José María Sicilia
Spain, 1954
From 1975 to 1979 José María Sicilia studied at the Department of Fine Arts at the Complutense University in Madrid and in 1980 he left Spain and moved to Paris. Together with Miquel Barceló and Miguel Ángel Campano, who also both lived in the French capital, Sicilia became one of the leading representatives of Spanish painting in the eighties and identified himself with the young generation of artists who at the start of the decade took up the practice of painting with a clear awareness of “matter”. His work started to take shape in several series of paintings that combined workshop tools and different household appliances (ironing boards, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, television aerials, etc.) which he painted very synthetically, avoiding any kind of descriptive connotation, to produce rigorously formalist pieces with bold strokes on backgrounds of dense layers of materials and saturated colours. Sicilia worked with the closest elements of reality in order to explain their characteristics and describe the space that surrounded and defined them, or the feeling they produced in him, trying to define the territory between what is perceptible and what is invisible. Following these series’ same solutions in terms of form and composition, but looking for a greater sense of depth, he became interested in landscape and painted views of Paris and Madrid in a notably free style, making fierce use of colour and very energetic stokes. In 1985 Sicilia abandoned the motifs he had represented in previous years and started working on a series on the subject of flowers, for which he is particularly well known in Spain. This new thematic development was the result of an exploration of painting centred essentially on the analysis of forms, the construction of space and the structure of light. From this moment on, his international fame and career grew and grew. The exhibition of his “flowers” at the Palacio de Velázquez in 1988 made him a key figure on the new paths painting was taking. In 1989 he won the National Plastic Arts Award. Shortly before the mid-nineties he started working with a technique that would dominate his work until well into the 21st century: waxes and their process of spontaneous chromatic consolidation without any direct involvement by the artist. In the 21st century, his work has leaned more and more towards drawing and apparently simple, direct materials. In contrast, he has made symbolic installations and sculptures with difficult, delicate symbolism. The pieces in the ”la Caixa” Collection of Contemporary Art span almost 20 years of his 30-year career, from the first flowers from the mid-eighties, as well as the convincing Flor 9 and Tulipa 00 and the sophisticated Black Flower VII, from 1986. Untitled (1988), Untitled VI (1990) and the pieces in the Serie Vetheuil (1994-1995), echoing Monet, belong to an intermediate period, with powerful biographical and formalist connotations. The four remaining works, made between 1997, the year of the first two pieces in the series ‘L’horabaixa -la llum que s’apaga-’, and 2004, the year of La luz que se apaga, are the result of his experimentation with wax and pigments.
Mariano Navarro