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  • Writer's pictureRadmila Urošević

#3 Xavier Escribà, painting in space or the space of painting…by Radmila Urošević

Xavier Escribà

The new way of painting?

A series of three articles by Radmila Urošević



#3 Xavier Escribà, painting in space or the space of painting…


How does Xavier Escribà redefine the space of painting?

As Henri Focillon writes:

"Space is the place of the work of art, but it is not enough to say that it takes place there; it treats it according to its needs, it defines it, and even creates it as it requires. [...] We must make an effort to accept as a legitimate treatment of space everything that escapes its laws".[1]

Xavier Escribà, D’ON VENIM, ON SOM (detail), 2016, Acrylic on steel tubes, Installation (total length 95.30 metres).


In D'on venim, on som[2], exhibited in Barcelona in 2016, the artist occupies the entire gallery space with his work. It is a huge painting, elusive because of the line it draws in space. It makes us follow it and observe the details as it runs. Once again, the painting is embodied in the exhibition space, and even in space itself. In this work, the artist paints on metal tubes embedded one inside the other, to form a work of tens of meters of tube running through the gallery space. The diameter of it increases as the work grows. Hundreds of layers of acrylic paint are applied, the drips of which are embodied in stalactites. Using the same process, the artist superimposes the layers. However, in this work, the marker of time is the line, just as the separation of colours marks a different age. He starts by assigning one colour per year and then, when he reaches the end of his palette, he uses the first colour again to continue his in an almost colorimetric loop. It's all a question of measurement, time, and space.

Through this work but also through his work in general, demonstrates the full extent of pictorial space. Painting is embodied in colour and the density it produces; it is both massive and light, fluctuating and light, fluctuating and yet timeless. Taking essence in the pictorial space, Xavier Escribà takes the gamble of making painting spatialized and identifiable. His works are identifiable in space, not only by the vividness of the colours, but also by the density that emerges. They are massive, heavy, and imposing themselves on the viewer. The works impose their pictorial body on the space in which they are exhibited. Indeed, the expression "pictorial body" seems an appropriate way of characterizing Xavier Escribà's painting. Everything in his work relates to the body. From the beginning of the creative process to its conclusion, Xavier Escribà's painting not only takes on in a space, but it is also truly a pictorial body in space. His work is inscribed both in the moment, by limiting the number of layers according to the number of years lived, but also in different spaces-time by the solid character of the final rendering. Paint is not only a liquid that becomes solid. The carnal density of Xavier Escribà’s work makes it travel through time and space. It is embodying the moment, the year, or the era in which they were produced. A work by Xavier Escribà is a syncretism of the space-time in which it is set, but far from being an ephemeral work, it has a sustainability.

Many of Xavier Escribà's works are produced for the wall. In D'on venim, on som, the pictorial line formed follows the wall, although it seems to float in the air. For the artist, "the wall is the natural space for painting". This is how he sees painting, even though it is produced outside the picture frame. Xavier Escribà's pictorial bodies are constructed principally around the relationship with the wall. The artist takes us on a journey of the eye, and as we move through the work, we also move through the exhibition space, of which the wall is an integral part. For Xavier Escribà, painting is a legacy, and he is the heir to the generations of painters that preceded him.


How does the studio influence Xavier Escribà’s work?


The studio is at the heart of Xavier Escribà's thoughts and questions. All his work is oriented and constructed in relation to the studio. The studio becomes, not only the artist's space, but even more so the artist’s genesis of the creation. "The studio is a place where you spend time", says the artist. Indeed, we spend time in the studio, working, thinking about the work, producing it, and deciding to finish it in a specific way.  The studio is the place where everything seems to be happening, where the past, present, and future of the work are at stake. It is the place where all the artist's hesitations, doubts, questions, and actions take place. The studio is the place "of works that could have been", as he says. Just as Xavier Escribà pays tribute to studio life in Animated Painting, he also pays tribute in his work to those works that could have been. Indeed, his work reveals a desire to show what lies beneath the pictorial surface, by exposing the canvas as a support and placing it on an equal footing with the paint. However, there is also a desire to show the process in the outcome, either in the presentation of the work and its scraps, the remains of paint together, or in the work itself.

Figure 29: Xavier Escribà, Color is Lust (red), acrylic paint on canvas and metal, 2018-2019.

What is expressed here is the indecision in the choice of the work's end. His constant hesitation about the result of the painting. In Color is lust, we notice that the colour in the result is monochrome, the layers corresponding to the artist's age are still present, but the colours are no longer different. However, the result does reflect the artist's creative process, as well as his reflections on his pictorial work. The work questions not only the frame but also the finitude, or rather the infinitude, of his works. This impossibility of finishing, of determining the result, or rather this desire to suggest that the work could have been something else, something different. Part of the cut canvas, left hanging in the frame, hints at this alternative to the final work. Between a clean cut and an almost torn-out cut, this is where Xavier Escribà's pictorial bodies take shape.

Everything in the artist's work seems to point to paying homage to studio life. That is made up of hesitations, constant doubts, accidents, and decisions. In the meantime, he develops studio exhibitions in museums, where he transposes his studio. In other words, he moves the studio into the museum. In this way, the exhibition is none other than the artist working in his studio. Viewers can follow the work from conception to completion. This allows him to lay bare the process of the work and match it to the time of the visit and the viewer's gaze.

He has created several workshops in transit: Taller Obert (Open Workshop, Girona, 2008), Taller en Trànsit (Workshop in Transit, Tarrogona, 2011), El Support de la Pintura (The Support for Painting, Cardedeu, 2012) and Espai+Temps (Space+Time, Ripoll, 2015).

Xavier Escribà, View of the exhibition TALLER EN TRANSIT, Museu d'Art Modern, Tarragona, 2011

These workshop-exhibitions or exhibition-workshops punctuate Xavier Escribà's pictorial work. In his works, everything suggests alternatives to the final work, to express that the work could have been and could be something else, something different. More than unfinished, his works offer a permanent opening for the renewal of his painting.

The artist gives us a glimpse of infinity and multiplicity in the work, as another possibility to the outcome of the work. Xavier Escribà's work suggest the past, present, and future of painting...


[1] Henri Focillion, Vie des formes (1943), Paris, Quadrige, 2017, p.27. Translated from french : « L’espace est le lieu de l’œuvre d’art, mais il ne suffit pas de dire qu’elle y prend place, elle le traite selon ses besoins, elle le définit, et même elle le crée tel qu’il lui est nécessaire. […] Il nous faut faire effort pour admettre comme traitement légitime de l’espace tout ce qui échappe à ses lois. ».

[2] D’on venim, on som, is an artwork and an exhibition of Xavier Escribà, meangin : Where we come from, where we are. It took place at the Gallery Marc Domènech, in Barcelona, in 2016.

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