The locally-born artist sits by his work on the Malaga Pompidou Centre's main staircase.
The locally-born artist sits by his work on the Malaga Pompidou Centre's main staircase. / FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ

The intriguing gaze of a father and a cat at the Pompidou

  • An innovative work by Malaga-born José Luis Puche is unveiled on the stairs inside this city art gallery and sets out to humanise the space

Lucky has her gaze fixed to the left. She has watery, serene eyes, perhaps tinged with sadness. Lucky was the black cat belonging to artist José Luis Puche and his partner and has a cameo role in his latest work in Malaga. The pet died while the artist was dreaming up this piece of art. Five days after Lucky, the father of Puche's girlfriend also passed away.

And so 'Papa' was what this Malaga artist named his latest work on the main staircase of the city's Pompidou Centre. The commission is part of Málaga de Festival, 170 cinema-themed cultural activities in the city running ahead of the Malaga Spanish Film Festival which starts later this month.

While last year José Medina Galeote impressed visitors with his powerful work at the gallery's doorway, this year Puche solves the problem of creating something in the 'nothingness' of the staircase space in a subtle and surprising way.

When a visitor reaches the stairs from the entrance they see nothing. They need to go down the stairs and turn round to appreciate how, from the 27 risers on the stairs, the portrait of José Puche Vela, José Luis's father, emerges. At the bottom, tucked on the left, the visitor will also spot the watchful gaze of Lucky, the black cat.

A father that unites visitors

Puche highlights "the gravity-defying effect of the drawing and the transitory-nature of the staircase, which creates an experience that's unique to every visitor".

"I chose my father's image because I wanted to have a big work in Malaga and I decided to really personalise it as this is my city. These [staircase] spaces are soulless, as they are places of movement and the people passing through don't have anything to share with each other. I wanted a collective memory to link everyone that moves across this space. A father is somebody that everyone has or has had, and that memory is the essential ingredient to create a connection between the individual and others," explains the artist, interviewed during the launch of the work.

Through a Venetian blind

Puche says that the core element of the work is the image of his father separating the slats of a Venetian blind to reveal his gaze. The 27 treads of the stairs help create the effect of the slats of the blinds. Explaining his technique, he says: "Each piece [of the work] is on a plastic base with the paper drawing placed on top, etched with a type of charcoal mixed with water to stain the paper". It's a technique he claims to have spent some time mastering and the result is akin to a watercolour.

"The basic idea is that when you go towards the gallery's exit [up the stairs] it's this person you see staring at you," he continues. The stare of his father and Lucky the cat, bringing him luck with this big work in his home town. Ironic of course, as black cats are considered unlucky in Spain.

Puche is receiving international attention for his work and is preparing an exhibition at the Sydney Opera House. 'Papa' is on display until October and the Málaga de Festival event runs across the city until 16 March.