Carlos León: painting for pleasure

Carlos León, in front of one of his large-scale displays at the Contemporary Art Centre.
Carlos León, in front of one of his large-scale displays at the Contemporary Art Centre. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ
  • CAC Málaga displays works created in the past decade by this key artist in Spanish abstract

  • The contemporary art centre is exhibiting over 40 large-scale works that show a change of format by the artist in recent years

Visitors are greeted by a composition that is almost a symphony. El Nombre de los Meses (the Name of the Months, 2016) is a collation of 12 large canvases, like a calendar for the senses. We see, but also almost feel, the thick and vibrant finger-painted strokes which set this chromatic landscape on a journey from the browns and blues of the first piece (January?) to the touches of green between the second and fifth scenes (from February to May, perhaps), followed by the intense reds halfway through, then the ochres again and vermilion en route to the browns and blues at the end.

El Nombre de los Meses (2016).

El Nombre de los Meses (2016). / M. F.

That is the time - 50 years - that León has been exhibiting his work in Spain and other countries.

"My painting is political," he said at the launch of the exhibition. In fact, his discourse is as radical as it is subtle, because at the same time what he wants to do is "display a will for pleasure" in every piece.

"That is what I want to do: keep on thinking the world can be improved," he explained.

The exhibition contains more than 40 large-scale works, and can be viewed until 26 April. It shows, for the first time in public, an interesting change in León's work in both material and aesthetic terms, because they are interlinked.

Carlos León: painting for pleasure

/ M. F.

"The support determines the result," says León, who ranges from oil paint applied with fingers on Dibond (a type of aluminium) to the quite meaty texture of the wood selected for his most recent creations.

A force field

Moving on we come, almost like a Rothko chapel, to the group comprising Alter Ego, Ad Hoc, Nolens Volens, Mutatis Mutandis and Extra Muros, all of which he produced in 2019. They are marked by a palette between burgundies and white, brought together in a corner of the central space at the CAC Malaga in one of the most vibrant sections of the visit.

Carlos León: painting for pleasure

/ M. F.

As the title of the exhibition announces, this is a tour which asks the spectator to give it time and space. Distance, in fact. Because neither perception nor love exist without distance.

The curator of the exhibition, Fernando Castro Flórez, referred to this in Walter Benjamin style, saying that distance is like "a force field" around the artistic object which, in the case of León's work, demands calm contemplation.

Serenity is required, to linger over every texture, every hue of colour and the materials used in the work of an artist who, as Castro Flórez pointed out, belongs to a generation that had to take the lead, with the legacy of the Spanish informality of Tàpies, Millares, Guinovart and Co on one side, and, on the other, the slipstream of pop captained by Equipo Crónica, Luis Gordillo and Eduardo Arroyo, among others.

Carlos León: painting for pleasure

/ M. F.

Into this apparent no man's land come the works of Carlos León with the vocation of "combining the abstract with a reflection on nature", in the words of Castro Flórez.

Carlos León's career makes him "one of the most relevant Spanish painters of recent decades", said the artistic director of the CAC Malaga, Helena Juncosa, who also described how León's work fits in with one of the art centre's essential strategic lines: to reflect on the validity of painting in the contemporary creative scenario.

And so, with one foot in the Baroque and the other in romanticism, the work of León asks us to 'keep a distance', not through disaffection but quite the contrary.