The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
In 'Bleu outremer' the Spanish artist Antonio Tàpies applied thick layers of sand mixed with paint to the canvas with a spatula. The top layer, in a dark blue mixed with black, evokes associations with a gateway or wall. The two rectangular shapes in the clear blue can be seen as doors or peepholes. The grey edge at the top of the canvas and the grey to the left and right of the dark blue shape have been applied with paint, leaving the structure of the canvas visible. There are occasional holes and scratches in the thicker layers.
During the second half of the 1950s there were several artists in Europe who mixed their paint with materials such as sand, clay or straw. The work created in this way was sometimes described with the term “Material painting”. However, despite a comparable use of material, it was certainly not a group of artists with similar ideas who deliberately presented a joint front. In the mid-1940s Tàpies started to work with materials such as rope, twigs, textile and paper. Later on he started to mix his paint with sand or used mortar, a mixture of sand and chalk. He deliberately opted for ephemeral or elementary materials. Tàpies explained: “I use sand in my paintings because I have a preference for the “material” quality.” In addition, the “symbolism of the material with its many contradictions” played an important role.
For Tàpies a good painting is a painting which reflects life itself in as many aspects as possible. He never painted in an illusionist way. He constructed shapes on a canvas which evoke associations with walls, windows, doors and gateways, as in 'Bleu outremer' or Double port beige. These are not representations of existing objects; rather they represent an archetype. Tàpies made scratches or nicks in them, just as real walls and doors show the traces of what has happened over time as a result of natural circumstances or human intervention. He assigned great value to the structure of the surface, the tears, holes and irregularities of his work. Like the materials sand and dust, his walls and gateways are symbols of change and the transience of life itself.
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