Still life is one of the oldest forms of painting. Capturing that which is in front of us, usually with a particular eye for both natural and man-made subjects in coexistence. Antonio Barahona stakes his claim to one particular aspect of the still life, honing in on the natural, bringing to life the interplay of light, shade and shape that we can often miss in the wonder of nature in our built world.
The artist’s fascination with nature, the plant life that verges on tropical, makes a sort of sense when we think of his origins in Seville, a vibrant city known for its tapas, flamenco and architecture. It’s a vibrant city, one that is completely full of life, consumed by a kinetic vibrancy.
It is to Barahona’s credit, perhaps, that his painting style - honed in Perugia on an Erasmus scholarship - is considered ‘typically Spanish’. His work is a slice of life insight into what happens everyday in the south, with a particular emphasis on the green, luscious and organic. Leafy plants make up a big part of the human and natural landscape that the artist captures - but not all of it.
In some of his works, Barahona will take us down meandering streets, recognisable from postcards of European paradises, each canvas beholden to a particular conception of a simple, pure life. In each, we realise that Barahona is engaging in a relationship with his subject, an expressive and aesthetic love letter to his own passionate existence.
Alongside weaving his artistic expression, the concepts of his designs, into his daily life, Barahona applies an identicle methodology to the practical process of creating his work. Painting, to this artist, isn’t something he does as an aside, it’s a part of his own lifestyle, it’s his way of negotiating a place in the world for himself and his subjects.
Clearly, though, it is not his own biography that is a central theme, but that of nature. More specifically, Barahona is interested in how nature is engaged with in our contemporary world. Some places do it better than others, his home of Seville being a prime example of that. The Patio de Doncellas epitomises a case of nature being controlled and manipulated to stunning effect - without ever coming across as a subordinate part of the ecosystem.
The palace manages to eke out the best features of its multitude of species. Their balancing act - searching for a perfect equilibrium - is also manifest in these paintings, where the interplay between space and light is established. As a people, we are concerned with material objects, a sentiment that seems to jar with Barahona who prefers to simply highlight our most primitive senses.
Naturalistic at heart, these oil paintings are textural explorations of land and landscape, green life at the apex of its arc. They’re uncomplicated, honest, distinctly and ‘typically’ Spanish. At once a way for the artist to talk to the world and a way to listen to it at the same time.
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