José Manuel Ballester

Galería Antonio De Barnola

José Manuel Ballester’s paintings depict contemporary ruins. The spaces portrayed by Ballester are nostalgic without ever succumbing to the romanticism of the ruin as esthetic object. Images of contemporary society, these photographs map a territory as deserted as cold urban landscapes, as old as the urban grid. Though the places depicted by Ballester are scenes from both Madrid and Barcelona, they could be of any metropolis since what they depict is desolation, but desolation with a distant, monumental quality. Ruins in the etymological sense, they are remains, and the tragedy is that they are not really fragments of a whole: incomplete, hard, they look as if they lack any potential human connection.

By portraying cityscapes or empty vistas, Ballester uses an epic language to talk about very intimate preoccupations. Realist painting, just like photography, has been viewed as having documentary value, even if what it shows is only partial. Just like the Italian Metaphysicists or Edward Hopper and Charles Sheeler did, Ballester chooses to paint urban scenes to speak of the human condition. His urban landscapes bespeak solitude. However, unlike Giorgio de Chirico or Hopper, Ballester does not create a scenario, he does not make his piazzas desolate, shrouding them in a nostalgic gloom. Rather, Ballester depicts what is there as a fragment, questioning modern urban utopianism.

Anatxu Zabalbeascoa