Sigfrido Martín Begué

Galeria Rayuela

Like several other interesting young Spanish artists, Sigfrido Martín Begué studied both architecture and painting. Even without biographical data one might deduce this by looking at his work, not only because his figurative syntax is articulated within perspectives modulated by buildings, plazas, and interiors harking back to Le Corbusier (with a passing nod to certain post-Modernist mannerisms), but also because his compositions generally follow precise parameters. It is almost impossible for any impulsive painting gesture or accidental touch to break the set order on the canvas. Thus, Begué distances himself from much of the new figuration, with its expressionist, instinctive accents.

This implicit and explicit architectonic order frames a multiplicity of ingredients—Begué’s painting is among the more eclectic in current Spanish art. It alludes directly to the work of Picasso, Mondrian, Duchamp, Klee, and others, including the Futurist painters Carlo Carrá and Mario Sironi. There is a predilection for the classic modeling of Puvis de Chavannes, and, further back, for Poussin’s logically disposed, controlled myths and narratives. The overall tone is one of reason and deliberate intent.

At a time when Italian painting is deconstructing myth to establish new discursive possibilities in its stead, it’s not so surprising that a similar process should be occurring in Spain. In Begué’s work the precisely modeled bodies in a mythic scene may be clothed in rigid antique tunics, Balenciaga fashions of the ’50s, or contemporary informal attire; a rock-festival-like setting may contain references to the Bacchus legend or to the Cretan/Iberian bull icon, while Europa, caught in a fireman’s-lift-style abduction, looks rather like Coco Chanel. She is set against a background of Goyaesque tints.

In his synthesis of cultural adjuncts both present and past, Begué is concerned with his own personality—some of these paintings have an autobiographical quality, expressed in an intentionally fragmentary way but nonetheless self-referential for that. At other times more general Spanish elements occur, whether in an image of Cybele watched by a bull (instead of by lions) and looking out a window onto Alcalá Street in Madrid, or in the landscapes of empty plateaus in the Dionysus paintings, or in pictures of the Mediterranean coast. The landscapes in this work are really no more than structural pretexts for Begué’s figures, as in Alegoría Castellana (Castilian Allegory, 1982); this work is interesting in its points of contact with a type of allegorical postwar Castilian painting. Begué’s recontextualization of myth, however, places his work within the discourse that we would generally call post-Modern.

Aurora Garcia

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.