8 april, 2021 – 2022
Room Philip West. First floor
“This great artist, aware that he only had a few more days to live, used them to organise the distribution of his belongings. Thanks to his generosity, Philip West decided to donate to my foundation in Santiago de Compostela a large part of his pictorial work and his considerable library. I will never be able to thank him enough for such a generous friendship.”Eugenio Granell
“…they are both the same universe and, at his own behest, he donated all of this work to the Granell Foundation, which is now in charge of looking after it and exhibiting it.” Philip West’s work has been divided into two: on the one hand, the works that “depict animals featuring surprising naturalism.” And on the other hand, that which was created after a “genuine surrealist feeling.”Antonio Garrido, about Philip’s donation to the Granell Foundation and about his work
In 1996, Philp West knew that his life was coming to an end. He was a young man. That year, he painted an important and symbolic oil painting, Vecinos. On the left side of the canvas there is an “M” painted in brown on an orange background. The “M” is covered with little houses and buildings. The “W” in green is outlined in orange and the background, in green and black shades, is covered with crosses. The “M” stands for Marián and the “W” for West. This sincerely created artwork depicts the approaching tragedy. Our exhibition begins with this oil painting. Philip, who was dying of cancer, dedicated it to his partner, Marián Torrens de Zaragoza.
The exhibition is dedicated to women and, more specifically, to beloved women. The works are an important expression of the concept of automatism in surrealist art. The oil paintings become oneiric, dreamlike landscapes, “where pieces of anthropomorphic figures are incoherently merged together, being placed on limited plains….”(Antonio Garrido).
Not long before, Marián and West had visited India. I have therefore chosen a painting that reminds me of Indian art. To the right, against a red and blue background covered with musical notes, a couple are freely floating around. The image to the left is of great interest to me, due to the red sun of passion that stands out, along with the black triangle created by birds in flight; they are gathered together in the top left corner, since they cannot escape. This oil painting is also from 1996.
Philip West’s works repeat themes. One of them, the one featuring the couple, is on display in this exhibition; couples dancing with a certain joy as in Untitled and Ritos de paso. The third painting features a couple that is no longer in the centre but is dancing; they seem to do so in a tired way, without much enthusiasm. The artist expressed this attitude by painting the woman’s head leaning on the man’s shoulder.
The nude female body, an eternal theme in art, appears in Mujer forzuda, also from 1996, in which the artist anticipates our current interest in the importance of women.
The Untitled oil painting from 1986 features an evocative nude woman within a faceless male form.
The other paintings in the exhibition stand out due to the presence of female elements, such as the red high-heel shoes in Ascending/Descending, which the artist contrasts with the liquid man on the left, a human-shaped river in which the water flows towards the head. In A quemarropa, the same blue figure is pressured by a pistol at the top of the oil painting, which metamorphoses into a black female shoe with a large heel. Philip tells us regarding his works: “There is a metamorphosis and, as a surrealist, I am not the same as ten years ago. For me, now, surrealism is living life as if it were a poem. Since I do not know where I am going, I try to enjoy the journey.” He wrote this -he was also a good writer- in 1996 in Heraldo de Aragón, on January 17, 1996.
I recommend that you look at these artworks as if they were painted poems since, as Granell declared, a poem is a written work and a painting is painted words.
Natalia Fernández Segarra
Curator and Director of the Eugenio Granell Foundation