Artist Emmanuel Lafont with some of his works in the exhibition. Ignacio del Río
Emmanuel Lafont's obsession with personal photos from a Nazi spy
Art and culture

Emmanuel Lafont's obsession with personal photos from a Nazi spy

The artist’s exhibition at the Ignacio del Río gallery in Malaga, reconstructs images of a family through collages, drawing, and lithographs

Cristina Pinto


Friday, 17 November 2023, 14:27


Emmanuel Lafont was walking through Malaga when he found some bags filled with photos that someone was going to throw out. As someone who loves antique things, he could not help himself asking what he was going to do with all those photographs. They told him a story which, from that very moment, made him establish an unexpected emotional bond as well as sending him on an ongoing investigation.

“They told me that the man had just passed away and that the grandchildren were getting rid of his things. It turns out these things belonged to a Nazi spy who settled in Mallorca and who, like any other human being, got married, had children and opened a photography store,” said Emmanuel about this project, which only came about “because I became obsessed with these photos”. And with this obsession and the personal photographs from a Nazi spy, he began to work, culminating in ‘Everything is blurred’, which opened last Friday in Galería Ignacio del Río in Malaga.

He does not know if he will try to look for new details in these pictures. But never say never, because Lafont’s connection to the story of this Nazi spy goes far beyond these photographs. “Every time I open that box, I feel like crying and I get emotional. Look, we are talking about the fact he was a Nazi, which first of all does not sit right with me. But it’s like seeing that even the villain of the story has a heart.... It’s nice to see how that man was so in love and was so devoted to his wife; I have letters that they sent each other, and it is touching to see that side of the story,” said the artist, who has spent years investigating these photographs with Alfonso, the owner of the antique store in Mallorca.

The process which created ‘Everything is blurred’ is a complete analysis of these old photographs. This is how the artist himself explained it: “First I started with the album, where the photos are used to make collages but without anything else, only the images themselves. And there I came to a dead end because I started to think about more things like what would happen if Iadded drawings,” explained Lafont about his works, which go from collages to graphite drawings and then to lithographs.

There are more than thirty pieces on show in the gallery room in Soho, which will be open until 12 January. An exhibition that ranges from photo collages to surrealist portraits, from abstract to hyperrealistic drawings, as explained by the exhibition coordinator Carmen Cortés. “When contemplating Lafont’s drawings, of an almost unachievable beauty and perfection, we are not even aware of the rigid method of working required,” she said. And the fact is that the artist himself confirmed that he had to be very patient while working with the collages and minute details. “I try to not rush, I like to work calmly,” said Lafont.

He does not like theorising and planning his works because most of the time decisions are made through intuition, as has happened to him with colour in his work. “This sample has little colour, but the ones I’ve used are always the same, the ones I feel most comfortable with. And it’s true that afterwards I look at my sweatshirts and realise they are the same tones as the ones I’ve used in the works; I’ve realised that I don’t have any favourites, they just have spells of being preferred,” he said.

From nightmares to Rubiales

The exhibition also features a very personal element for Lafont, in the form of annotations of the wall. From nightmares in which he dies, his opinions on the controversial Luis Rubiales case, to conversations he had with Ignacio del Río while preparing for the exhibition. “I have a theory that what you do affects you; my drawings are affected by the reality I was experiencing. And since it takes me so long to make them, I take notes of what is happening. That’s why I have notes on the Rubiales case, where I make a kind of diary to reflect what was happening while I was working. You can also read some conversations Ihad with Ignacio when he came to set up the exhibition, or even nightmares, because my dreams are always very catastrophic. That affects me when I work,” Lafont explained.

The notes on the wall are related to the title of the exhibition: “‘Everything is blurred’ is a reference to the passage of time, very personal but also a fear that time is passing too quickly and that tomorrow is not guaranteed. That is why I feel the need to leave a record of the past and my memories on the wall, like hearts carved on a tree.... Us humans have a need to leave a trace,” he concluded. As his husband Fran García said, in the journey for this exhibition “we tiptoe along a path where memory, reality and imagination are blurred in gazes that shout from a silence bounded only by paper”.

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