Permanent Collection

José María Sicilia

Madrid, 1954

Sicilia has had a remarkable trajectory. From his very first exhibitions, his work caught the attention of the general public and he soon joined the ranks of a select international circle of artists. Sicilia used large formats and applied long yet loose strokes of color that spread across the canvas in all directions. He then proceeded to outline various figures over the resulting chaotic, muddled space, as can be appreciated in Bricolaje 3, óxido amarillo. In this case, the silhouettes of three tools emerge from a highly textured, complex and aggressive background. The hammer, pliers and pincers are hinted at by a few energetic and spontaneous traces. Despite the strength and presence that emanates from them, the strokes and texture of the background draw more attention, as the anodyne set of tools is nothing more than a pretext to paint.

"Bricolaje 3, óxido amarillo" [Bricolage 3, Yellow Oxide], 1984
Bricolaje 3, óxido amarillo [Bricolage 3, Yellow Oxide], 1984

Indeed, during this period Sicilia had no intention of telling stories, nor was he interested in unimportant details. Consequently, he made use of insignificant subjects—such as everyday objects or the contours of well-known monuments and buildings, which are recurring themes in his work—that allowed him to keep a distance from the subject and focus on the paint itself. His early work, of which the present painting is an example, was characterized by rigorous compositions and a passionate technique, which appears to contradict the artist’s initial need of order. The influence of German neo-expressionism is also apparent in his elaborate surfaces, acid colors and violent contrasts.

Javier Maderuelo

In the 1980s, at a time when the heated debate between figurative and abstract art had come to an end, painters of Sicilia’s generation felt liberated from the obligation of representing objects or creating non-referential spaces. This allowed them to devote their creative efforts to the act of painting itself, working with forms and colors without the need to establish narrative elements or define real or imaginary details—as evident in this work, they could now combine the abstract, the figurative, the concrete, the geometrical and the gestural.

"Red Frame Flower", 1986
Red Frame Flower, 1986

In Red Frame Flower, Sicilia locates some specific figures in a supposedly abstract context: a grid, a red square, a rigid, vertical black link, and an undulating ribbon that changes color —all visual elements seemingly devoid of meaning that require the title in order to be interpreted. What appear to be visual resources derived from both geometrical and gestural abstraction thus give rise to a giant flower in which the black line corresponds to the stalk, the square to the carpel and the undulating line to the petals.

The importance of this work does not lie in the apparently banal subject nor in the eclectic manner of representing it, but in the fact that it led on to a wide-ranging process of visual research expressed as a series of large-format canvases representing flowers, a favorite motif of painters such as Henri Matisse and Emil Nolde. As such, flowers became one of the few figurative elements that separate Sicilia’s work from total abstraction.

Javier Maderuelo

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Catálogo del Museu Fundación Juan March, Palma de Mallorca.