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Chilean painters do school in Madrid /  Rocío Montes Rojas

Report of the Chilean newspaper "El Mercurio" published on April 19, 2009

SUCCESSFUL MIGRATION The "figurative circuit" of Chilean artists:

Realistic painters do school in Madrid Spanish faculties move away from figuration and students approach the workshops of Chilean painters. The heirs of Claudio Bravo exhibit and sell in the international market and their classes are highly demanded.


Anyone visiting the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid from May 28th may think that they were wrong, that they are really stepping on the Prado Museum, when they have in front of their eyes the series of etchings "Los caprichos" and "Los disasters de la war ", by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). It will be the first time that the main modern art center in Spain exhibits works prior to 1881, the year Pablo Picasso was born, which represents a revolution. The incorporation of Goya's work, however, is only the showy tip of the iceberg of the historic rearrangement of the permanent collection of the Reina Sofía.

Without fear of anachronism, the museum will offer a personal journey through modern art beyond artistic eras and schools. In the large space dedicated to modernism and decadence, for example, Goya's blackness will coexist with "The Blue Woman" (1901), by Pablo Picasso. The architect of the reform, the director of the museum, Manuel Borja-Villel, has conceived a new route, with Goya at the head - as the artist who explains everything that came later like no other - the totality of modern artistic production seems have found your site. Except for the great stumbling block of the reordering: the Spanish realism of the twentieth century. Because where to install it? With the new subjectivity of the 1920s? Along with the great movements of the sixties: pop art, conceptual art, minimal? Borja-Villel has not found the answer.

The figuration always becomes somewhat uncomfortable, even in Madrid. It seems to always go out of time. And that here is the Prado and Velázquez, and that in this city resides the hyperrealist Antonio López García, the highest-priced living Spanish artist. "Realism is not in fashion in Spain. Realists have always been quite reviled beings. Today everything is very conceptualist", points out Aldo Bahamonde (Santiago, 1963), a Chilean painter based in Madrid since 1984, author of the portrait of Allende that hangs in the White Room of the Palacio de La Moneda. This is corroborated by Guillermo Muñoz Vera (Concepción, 1956), who arrived in Madrid in 1979 and who has become one of the Chilean creators who best commercializes his work abroad: "It seems that we constantly have to justify why we do realism, when it would be necessary to explain why we do not do it. Western art has always been figurative. "
But what happens in official spaces is one thing and what happens in the street is another. "Realistic painting is very popular today because it never stopped having it. Painting the environment, recreating it, wanting to communicate something with the alphabet that visual reality provides you, is the most natural thing in the world. what you put a brick in an urn and it is worth a million euros ", says Muñoz Vera, author of the mural of the Metro Moneda de Santiago. The acceptance of realistic painting is corroborated by two young Chilean painters who arrived in Madrid in 2001 and who have opened an interesting space on the European scene. Óscar Villalón (Santiago, 1972) and Alejandro Decinti (Santiago, 1973) remember the last edition of the Madrid International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO). Concept art predominated there, "but one of the most important galleries, Marlborough, exhibited works by Antonio López, Claudio Bravo, Manuel Franquelo, Richard Estes," says Villalón. "And the paradox is that people lined up to enter the Marlborough and did the removal of the dead fish and the severed cow's head."
Beyond the old confrontations between the abstract and the figurative, there are those who believe that in Europe, and specifically in Spain, the general public is becoming saturated with so much conceptual art. Bahamonde analyzes it: "The market is much faster and more buoyant than in Latin America. Much more work happens, and that means that, somehow, everything happens and there is not too much standard. Therefore, there is a lot of dislocation and people he has the need to go back a bit. " And that going back, according to the artist, has to do with revising the classical canons of painting. And there is Diego de Velázquez, Juan Sánchez Cotán, Francisco de Goya.

"Where Velázquez is, realism is"

Muñoz Vera, Bahamonde, Villalón and Decinti are the four Chilean artists residing in Spain who classify themselves as realists. Everyone recognizes that the painter Claudio Bravo is an indisputable reference of their respective works. They belong to different generations -the youngest is Decinti, 35, and the oldest is Muñoz Vera, 52-, but in their paintings they portray naked reality in the same way. Not only that unites them: the four have founded successful schools of realistic painting in Madrid. And everyone wonders how it is that a group of Chileans - born about 10,600 kilometers from the Prado Museum - are teaching classical art to Europeans. "It draws attention to us and to the students themselves," says Aldo Bahamonde.

When it comes to explaining the phenomenon, there are those who start from the realists' need to leave Chile: "People who think in realism feel driven to leave," says Bahamonde, who in his first stage in Madrid shared a workshop with Guillermo Muñoz Vera. He is supported by Decinti, 10 years younger, who does not hesitate to cite Adolfo Couve as another of his main mentors: "We came from the post-80s generation, where abstraction predominated. And all of us who had a figurative tendency we felt tremendously orphans ". Escape, leave, but ... why to Madrid? Villalón explains it in a few words: "Because where Velázquez is is where realism is, and it's over. A realistic exhibition works in Madrid, not in Barcelona or Berlin."

Official art schools, all painters agree, have moved further and further away from figuration. And the void is being filled by Chilean artists. "I came to Spain and studied at the Complutense, hoping to be heir to the legacy that the entire art history of this country has left. And it turns out not. You enter the faculty at 18 and they tell you 'Be free and paint'.

But before having one's own discourse, it is essential to learn the language ", points out Bahamonde. Muñoz Vera, a fervent critic of current learning methods, explains:" Painting was no longer taught in schools and with it realism. "

Aldo Bahamonde:

60 students on average

Aldo Bahamonde, 45, arrived in Madrid at 21 and specialized in sculpture at the Complutense University. When he finished his degree, however, he began to draw and then to paint. In 1989 he was signed by the Sammer Gallery and since then he has never left pencils and oil paints. Today his work is regularly exhibited in Spain and has a very good price. "I'm not very expensive, but I'm not very cheap either," says Bahamonde. In December he opens at the Durán gallery in Madrid.
He spends five days a week painting and two days a week doing classes. He does it in his workshop, in the Aravaca neighborhood of Madrid. Next door is his house and a common patio allows the artist to communicate with his Chilean wife and 2 children. It is a cozy, spacious and well-equipped place. It is not surprising that there are those who travel every week from Valencia to attend the classes. It is not a conventional academy: more than a school, Bahamonde explains, it is an artist's workshop that opens to exchange knowledge.
It began teaching in 1998 and maintains an average of 60 students. Among his pupils, there are from beginners to professional artists, and he attends them in a personalized way. "I teach a method to review and break down reality. From that dissociation we can reassemble it in a two-dimensional support."

Óscar Villalón and Alejandro Decinti:

"The Open Door School"

70 average students

With months apart, Óscar Villalón and Alejandro Decinti settled in Madrid in 2001. Granted by the Guillermo Muñoz Vera Foundation, they worked as teachers at the Madrid and Chinchón campuses. But these graduates of the University of Chile took their own flight and began teaching classes in their own academy in 2003. More than five years have passed and Estudio DeCinti & Villalón SA is consolidated: it has two offices in the Chamberí neighborhood -one of the most traditional in Madrid- and a third is about to be inaugurated. They have about 70 students.
Children, hobbyists, art students and professional painters who want to finish an exhibition abound: students do not have a single profile. "We are characterized by a horizontal structure that is accessible to everyone. It is like a house with open windows," says Decinti.
And that is why they offer courses of all kinds. The most striking, the one they make in Tuscany (Italy). Six people, a teacher, an assistant and Italian geography to be approached in one painting. This year they will also travel to Rome.
Villalón and Decinti are successfully managing to introduce their work into the European gallery circuit. Villalón has just opened an exhibition at the Chilean embassy in Madrid.

Muñoz Vera:

Guillermo Muñoz Vera, 52, is one of the most famous Chilean realist painters. It sells at significant prices at Christie's and Sotheby's auctions. He regularly exhibits in galleries in Madrid, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Milan. The artist, however, seems immune to the hustle and bustle of his work, because his daily life takes place in the charming medieval town of Chinchón, 45 minutes from Madrid. There he lives in a wonderful 17th century mansion.
A few blocks from his home is the headquarters of the Arte y Autores Contemporáneos (ARAUCO) foundation, which he founded in 1996 together with his Spanish partner Carmen Spínola, in the Montehermoso house, with more than 3,000 square meters. The tremendous infrastructure makes it possible for Muñoz Vera's workshop to function there, a wonderful exhibition and video projection room, a framing workshop, classrooms and, among other things, the residence of the six scholarship students. Because the Muñoz Vera school offers regular and intensive courses for individuals in Chinchón and Madrid, but also free scholarships. No professors or chairs in a classroom. The scholarship painters are dedicated to producing.
And then, when they are ready, to take classes and make a living from art. Like Muñoz Vera.

Rocio Montes Rojas
Journalist, Correspondent for the newspaper "El Mercurio" in Spain.

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