The early eighties were a time of change in Spain: one historical cycle was closing as another one opened. The art world saw a reaction to the stagnant years of the previous regime, especially in areas that had been highly isolated, such as Galicia. In 1982, for example, the first edition of ARCO art fair was held in Madrid, new magazines appeared, new galleries opened and Mallorcan painter Miquel Barceló took part in Documenta in Kassel. Antón Patiño (Monforte de Lemos, Spain, 1957) created his early pieces in this context and they reflect the vitality and optimism of the first generation in Spain to enjoy freedom and democracy in a long time. Heir to the attitude of Galician artists such as Luis Seoane and Reimundo Patiño, who were resolutely nonconformist during the dictatorship, Patiño also focused his attention on other contemporary references, such as the languages of new Expressionist trends that were spreading across Europe and the United States and the punk and la Movida youth subcultures. These features were also to be found in many of the artists who formed part of Atlántica, an informal group that existed in Galicia between 1980 and 1983 in which Patiño was one of the brains and driving forces. The piece Palmeras (1982) is part of a series and was made for a major group exhibition held in Madrid entitled 26 pintores, 13 críticos. It is a large painting with a clear symmetrical axis (“totemic”, in the artist’s words) that divides the composition in two like a mirror. The figure of the blue palm tree appears silhouetted against a background made up of alternating black and violet stripes. This composition appears to allude to the vision of a seascape seen from inside, represented by the abstract slats of a shutter. The presence of the palm tree—a foreign feature that only became part of the Galician landscape very recently—boldly marks out the picture plane as it evokes a tropical paradise and lush, fertile nature. The bold, sharp, “fauvist” colours ironically stress its artificial nature. As with other artists in the Atlántica group, at the heart of Patiño’s aesthetic and conceptual concerns lies a certain mythical, primitive past, forever lost yet still accessible through memory, painting and imagination, in stark contrast to a society in the midst of a transition from the countryside to the city.
Pedro de Llano