THE RED GERNIKA
Three years ago, the artist Óscar F. Vega locked himself in a large studio with an ambitious aim: to paint “a Guernica”, but totally reinterpreted, and in the usual colours of his work, red and black, instead of black and white like Picasso’s Guernica. Thus was born this “Red Guernica”, measuring 3.5 x 7.7 m, which is the centrepiece of the exhibition. But what Oscar Vega did not realise at the time was that this painting would be followed by some thirty works, as he explains, “along the path of Guernica”. Now we can enjoy them all together in an exceptional exhibition, for its rarity, for its expressive force and for its content, which brings together large-format oil paintings, large and surprising sculptures in plastic matter, mysterious screens with phrases for reflection and an immersive audiovisual installation through which the visitor can physically enter the author’s imaginary.
Picasso’s Guernica is probably the most famous painting in history. Eighty years later, its contemplation continues to have an impact. Hundreds of books have been written about its interpretation. Some think of it as a representation of the horrors of the Bombing of Guernica, and pictorial motifs as a response to fascist barbarity; others identify in the painting intimate codes of Pablo Picasso, which have nothing to do with the bombing.
Oscar Vega, is more in the latter group, but adds: “what gives the painting its immense value is that Picasso, who alone knew its mystery, decided to dedicate it to the bombing of Guernica”. “Guernica” has thus become the quintessential symbol of anti-war, just as the dove, another of Picasso’s creations, is now the universal symbol of peace. And so it is that the Basque town of Guernica is now the name of opposition to all wars, to all barbarities.
The aim of this exhibition is “not to forget”, to work on the memory of great war events and their leaders, which have marked our history. The visitor will enter the exhibition where there will be different rooms with the content. The tour begins with an introductory video about Picasso’s Guernica and the Red Guernica. Its origin, its intention or the meaning of each of its fractions. The visual and emotional impact that its gaze provokes in us, even today, eighty years later, is unquestionable.
The visit will continue in the Sculpture Hall, where you will see two large sculptures (3m high) “My mothers heart tree” and the Shark Sebastian tree, a nod to the Guernica tree. The roots of our history.
In the third room we discover the faces of the 11 “Illuminati”, as the painter calls them, and, as a whole, the “gallery of vanities”. These are portraits of historical figures, all of them involved in war sequences or dictatorships which, in the painter’s opinion, have bled the future of mankind: Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Pinochet…
The large “Red Poppy” is an installation of remarkable proportions – 9m in diameter – which perhaps draws on the mysterious architectural ancestor of Stonehenge, in that it defines a walkable spiral space onto which images of these unique skeletons are projected, all in bright red. Each petal of this “poppy” is configured by concentric rows of red wood and riddled with mirrors. The visitor can wander among them, bathed in cartoon images of gesticulating skeletons that multiply in a great initiatory theatre. And “dropped”, in this artistic journey, we find enigmatic screens from which emerge phrases, or thoughts, depending on whether they are by Picasso or Vega. Phrases such as: “Surrealists think they refer to reality. They are wrong, they are reality”.
Following the route, the visitor enters the exhibition’s star piece. A Red Guernica in its original size (3.49 m x 7.77 m). Unlike the other rooms, in this one the visitor will be able to sit down to observe and analyse the work in depth. The painting will be flanked by video screens on which the “making of” the painting will be projected continuously.
Another outstanding collection is a set of oil paintings on recycled red methacrylate, so that, in an innovative stylistic device, they are seen on both sides, very different from each other, and both equally “intense”.
We continue with an area of large-format oil paintings on panel, mental images of the decadence of the West.
Memory to feel, actions not to repeat.
The exhibition promenade offers many simultaneous readings and harbours an undoubted sense of spectacle focused on “everyone finding their own thing”. An exhibition in which, for example, an expert in contemporary art can find material, while a group of schoolchildren can find surprise and knowledge. And everyone, reflection on the human condition. A totally unexpected and thought-provoking exhibition.
In addition to the tour of the galleries, there is an audio guide for mobile phones in 4 languages with historical explanations framing the period of each work. By scanning a QR code, visitors can access the content with their mobile phones. Headphones are recommended.
Óscar F Vega (www.oscarvega.es) is a multifaceted artist. A philosopher and psychologist by training, he has been a businessman, has directed films and produced television; he is even now an independent councillor in charge of culture in a town on the outskirts of Madrid.
His painting hatches in maturity with a great expressive force, perhaps the fruit of an impulse contained and refined by life which, in the words of the English critic Paul E. Davies, is like “the enclosed genie escaping from the lamp” many years later. Óscar Vega had the opportunity to share “moments of painting” in the port of Pasajes with the master Miguel Ángel Álvarez, a distinguished Basque painter who died not many years ago and of whom, Vega confesses, “I do not have enough years of life to reach his mastery”.