Begoña Egurbide

Galería Carlos Taché

During the ’80s in Spain, artists could be roughly grouped according to the formal and conceptual characteristics that defined their work. There were those artists who tried to connect with the North American avant-garde, and used it as a reference point while projecting local political or social concerns. Their work, converted into a political weapon, denounced, or parodied Spanish society, Spanish history, and the lack of willingness to confront or analyze it. A second group, comprised of artists who still held to the unfashionable “art for art’s sake” credo, focused on their work, which usually meant expressing their insights, feelings, and reactions. And then there were the rest.

Begoña Egurbide was just about twenty years old in 1980, and did not consciously choose to become part of the second group. Extremely energetic and productive, Egurbide has had nine solo shows since 1985. Her most recent one clearly exemplified the peculiarities of her prolific career, while pointing to the new approaches she is currently testing.

From the very material inscriptions of 1988, announcing a disintegration of the pictorial space, Egurbide’s work became directed toward a third dimension. Her obsession in taking forms and shapes to their limits, in deconstructing them into very small fragments, both formally and physically, resulted in very thick paintings that, in their textures and fragmentation, referred to Antoni Tàpies’ work and to arte povera. The difference was that there was little use for the objet trouvé in her work. The fragments included in the paintings were not a collection of pieces but an explosion of bits that occurred after overworking the canvas.

The presence of language, the literary component, is also essential in her work, and has nourished her paintings not only as a device of inspiration but as a decorative, formal, texturelike finish. The message, however, is not readable, therefore its importance is not conceptual but formal; it becomes another way of manipulating the painting’s surface. The search for a way to achieve a three-dimensional expression has been a constant in Egurbide’s career. In her last show, she finally seems to have achieved it, for there are more volumetric objects than paintings. However, these three-dimensional elements are not sculptures but supports for her paintings. They still hang from the wall, like paintings, and their surface treatment is perhaps more important than, or at least as important as, their newly acquired volume.

The geometrical precision and the architectonic components introduced in 1989 have been left behind, as have the baroque, golden, gemlike stars and figures presented in Madrid early this year. Instead, she now shows an interest in anthropomorphic, curvilinear, and time-exposed surfaces, incorporating curves, imperfect shapes, uncontrolled shadow, and organic elements that, much more naturally, relate to her usual textures and themes.

Egurbide’s work is not easy; it is difficult to catalogue, to name, to limit, or even to talk about. It does, however, provoke a vivid experience of vertigo and the abysm. Because of their reserve and impact, these works have an aura that keeps the viewer at a distance, no matter how close one gets to them.

Anatxu Zabalbeascoa