Enric Ansesa

Ansesa, a long and intense journey

On art and writing

By way of introduction to this exhibition of Ansesa’s work I should mention that my association with the artist and his oeuvre started long ago and has given rise to various writings on his artistic direction and position within the socio-political environment of the day. I think that presenting a couple of flashbacks to specific episodes where art and writing came together is as good a way as any to enter the world of this artist from Girona. I should say that the period of production on which I have concentrated most is that stretching from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties; a key decade in which he began to display some of the main motifs and interests which were to condition his later work. Two moments standout from this period. The first text I remember having written on an artistic subject was an analysis of the painter’s career. The piece in question was a short essay I wrote while I was studying Philology at the University of Girona, in which I used a few rudimentary theories from linguistics to analyse artistic forms. The so-called black paintings, with their numerous plays on opposition to order, were artefacts especially suited to this type of reading. Their formal extremism, fairly unusual for the Catalan artistic scene at the time, led me to perceive them as the materialisation of a subjectivity of antithesis, almost as a symbolic challenge to an oppressive reality and value system. The other outstanding moment of writing meeting art, almost twenty years later, was brought about by research I was doing for the Democratic Assembley of Girona Artists ,and resulted in the book Art, política i societat en la derogació del franquisme (1999) (Art, Politics and Society at the Close of Franco’s Dictatorship). This group, of which Ansesa was an active member, operated during the first phase of the ending of Franco’s dictatorship. It became, for a short and intense period just before the dissolution of the Grup de Treball, the main collective reference to originate in Catalunya for socio-political intervention in the artistic and para-artistic field. It was a remarkably valuable experience, especially in the field of praxis, given Ansesa’s capacity for insinuating himself, by original means and strategies, into the social and political dynamics of those unusually turbulent times. What interested me was studying the interrelation between the political action of the opposition and certain symbolic practices which positioned themselves in the ambit of the opposition movement and which, to a certain extent, were a response to Gramsci’s idea of the articulation of a political-cultural bloc capable of disputing the hegemony of the forces which capitalise state power. These recollections have, as well as allowing me to specify the connections between certain ways of seeing and the object of this seeing, been useful for noting the two main poles of Ansesa’s career. On one hand, the radicalisation of the autonomy of the artistic act, typical of modern sensibility, and, on the other, the breaking down of barriers between art and the praxis of life, typical of the avant-garde of the sixties and seventies. These are two extremes, often at odds with each other, between the extensions of which the painter travelled for a good part of these years. During this journey, on occasions he has moved more towards a purist conception of the aesthetic act, and on others he has searched for connections with particular social dialectics or has immersed himself in anthropologically inspired lines of research. But, in what has perhaps been his central path, he has been able to integrate relevant elements from both poles; in such a way that exploration of aspects relative to visual language itself and consideration of the work as an artefact were not done to the detriment of its insertion into processes of signification situated beyond mere aesthetic immanence. It goes without saying that the pursuance of either of these approaches was not unrelated to the changes and transformations experienced in the artistic and the socio-political reality of the day. One of Ansesa’s most obvious and unusual contributions, and which still constitutes the main thrust of his discourse, arose from what we could call an amplified use of the colour black. On one hand, he has fully explored its multiple chromatic possibilities and the visual phenomenologies associated with its perception. On the other, he has used this colour, both as a real material presence - a kind of tonal wrapping with an appropriative function, and as a sort of trope – inspired by metonymy – to establish formal and/ or semantic relationships between a diversity of elements – even situations – with which to generate new and unexpected meanings. It is a slightly theatrical use, which can be associated as much with the initial sculptural training of the artist as with the assuming of Duchamp-inspired positions or related to conceptualist poetics.  

Of the artist and his context

It is probably not widely known that Ansesa was one of the people responsible for transforming the referent which has become one of the most representative images of Girona; the brightly painted façades reflected in the river. This is the multi-coloured Girona which the mayor of the day, Joaquim Nadal, had the competence to turn into an emblem for publicity and a tourist attraction. It is probably even less known that the choice of colours was not based on an artistic whim of its creators, the painters Ansesa and Faixó, but was inspired by the old and forgotten colours found under the encrusted surfaces of the walls of the houses on the banks of the river Onyar. Although Ansesa’s work would seem to have little in common with this multi-coloured scenery, and still less with the meanings it later acquired in its use as a city brand image, we can establish a link which has less to do with visual factors and more to do with factors of a procedural, even strategic, nature, since ideas of recovering identities and resuscitating buried memories – in this case the visual history of the walls replaced by a quaint faux dilapidation which is, at the same time, colonised in the city’s collective imagination by models representing the past based principally on photographic technique – are values running through the artist’s work. As an example of this I would like to mention a series of decisive works from the seventies, perhaps his most politically influenced period, for the importance which allusions in favour of proscribed views acquired at this time. Everything from clandestine writing to banned voices, from subjectivities restricted to secondary struggles and resistant attitudes is covered. Some of the titles of these paintings – Letter to Francesc Macià, Chronicle in the Form of the Cross of Saint George or The Story of a Survival – or the tributes to exemplary people such as Miguel Hernández, Rafael Alberti, Oriol Solé Seguranyes and Lluís M. Xirinacs, are an expression of this desire to recover a universe of signs, memories and human lives disfigured or consigned to oblivion by the authorities, and vindicate, with the presentation of this almost obliterated world, an alternative reality. Not long after this urban restoration project, in about the mideighties, Ansesa’s work, like that of many others of his generation, faded from a public eye now dominated by the hegemony of a new aesthetic sensibility - the expression, among other things, of the fundamental changes in a system turning increasingly towards a strictly economic logic. The cultural climates that did not respond to the requirements and demands of the entertainment industry tended to fade away and anything which involved intellectual effort or presented an ethical commitment was pilloried. In this context, in which the dominant current of thought tried to erase any aesthetic/symbolic practices which did not conform to the celebratory and affirmative spirit of the times, it is no wonder that Ansesa’s work became, up to a point, uncomfortable. In fact, his imagery, drenched in negativity, in the Adornonian sense of the word, in his severe and distant paintings, was distasteful to a society which expected its artists to let themselves be consumed by the euphoria of a sterile presentism which neither asked questions nor gave answers. The approach of some artists little suited to the new dominant ideological and cultural climate was to withdraw into their own work, and they responded to the enthronement of the frivolous with a redoubled desire for significance. This behaviour can be observed in Ansesa to a certain extent, but far from retreating into the genteel isolation of the ivory tower, he has shown an attentive receptiveness to any channels and paths which could help him approach potential end-users of his work. In this sense, his curatorial work in exhibitions, where he has been able to endow a new functionality to some of his research, in particular in the creation of spaces, as well as his extensive work on posters and illustrations, should be noted. On the other hand, his more specific works do not shut themselves up in incestuous isolation, nor do they get lost in the abstract and nebulous regions of bared souls. Rather, they are characterized by a desire to combine connotations of the mysteries, ancestrality and profound psychism with permanent attention to today’s problems. A path and a perspective which, not by coincidence, are in keeping with one of the most fruitful and creative traditions produced by the contemporary artistic scene in Catalunya.

Narcis Selles

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Individual Exhibitions

  • Fundació Vilacasas, “Rastres i senyals”, Barcelone
  • Ego Gallery, “Freqüències”, Barcelone

Public Collections

  • Escultura “Sunion”, Jardins de Cap Roig, Fundació Caixa Girona, Calella de Palafrugell
  • Escultura “Aproximació a Sunion”, Parc Art, Cassà de la Selva
  • Instal.lació Doble Hèlix, Can Sunyer Centre d’Art i Pensament, Vilajoan

Group Exhibitions

  • “Le noir absolu, leçons de tenebres”, Centre Raymond Farbos, Mont de Marsan, Villa Tamaris Centre d’Art, La Seyne-sur-Mer
  • Église Saint Étienne, Beaugency, Espace d’Art Contemporain Eugene Beaudoniu Antony, Paris
  • “International Tribute to Luther King”, The Gabarron Foundation, NY. NY. Rosa Park Museum, Montgomery, AL. Museum of African American Story. Detroit. Michiga
  • “Spatiality”, Horizon Gallery. Colera
  • Col.lectiva. Galeria Barcelona. Barcelone
  • “Pequeño Deseo”, Fundación Francisco Godia, Barcelone
  • Col.lectiva, Galeria Presenta, Girone
  • Col.lecció Vilacasas de pintura, Can Framis, Barcelone
  • Fons d’Art, Fundació Caixa Girona, Fontana d’Or, Girone
  • Col·labora a Outer Horizons, Horizons Space, núm. 2. 200
  • Edita la serigrafia “Línia blava sobre fons negre”, Goldmaster
  • Edita el gravat “Sutura daurada sobre línia blava”

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