The extraordinaire Lluis Lleo exhibits in London
Lluís Lleo comes from a family of painters and was born in his father’s studio in Barcelona. Immersed in the culture of painting, with frequent visits to rural churches in Catalunya, his formative years could be likened to an intense traditional apprenticeship, one that emphasised the special nature of the fresco as a medium: uniquely vulnerable yet miraculously durable water-based paint chemically bonded into wet plaster, so the support and design become one.
In 1989, he moved to New York and “began my life as a professional painter,” absorbing the bold geometric landscape of abstract minimalism and the language of Stella and Kelly into work shaped by the hallmarks of fresco: flat, matte surfaces, thick, thin powdery or absorbent. There was a slight element of escape, too, from comparison to the dominant figure in Catalunyan art, Antoni Tàpies. In America, he met the art historian Robert Hughes (Shock of the New) who became a lifelong champion of Lluís’s work. Developing a largely abstract hybrid lexicon of geometric and organic shapes – parallelograms, tunnels, bulbs pierced with an arrow, the edge of a butterfly’s wing, pyramids – that integrated New York’s dominant minimalism (the language of Kelly, Stella) with a Catalunyan sensibility. “I try not to look anywhere else. I try not to look at other painters: I try just to look at the material and the work.”
This summer he unveiled his first major public commission on Park Avenue, “Morpho’s nest in a Cadmium House” five monumental frescos made from 6,000 lbs of sandstone covered in brilliant matt geometric and biomorphic shapes in ultramarine and cadmium, and then decided it was time to go home.
He returns to Barcelona celebrated with a museum show “All Might Pencil” which opened at the Tecla Sala in September, 2017.
“His work … signals a healthgiving shift away from art that is about other media, that is conceptual, not physical, that denies the body (including that fundamental metaphor of the body, so eloquently celebrated by Lleó, pigment itself). This shift goes towards an art that is complex but nevertheless seeks a straightforward and anti-ironical link to the natural world…” Robert Hughes
Drift which opens on the 22nd of November at JGM Gallery will be the first opportunity for London audiences to collect a Lluís Lleó work on paper. Almost Essential have been given exclusivity on a VIP preview of the works in this show ahead of the opening from 11 – 2pm.
(Show summary – Among the many dictionary definitions of ‘drift’ is ‘the flow of a current’. But you can also drift a flock of sheep, for a drift is ‘something driven or drawn together’. Just so, this show emerged from curator Nico Kos Earle’s curatorial drift between continents, which led her to Lluís Lleó, from Manhattan and Barcelona; Suki Jobson, who works between Sligo, London and Marseilles; Phillip Hunt in Cape Cod via New York and Johannesburg; and Simon Allison in Oxfordshire and Aukland. Their voices seemed in compliment, and here their commonalities are corralled into three main holding points: movement between places; transition between one way of being and another; and an openness to the use of found and contingent materials.) If you are interested in coming to the preview, email Almost Essential here