joaquín Michavila, J.A. Toledo, Miquel Navarro, and theorists such as Aguilera Cerní and of course, Equipo Crónica which was Rafa Solbes and M. Valdés. It was a way of looking at the work processes and the evolution, how a painting took shape in the studio. It was great - very exciting!

R.U. Drawing, using neo-pop using stencils and art-historical references, has developed into a fundamental element in your work. Where would you position all this in contemporary discourse?

F.M. Since my informalist period using black tar and white I have continued the use of encaustic techniques. I went on to introduce drawing in order to direct my investigation towards art historical pop. In spite of my apparently intuitive approach, you can see constant historical references, to Schwitters, for example, who was definitely the father of pop art. He made use of the idea of decontextualization, bringing all sorts of elements into his work from different contexts, a strategy further developed by Hamilton, Sigmar Polke, Lichtenstein and, of course, Equipo Crónica.
So, when I exhibited "Portafolio" at Galería Punto (Valencia) I brought together different classes of image: imaginary, art-historical and grammatical references which reflected my special interest in the iconographic twists and turns of painters such as these. Or in the present work on "Russian Suite", I've let myself be carried along by a developmental process which has produced references to the work of Stepanova, Goncharova or Popova. And it's in this sense of losing myself in a process that I find a stimulus.
I'm interested in your question about the stencils. I’m generally interested ¡n technical variety. Heterogeneity is definitely enriching. In the eighties we saw a kind of channeling of pictorial tendencies, a framework incorporating kitsch, bright colours, spray painting or graffiti. As with writing. Writing produces realism; something concrete which the painted object does not possess. Writing presents a more opaque universe which doesn't have the vaporous quality of painting. Painting is something more ethereal from which a play of opposites emerges. This is expressive. The stencil is a system of communication involving advertising, the media, and the realism of the everyday.

R.U. Looking closely at your work and considering its interior vision, I can't help but apply adjectives to describe the various resonances which it provokes in me: it's varied, refined, precise, alert, intelligent, ironic etc.

F.M. Irony seems to me be to be fundamental in art. I have always been seduced by painters who show a certain irony whilst keeping it at a distance and continuing to question themselves. The dramatist painters don't reach me emotionally in the same way. Now, if the painting is of very high quality then it does interest me. For example there's Zoran Music, from Dachau, an excellent painter, yet underlying his work is the terrible history of the Nazi concentration camps.
But if you look at the erotic-comic works of painters like Miró or Picasso, then we're talking about irony and how these brilliant personalities gave us a vast range of nuance. Picasso satirizes his lovers in the pictorial narrative as and when the mood takes him. We can see a misshapen and troublesome Dora Maar portrayed as a spider. Or, when Olga falls in love with him, he turns to classical painting. In the same way, there is Miró's timeless iconography; his work is set ¡n an "apparently simple" world which assumes a kind of childlike purity but this is done with all the painterly skills filtered by an adult mind in full control of the medium. It's exactly this kind of irony in the artist's own experience, his or her own life, that point of inflection and distancing which I find interesting. More than dramatization, which assumes a kind of truthfulness, but which I think may not be really as sincere as it seems. We can also see that pop art uses irony; it establishes a distance from things, a sort of cultural decanting. But at the end of the day, what's left ¡s either good painting or bad painting.

R. U. Talking about your use of stenciling and how that works in your paintings, don't you think, in the way really powerful images are occurring, they're getting closer to the world of design?

F. M. Design has a different purpose and a different means of distribution from painting. They're different markets, and produced with techniques and messages which are getting more and more sophisticated. But rather than design in general, what is generating interesting and innovative images ¡s advertising, graphic design and of course the mixing of the two. In former times, painting had this function, the function of creating an iconography that showed reality in a determined way - think of early medieval art or the Renaissance. Now other highly developed sectors such as film, advertising or design have taken on that function.

R. U. So might our society reach a point at which painting no longerhas any meaning?

F. M. Of course painting has meaning. Because a painter is capable of creating images for society that are convulsive, captivating, provocative. Painting can be moving, it can have emotion. And that comes from the development of personality, that's something advertising cannot do because it has its masters, its obligations - it must sell. But that development produces a challenged and unsettled individual whose task is to produce discourse from a solitary point of view, his or her situation. As it generates emotion, reflection, to a certain extent we might say that painting represents the salvation of humanity. It enriches and motivates one to live in serenity. Painting represents the personal and interior development of the individual, with all his or her emotions, obsession, fears, intensity, aptitude, youth, age, wisdom, intelligence, awkwardness, strategy, dishonesty, sincerity which are still only a small part of what painting is. And if it's good, painting becomes poetry in capital letters. So, pictorial practice goes much further than mere image and is, therefore, a creative practice.

R. U. We are in an era of Mannerism in which the avant-garde is making something of a comeback. To what extent can we talk about the legitimization of a work of art at the present moment?

F. M. As you say, we are definitely living in a Mannerist era as far as the pictorial is concerned. For a painter, it's easy to detect the relationships between different styles and periods. There are lots of interesting examples: Willem de Kooning is seen as inventive but his paintings are based in the automatic writing of the surrealists which in turn refer to the Japanese calligraphy which the impressionists had introduced.
Whenever you start to look at where the work of some painter who interests you comes from there's always a thread to follow. The "tensions" in Chillida's work are also in Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, and going right back, they are in Michelangelo who does the same thing with two figures in the Sistine chapel. In fact, paintings do not occur spontaneously, they feed off other painting and off the lived experience of the times in which they are made, what is around them. There is no painter, sculptor or writer who has not been nourished by art history, only now, with postmodernity, ¡t is not so hidden. We find the same thing happening in architecture too. I don't try and escape mannerism. I think that, for better or for worse, Valencia is deeply mannerist.
R. U. Nevertheless, to refer to your work, we would have to speak of a sense of context, of how the cultural and the historical come together at the present time. F.M. You can't escape from context, historical situation. On the contrary, you have to go right into it. Look at Almodovar's films with their Spanish kitsch aesthetic; melodramas which evoke Buñuel. Each character is a reflection of some recognizable Spaniard taken from history. Pedro Almodovar takes characterization a long way but often this ¡s a kind of realism brought in from his own experiences. At the moment, l'm interested in eclecticism, images which come from the street, or from the museum, the fusion of text and image, of perspective and flatness, evocation and realism together. Actually, when I made my "Kir Royale" series, of course it was a reference to the drink, the idea of a cocktail, hybridization free from considered limitations. As you can see, l'm prepared to bring any graphic material that I get my hands on into my work.
R.U. With regard to the art establishment, what, in your opinion, is the situation of the artist in relation to the critics who operate alongside the more influential galleries?

F.M. The gallery has a professional function. It has an established set of interests within which it must operate. It should promote its artists, sell their work, turn their work into an income permitting the artist to live and work.
Really I think that painting is one thing and art criticism another; the artist and the critic are very different figures with quite different concerns which may coincide at times or not. Really, I believe more in investigation after the event. Wherever or however it happens, I believe in the art scholar, whose rigour generates a search and a theoretical focuses, aiming to support the creative artist.

R.U. Baudelaire said that a poet makes the best critic.

F.M. In fact, in Picasso's time they were all poets: Apollinaire, Rimbaud, Mallarme. Of course, he was right, because as poets, they're artists too and they know what it is to create something and suffer over it and what it's like to be criticized for it. They should let artists be and not paralyze them. Time puts an artist ¡n his place soon enough.

R.U. In Apollinaire's "The Heresiarch and Co.", he narrates surrealist stories which in some way reflect the work of his artist peers. Nowadays, however, with the figure of the curator, we are seeing the opposite where a theme is established separate from, or running alongside the artist and his work.

F.M. I think that's true, the critic has diverted a medium which is pictorial towards another which ¡s literary, exercising the same sense of risk and freedom as the artist he is working alongside. There is a type of expert curator/critic who l'm very interested in. For example, Alfred Barr who in 1935 decided who were the most interesting of the post-cubists and placed Julio González among the others. I don't know if l'm answering your question but, of course, nowadays there are curators who create situations or themes over and beyond the artist's work.

R.U. But perhaps we need to distinguish between two conceptions of art practice.

F.M. We can see two clearly differentiated tendencies coming from Duchamp on the one hand and Picasso on the other. And this type of curator has very conceptual ideas: "I chose this object and it becomes a piece of art", as Duchamp did, after his surrealism period. But Picasso was involved in a process of making images, with a beginning, a development and an end. This is the tradition of painting, of making, Michelangelo or Leonardo de Vinci are examples, and it is a treasure which humanity will never renounce.

R.U. And talking of the traditional relations between the different disciplines, do you think that such relations could feed into new technologies, into digital art mediated by the artist/painter?

F.M. About digital art I have to say. "Welcome to the debate! Let's drag in virtual art and the new technologies!” It's so demystifying, anarchic, slippery, like Land Art was in its day which has now passed into art history. But l'm not at all interested in falsification which ¡s the intrinsic material of virtuality. On the other hand, there are Op artists, beginning with Albers and Vasarely, who have found computers very effective helpers for the advancement of their work, opening up technical possibilities, introducing developments in lighting and, through digital technologies, they have found ways to reach resolutions which are a continuation of the initial practice carried out manually ¡n the fifties and sixties. Cruz-Diez, the Venezuelan, would be an example of this.
However, when Picasso gives you a deformed head he is communicating emotion and gesture. They are such provocative and convulsive images and I doubt a computer could generate anything like that.

R.U. Perhaps the element of chance in painting would be lost, the play-off between painting and chance.

F.M. Talking of chance; chance is very important in painting and I would say ¡n life in general. Although obviously, painting ¡s the main part of the job but that slipping in and out of chaos, that acceptance of chance which proceeds from chaos, and then that bringing the painting back to more or less what you wanted all along, that's really interesting. It's something that takes place along the way, between the initial intention and the final resolution. A fundamental aspect not only for the painter but also for those new investigative artists who are exploring the fusion of different disciplines.

R.U. / want to finish by quoting Jean Baudrillard: "But if there is no end, no finite end, if he is immortal, the subject will no longer know what he is. And that immortality is precisely technology's final apparition."

Rosa Ulpiano.