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  • Writer's pictureRadmila Urošević

#2 Xavier Escribà’s work: just a matter of time…

Xavier Escribà

The new way of painting?

A series of three articles by Radmila Urošević


#2 Xavier Escribà’s work: just a matter of time…


What is his Xavier Escribà’s working process?


Xavier Escribà's works are conceived from a relationship of equals that the artist maintains with his painting. In 1993, after his training at the Sant Jordi School of Fine Arts in Barcelona and during his stay at the Fine Arts Academy in Paris, he noticed that obtaining an image in his painting was becoming increasingly delicate.

Xavier Escribà, LES YEUX DE PAUL KLEE– 44 ANS (Paul Klee’s eyes, 44 years old), 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 45 x 48 x 7 cm, Private collection.

The problem was not finding it but keeping it. He found himself confronting the last image in his painting. He decided to stop painting as an "image factory" and to accept his inability to choose the right image in his paintings. He wanted to pay tribute to the state of being: the inability to determine a good image, the desired, valid image in painting. This is why he decided to replace the accumulation of images in paint with the accumulation of layers of paint. This creative process became his leitmotif. He applies as many layers of paint as there are years in his life.

For the artist, it's a question of naming and materializing his feelings about painting. Therefore, the obsession with the quest to make and admit the right image in painting disappears.

That is how the artist comes to question what is in front of him since there is no longer an image and there never will be. In the process of working, the artist finds himself faced with a material, a skin with several layers of colour that he must respect. By observing the material, he observes himself; the pictorial material becomes a kind of mirror, a reality. It's a way of constructing a new setting for the conception and production of this artefact. Here, the artist imposes a framework, a creative constraint that becomes his trademark, his production process.

The material is like a real skin that invites him to interact. From equal to equal, body to body, the artist works on the skin of paint, conceiving itself. From the moment when the body of the painting was able to develop and support itself, he abandoned the skeleton offered by the stretcher to support the painting. In this way, he has done away with the frame of the painting, which is the fetish window that the frame provides. The frame in Xavier Escribà's work is expressed through the working process, through the accumulation of layers of paint. However, the canvas does not disappear in the artist's work; in fact, it seems to be of capital importance. In his work, he shows that the canvas is just as important as the paint, and that the support is just as important as the layer of paint. Everything seems to be a question of balance in Xavier Escribà's artwork. The notion of the blank canvas also disappears, the nothingness, the emptiness to be filled or filled by the image, which suggested to him an idea of make-up rather than anything else.

The body that painting takes on in his work invites us to conceive of it and to practice it in this physical relationship.

The artist's break with and continuity with pictorial tradition could be described as traditional modernity. Indeed, Xavier Escribà's conviction in the existence and persistence of pictorial language is an important aspect of his work. This gives his work an important place in the history of pictorial art. Through his profound reflection on the medium and material of painting, Xavier Escribà is committed to the evolution of painting which nevertheless breaks the idea we have of traditional painting. It is in the formal aspect, in volume, that the break and the rebirth of a painting that becomes body and balance, considering the context and the pictorial elements used.

For the artist, this seems to be the natural evolution of painting: "I'm quite convinced that previous painters would do a different job if they were working today", he says. This is the expression of a contemporary and sensitive position regarding the contemporary world. This means working according to the zeitgeist, and not because of fashion, as you might think. He is convinced that the era and its context influence practice and, in this case, painting. According to his work process, determining the number of layers according to age, as well as the order of colours, is a way of diverting the focus to other subjects: "There's matter, but it's not all about matter. There's colour, but it's not all about colour...".

In Xavier Escribà's work, everything seems to point towards the importance of the thickness of the paint, a thickness that becomes a body and creates a carnal relationship between the artist and his work. Yet he doesn't feel imprisoned by this thickness, which is almost imposed by the working process, both in its form and in the meaning it can take. The sense of a perpetual self-portrait, for example. However, thickness plays a catalytic role in the artist's work, inviting us to question the life of the work and its continuation. It reminds us that the work, even if it is perennial, has a present, a current time, and is part of a context. In this case, by working in relation to his age, Xavier Escribà seems to be inscribing the time of the work in the artist's lived experience. He also seems to be emphasizing the importance of the contemporary context of the work of art.

In his work, the importance of the time given to the work stands out, as does the importance of time as a context for the work. The artist has a deep respect and love for painting. He pays homage to it through his work, freeing it from its traditional support, the stretcher and canvas. He gave painting an autonomy and freedom never achieved before. Xavier Escribà updates the thinking around the support and the pictorial surface by giving it a carnal and volumetric shape. The works he produces are inscribed in time, the time of the artist and of the viewer. The artist positions himself as painter, critic, and spectator of his own work. The physical, carnal relationship he has with his paintings is understandable when you look at his work. He places the work in a timeframe, which is likely to evolve, grow and continue, on its path towards ever greater freedom.

Through his pictorial work, Xavier Escribà invites the viewer to feel the painting in a carnal relationship. The artist's point of view is quite respectful of the pictorial tradition. No matter how you look at it, the work remains the same. He admires painters he considers to be classics, such as Mirò, Polke and Beuys.

He has also paid tribute to the work of Paul Klee, through a series that he developed over a period of twenty-five years: Paul Klee's Eyes. Each piece follows his age. He began this work during an artistic residency in Switzerland in 1993. At the time, and still today, he is very sensitive to the life paths of artists. Everything they've done and everything they couldn't or didn't want to do. In Paul Klee's work, he finds a very rich spectrum that he considers universal. The time of the work and its evolution over time are questions that the artist seems to hold dear and that he maintains in his work. One work creates another and is never really finished. The unfinished work, or at least the inability to decide when a work is finished, is a recurring theme in Xavier Escribà's work.

This is a desire to show that painting can take on different shapes, that there are an infinite number of creative possibilities before the work is achieved. The notion of the unfinished, or at least the inability to decide when a work is finished, is a recurring theme in Xavier Escribà's work. The multiplicity of possibilities makes it difficult for the artist to determine with any certainty the moment when the conception of the work must stop to become a work of art.

Xavier Escribà, ANIMATED PAINTING, 2014, Vidéo HD (installation with projections), 24’32”.

In the video work Animated Painting (2014) the artist switches the brushes for the camera but uses it in the same way. He records himself playing with a painting, which is a large, heavy, noisy yellow sheet. The edges of it are cut to create strips that can be rolled up and down endlessly.  He jumps on his painting, throwing the edges, which fall back to the ground with an almost rhythmic noise and in an almost choreographic movement. Different shapes then appear on the ground, shapes taken from the same strip thrown into the air. The thrown paint brings variations to the work of art. In this work, he talks about the final image in paint, studio life and the questions he asks himself during these moments of play, doubt, acceptance, and rejection. In this video, he uses audiovisual language to show and share all the traces of time and space that make up studio life. The importance of the artist's working time, the time of the work and the moments shared in the studio with the work, without knowing precisely when the work will be finished, is demonstrated in this work. The timing of the work, both in its conception and in its production, is at the heart of Xavier Escribà's work. The work is the result of all the artist's hesitations, tests, feedback, and experiences. The outcome of Xavier Escribà's work has to do with the obligation to choose, to decide to stop the work process. This difficulty in coming to an end, in choosing and completing a work, becomes clearer when we look at the artist's series. Working in series seems to compensate for this constant hesitation and allows the work to be renewed. Offering options for the outcome of the work is the artist's guiding principle.

In Xavier Escribà's work, we can see a desire to affirm the importance of the time it takes to create a work. However, the time in which the work is created, its period and context, is just as important. These questions about the time of the work and the work and its time are related to questions about space of the pictorial work. It is a space-time specific to the work that the artist seeks to determine through his work. More than a simple relationship, it is a genuine dependence on time and space that is emerging from Xavier Escribà's works.

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