In painting (1975) | Fernando Zóbel

I believe that each painter paints in relation to what surrounds him, and what has always surrounded me is the History of Art, works of art. That’s my world. It would be absurd for me to pretend to make a kind of realism when I am a man who stays at home, or in museums, or between books. That is my world.

In painting, and I suspect that in almost everything, what is left over hinders. Each stripe, each color that remains, interposes a kind of curtain between the picture and the viewer. I would like to reach a complex expression without obstacles. No obstacles for the viewer, of course. I think of something like a Mozart sonata. The mystery of the transparent. It’s difficult to speak clearly; right now I am checking it out. It is a whole process of removing the superfluous. The difficult thing is to recognize the superfluous and have the courage to remove it. You can be constantly mistaken. Sometimes what seem superfluous turns out to be essential; I take it off and I’m left with nothing. Other times the opposite happens and the painting becomes a mass of interference and noise.

In a sense my paintings may seem simple to perform because they are actually easy to make. This facility is the result of an effort that I believe should be hidden. We all imagine how difficult it must be to give a concert in public. What we are not willing to endure is the presence of that effort.

My paintings—the ones that turn out well—are easy and fast to paint because they are very rehearsed. They may seem fresh and spontaneous because they are the opposite. In them there is relatively little improvisation. Almost all authentic improvisation has a certain heavy, confused and contradictory air. It may have the force of chaos and some of its beauty. That was understood very well by the masters of abstract expressionism and I have a huge admiration for them. Mine is on the other side. You cannot do everything. You have to choose. Either it’s sung or it’s shouted.



Published in Zóbel-Chillida. Crisscrossing Paths Barcelona, 2019. Mayoral. p.36

ZÓBEL DE AYALA, Fernando: “En la pintura.” In: PANEQUE, Guillermo; SAMSON, Ditas R.; ZÓBEL DE AYALA, Fernando. Zóbel: contrapuntos [exh. cat.]. Makati City: Ayala Foundation, [2017]. Originally published in Spanish in: HERNÁNDEZ, Mario. Las imágenes transparentes. Madrid: Ediciones Rayuela (1975).