Alfons Borrell (Barcelona, 1931) says that he began painting from the ground up in the fifties, and when he talks about his sixty years of painting practice he does so in the same unassuming style. The exhibition Alfons Borrell. Works and Days remains true to this spirit: it is an account of a creative project that beats to the rhythm of life and defines itself as an exercise in perseverance and intensity over time. This steadfast commitment, which steers clear of idealisation, is the key element that inspired the title of the exhibition, which refers to the work of the same name by the Greek poet Hesiod.
The visual artist Oriol Vilapuig (Sabadell, 1964) is the curator of this show, which encourages new readings and confrontations with the work of one of the greatest exponents of abstract art in Catalonia. Although the exhibition is a retrospective, Vilapuig eschews a chronological approach and adopts the form of an open essay in order to allow multiple interpretations. In the words of Vilapuig, «the exhibition presents a reinterpretation work methodology in which an author of a previous generation is revisited by an author of a younger generation. It is not a study from a historiographical perspective but from the sight of another author that activates a way to see the work».
Vilapuig presents a selection of almost 200 paintings, drawings, and prints, 130 of which have never been exhibited before, as well as the film Aigua fosca, which Borrell made in 1964 based on his idea of nature as an engine that drives artistic change. The exhibition ends with some handwritten notes recently recovered by Borrell, which have never been publicly exhibited before. These notes are a record of the conversations between Borrell and the painter Hermen Anglada Camarasa when he visited his studio in Port de Pollença in 1950.
With this exhibition that kicks off its 40th anniversary commemorative programme, the Fundació Joan Miró
also celebrates having grown alongside figures such as Alfons Borrell, whose career progressed in parallel to its own history. Borrell took part in the group exhibition Pintura 1 in 1976 the Fundaciós inaugural year and held his first solo show two years later at Espai 10 (now Espai 13). He also participated in the special edition of prints commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Fundació in 2000. Now, for its 40th anniversary, the Fundació hosts an important retrospective that includes three works that were exhibited at Espai 10 in the 1970s.
Alfons Borrell. Works and Days unfolds through seven areas of study. It begins with an antechamber entitled Prelude, which introduces visitors to Borrells work as a phenomenological event and sets the tone for approaching the rest of the show. The second section, The Oblique Revolt: The 1960s and the Gallot Actions, focuses on Borrells participation in the painting and action group Gallot.
The shift towards nature, in the sense of a dynamic and ever-changing force, is the theme of the third section of the exhibition, Opening and Overflow: Dark Water. The following section, Contained Action: Pieces that Suggest Themselves, is based on the dialectics between the overflow that arises from Borrells conception of nature and the creation of a radical, personal language.
The show then moves on to a fifth section that focuses on Borrells ongoing experimentation with boundaries through the square form, and a sixth that looks at his conception of colour. The last section is dedicated to the idea of repetition and variation in Borrell's work and how it is manifested in an intense serial work that goes beyond a pure methodology.
Alfons Borrell (Barcelona, 1931) is responsible for one of the most significant oeuvres in Catalan abstract art. Since the age of nine he has lived in the city of Sabadell, where he worked in the family watchmaking shop and where he still lives and paints every day.
Borrell has taught and actively participated in the dissemination of art in his city: in 1955, with Joaquim Montserrat, he co-founded the Sala dArt Actual and the Sabadell Academy of Fine Arts, and he was also one of the promoters of Sala Tres at the Sabadell Academy of Fine Arts in 1971.
At the age of nineteen, Borrells interest in painting led him to visit Hermen Anglada Camarasas studio while he was completing military service at Port de Pollença, Majorca. On his return to Sabadell he enrolled in two life drawing courses and met his future wife, Rosa, with whom he went on to have three children.
Having evolved from figurative painting to abstraction, Borrell spent the sixties on a process of research and investigation that led him to simplify his approach to form and colour. In the early seventies he worked on order and symmetry, and began to use new materials and methods, switching from oil paints to acrylics. The death of his wife in 1988 was another important turning point after which Borrells painting became more radical in formal terms.
In 1959 he exhibited with Juan Bermúdez at the Ateneu Barcelonès, where he presented works absolutely installed in the language of abstraction. Juan Eduardo Cirlot made a review on the Correo de las Artes.
In 1960 Borrell joined Gallot, a group inspired by action painting that carried out a series of street actions in Sabadell and Barcelona. A few months later, the art critic Alexandre Cirici Pellicer invited him to take part in the inaugural exhibition of the original Museu dArt Contemporani de Barcelona, located in the dome of the Cinema Coliseum. After an introspective period Borrell presents an exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sabadell in 1969, which also show his works in 1970, 1974 and 1977.
Since the late seventies his work has been shown at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Galeria Joan Prats in Barcelona, MACBA, Centre Cultural Tecla Sala (LHospitalet de Llobregat), Museu dArt de Sabadell, and Fundació Palau de Caldes dEstrac, and at major art world events in France, Germany, the United States and Japan. As part of the refurbishment and restoration of its Barcelona headquarters, the Ateneu Barcelonès commissioned Borrell to create a largescale permanent work for the lobby of the auditorium.
The work of Alfons Borrell has been shown at the Fundació Joan Miró on three occasions: he was featured as a representative of the new generation of Catalan painters influenced by the work of Joan Miró, Antoni Tàpies and Albert RàfolsCasamada in the exhibition Pintura 1 in 1976; he held at solo show of his paintings at the Fundaciós Espai 10 in 1978, and he was one of the artists who participated in the exhibition organised to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fundació in 2000.
Over the years, his work has been championed by cultural figures such as the poet and art critic Juan Eduardo Cirlot, the artistic director of Galería Joan Prats in the seventies Lluís Maria Riera, the poet Joan Brossa with whom he produced the book Trasllat in 1983 , the artist Perejaume, and art critics including Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Pilar Parcerisas, Vicenç Altaió and Manuel Guerrero, to name a few. In 2014, Borrell received the honorary GAC Award at the 7th Gallery Night organised by the three associations of Catalan Art Galleries in recognition of his career and of his key role in the dissemination of art.
I often get asked: do you work much? Its almost a standard question for painters... No, I answer. [...] Because I keep my distance from this idea of an artist. I don't feel like an artist, I feel like Im living my life: I feed the fish, I feed the birds, I do the gardening when I have to, I go to the mountain, I go to the studio. [...] Painting is part of my life; [...] In fact, I would like to actually be paint. [...] There are two types of painters: those who paint the sea from an apparent distance through a window, and those who go down the ramp, walk through the sand, get into the sea, and emerge tinted blue. [...] then when I finish, when this figure in front of me tells me not to touch it anymore, because it has told me everything it has to say, I dont give it a title: I give it a date.