Joan Bennassar

Galería Maeght

Joan Bennassar’s work embodies the insularity of the island on which he was born; it is as if he had internalized Mallorca’s landscape characterized by the meeting of sea and earth. Though, in his recent exhibition, he is preoccupied with this sense of continuity, Bennassar proceeds with what seems an endless investigation of materials and form, and the pictorial spaces he constructs remain completely independent of one another despite their similarities. The facture of Bennassar’s paintings suggest primordial elements of nature: color is fluid and spills out like liquid light, and the traces of the liquid he employs to erode the line’s solidity register as imaginary shadows in his compositions. Bennassar is simultaneously austere and prodigal. The wet areas in his canvases call to mind the rains and the sea, but this pervasive liquid quality is transformed into a structural principle. In these works water is synonymous with movement; the earth with rest.

Bennassar overcomes the opacity of paper and the density of charcoal in collages such as Regreso al nido (Return to the nest, all works 1990) as well as in his drawings on rice paper, through material juxtapositions and the return to an archaic content. Despite the diversity of work exhibited here, its unity is unmistakable. Skies, moons, clouds, waters, stars, winds, and points of the compass are repeatedly referred to in his titles, to both poetic and explanatory ends. For Bennassar the earth is always fertile, and the primary elements symbolize the creation of the world in works such as Círculo del sur (Southern circle), Aguas de las terras de Leyante (Waters from the earth of the Levant), or in the triptych, Los días y las aguas (The days and the waters).

What is most compelling in Bennassar’s work is the constant invention—the will to transcend the limits of his own process. Formerly, he used only wood and cement as supports, but in his work, he has introduced iron to construct volumetrically and to draw in space. The resulting objects are startling in their immediacy. Though their figurative character seems remote from his two-dimensional works, they are informed by the same creative impulse.

Menene Gras Balaguer

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.

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