We had a talk with the painter Pablo Romero after El jardín de la alegría, his exhibition at the Ardavín Gallery (travesía San Mateo 7, Madrid). The artist shares with us his thoughts about the situation of present-day art and how, in times when abstraction has the monopoly over most of the art scene, he breaks away from everything and goes for a re-rehumanizing realism that, according to his own words, everybody can enjoy.
FLIC: At what moment did you decide to dedicate your life to art?
PABLO ROMERO: At the moment when you realize that money – working for money – doesn’t bring you happiness. I started exhibiting when I was 25 years old in collectives that didn’t take up a lot of time so that they wouldn’t interfere with my job, and years later I realized I was happier painting than earning money by sitting in an office.
Where did you study?
Ever since I was little I’ve always gone freestyle. I’d go from academy to academy because I didn’t like to be told how to do things. My expectations amounted to learning how to develop what I already did and not having other ways of doing it imposed on me. For that reason, once I’d finished Law, I enrolled in Fine Arts but left it shortly after to set up a creative laboratory with some teachers from Fine Arts where we investigated and tried out all sorts of techniques, materials, styles… until confusion arrived.
At first glance your works can evoke those of painters like Sorolla or Monet; has impressionism influenced you in a special way?
More than influenced, I felt supported by them. I’m a nervous person, so my brushstroke is closer to Monet’s because I get bored of painting on big surfaces grazing the edges. Regarding light and color I share the same vision of intensity and brightness as both of them, and I even try to exaggerate it because in my reality, when I walk down the street, I don’t see pale colors.
Why did you choose figuration and simplicity in times when abstraction and complex pieces seem to take the scene of present-day art?
I’ve always liked it complicated. In the creative laboratory we worked on tearing everything apart and we would accomplish very ingenuous works, but day after day I realized that it all seemed too easy, very attractive, but easy. You have to remember that in the Spain of the 90’s everything that sounded modern was selling, so it was profitable, fun and original, but empty. I think abstraction runs out on its own.
Do you think the panorama of present-day art has been focusing on abstract works because of their colorfulness rather than their idea?
Absolutely. It’s hard for someone inexperienced to appreciate an abstract painting: you either like it or you don’t. However, besides appreciation, a realistic painting can be the object of countless other remarks by anyone who sees it.
What do you claim then from realist art?
My goal is for everyone to be able to look at a painting without needing any previous study in psychoanalysis.
Could you comment on the basic concepts you want to reflect in your works? What kind of reflection do you want the spectator to experience?
Technically, my goal is for the spectator to see the real painting as well as possible despite the lack of spots and colors that I keep apart from one another, leaving the white canvas between them, like pieces of a puzzle rightly placed but without fitting together; for that to happen I keep the first stroke without retouches or stumps, “alla prima”, so it’s the spectator’s own vision that integrates it. Likewise, to provoke this feeling of reality in the spectator, I overuse bright tones and contrasts and avoid integrations and stumps.
It seems like you have found in Ardavín Gallery a suitable ally for stepping towards a new humanization of art. Do you agree with them when they say that there is a saturation of abstraction that causes the public to switch off?
Indeed. Abstraction had its meaning in its time: from the confinement of the classic and the academic emerged these revolutionary movements, protesting first with natural light, then drawing and afterwards arrangements, color… Once everything was broken down, all that was left was to create a monochrome: the nothing. From then on, everything is more of the same.
Ortega y Gasset wrote about this dehumanization of art as elite business that required keeping the masses confused so that only a few could decide as they pleased what was good. If that is true, it’s also true that those masses are “rebelling” as today’s society of information can’t prevent personal criteria and tastes to appear on the fringes of what the market offers. The public is no longer satisfied with what the galleries offer, as renowned as they or the artists might be.
Besides the Ardavín Gallery, where else can we see your works?
I still haven’t found an art dealer who can take care of all the hassle that exhibitions entail, and I don’t like to do it myself, so I live mostly in Spain and when I exhibit abroad (United States, Mexico, France) it’s through collectives where I don’t have to take care of anything. In fact, last month I turned down an invitation in China for those reasons.
Could you gives us an insight into your next projects?
At the moment I’m in over my head with a project that’s too ambitious, so I rented an old mill in a Galician wood so I can carry it out. The idea is to exhibit art within art through juxtapositions, reflections… a chaos for now.
Likewise, it’s the first time I paint without a previously arranged exhibition room, because even though I’ll only need a 20-square-meter room, it can’t be picked until the work is finished given the complexity of the setting up.