The fantastic romanticism of Hernan Bas

This is the first time Hernan Bas (right) has exhibited in a gallery in Spain.
This is the first time Hernan Bas (right) has exhibited in a gallery in Spain. / Francis Silva
  • The CAC Málaga is hosting the first exhibition in Spain by the sought-after American artist

  • This new exhibition features ten years of melancholic works by an artist who moves between intimacy and 'horror vacui'

Andy Warhol's body was barely cold when the employees of Sotheby's entered the residence of the father of pop art to draw up the catalogue of possessions which would be included in one of the most famous auctions in recent decades. It took ten days of concerted effort to record the more than 10,000 items.

It was truly a mammoth task, and that is the background to 'Sorting out Andy' (2018), the largest work produced so far by Hernan Bas, the American artist of Spanish origin.

The impressive piece - it is 2.5 metres high and almost five metres long - is waiting round the corner in the main area of the Contemporary Art Centre of Malaga (CAC Málaga), which is giving space for the first time in Spain to an artist who moves between intimacy and fantasy, emotionality and the multitude of meanings in the varied settings of his paintings, which are nearly always tainted with an accentuated 'horror vacui'.

'Sorting out Andy' is also important in thatthe upper part of the setting is much clearer than normal in the designs of this prestigious American artist. "I would like to escape from this 'horror vacui' in future," he conceded the other morning, at the presentation of his first individual exhibition in a museum in Spain.

"I like to keep everything very ambiguous, create a type of nebula around the scenes in my pictures," said Bas at the opening of the exhibition 'A brief intermission' which continues at CAC Málaga until 9 December.

Unusual creativity

The display comprises 36 works produced by Bas in the past ten years. It was not easy to decide what to include, as the director of the CAC Málaga, Fernando Francés, explained: to exhibit this number of works, the art centre had to request nearly twice as many to choose from, due to the "sensitivity which has grown up around the figure of Hernan Bas" among collectors.

Francés emphasised the "unusual creativity" of Bas, and the importance of 19th-century romanticism when seeking the artistic coordinates of this artist. He highlighted the ability of Hernan Bas to "create a world where everything is possible" by combining these romantic influences with his interest in fantasy and even the esoteric.

For that reason, Fernando Francés recommended approaching some of Bas' paintings "as a poem by Bécquer or Wilde". That, he said, would open up the paintings with their melancholic scenes, their pale absent protagonists and decadent landscapes. This is 19th-century romanticism under the gaze of the 21st century.

"Literature fascinates me," explained the artist, "but what I try to do is create images which can be autonomous. I love that moment when everything I have read and thought to get to this painting disappears and it takes on a life of its own, finds its own space for interpretation".

Now, it is the turn of visitors to the CAC to do exactly that.