Introduction to the monograph "Emilia Castañeda"
Horacio Sáenz Guerrero
There was a time when, also, I exercised art criticism. I learned then the terminology with which, always, wants of knowledge are concealed; the vocabulary which masks insensibility. Had I continued to develop such a difficult journalistic speciality, perhaps I would nowadays be a reverenced arcanum -I have known so many!- endowed with the enormous weight of nonsense, with the formidable prestige of subtleties wrapped in deceitful chlamydes, though of undubitable effectiveness. Finally, I would have moistened the pen, not in vigorous acids, something which is my present intention, but in overwhelming erudit labyrinths presented as gardens of Le Nôtre. This is what Berenson made and it is well known how high did fame place him. But, alas!, he terminated in dubious understandings with merchants; rather undoubtful, however...
Destiny wanted that I were not like that, so I have been given the rare privilege of entering slowly and silently in painting, alone and without any haste, as in one of those promenades more imagined than lived in which one discovers the rooms of the palaces where humanity emotions make their life.
This destiny has also been that which has allowed me to discover Emilia Castañeda, almost like Christopher Columbus found America. On my part, the finding was the revelation of life. Do understand me: of the life understood as painting. Because of this, I deeply rejoice myself that not even a little bit of winning eloquence, evasive because researched, circulates through my mental plaits. Emilia surprised me, first, and fascinated me irremediably in the time taken by the wink of any star. I had never known any woman who would paint like her. Perhaps a younger, more vital and more immediate Fini. I had neither ever known any man. Perhaps some glimpse of the intimate Fragonard, of those who one believed to be forgotten and who come back to memory when they are removed by the stimulation of some present act. For instance, sparkles of «The bathers», of «The bacchante», of «The Inquisitive women» ... Afterwards I understood that precedents were useless, were vague, were improper.
Our artist paints with intransferable delicacy and courage. She paints as it is, with the same essential need of the trobbing of her pulse. She creates with two realities, both truthful and dreamed at the same time. Not only dreamed, but constructed, as delivered to life by the existence she imposes on forms, vigorous and vanished; in the attitudes, elaborated with splendid ease; in strokes of her brush that re-create the lights of impossible dawns and, with simultaneity, amazingly, hook themselves in some eyes of candid, chilling precision or in some foreshortening where there is only truth.
In other arts, to know the author usually carries one to unpleasant consequences. I possess a vast experience. In painting, generally, such a conclusion does not take place. In painting, the author is, customarily, the child of his work. This is not an exception, but it is so much more so in the inside that on the outside, her glance, her hair, her face complexion, her mouth, her gestures, her reactions, are passionate, lively, clear, pure flame. These personal manners turn, however, into rude melancholies, into very light tendernesses of a magic cat -her preferred friend; there must be a reason behind it- into ambiguously flourished smiles, into lights exquisitely varied of a rosy colour that operate in the miracle of seeming heavenly poetical mucous, her dreaming and subtle blues, her fugitive forms, her fragile and tender haloes which do not exist, that cannot exist, that are only in her mind.
Someone has said of her that she does not know of philosophies, that she knows the life she forged herself flying from all that was ugly, that was deformed, that was vulgar. Emilia Castañeda has defined, with the words that follow, her creating yearning in the brightest time of her existence: «The world was very beautiful and I painted it so». I disagree. She has not painted the world beautiful; she has painted her fascinating and beautiful worlds. Fortunately, it is not the same thing. And in these worlds inhabit women of that kind she has named «free and tabooless». Adjectives seem insufficient to me, even though they serve me for what I intend to say. Such women form ringlets in the universe of her canvas. The most significative are painted in pastel, because only this technique allows to transfer to contemplation the tonalities and images of some prodigious idealizations, exactly those which do not allow me to understand why she was given for a long time -it still persists, as all that is lazily simplifier persists- the sign of exotic painter. Ah, yes, of course! Women are the majority of her characters, women at the same time real and unreal, women simultaneously dressed and nude by a poetry of forms infinitely beautiful, perhaps because they are also, and above all, fascinations and embellishments of love to the countless configurations of femenine seductions.
It is at this point when I cannot avoid evoking some firmaments of Baudelaire -in spite of the fact I know for certain that they are not the same, the poet's and the painter's: the «Dessin d'un maître inconnu», and the «Bijou rouge et noire», which gives me a key to Emilia's creating eyes, comparable to his «Purs miroirs qui font toutes choses plus belles» ...
Yes, her eyes are mirrors, that make all things more beautiful, though, in unavoidable vital crisis, there are some shadows in these beauties. They are those of the sorrowful treasons of life colours and those of the rejoicings which flee from her spirit. But as soon as she faces the canvas -even to the sculpture material- whether she wants it or not, she knows it or not, her painting brush transfigures and re-creates whatever she keeps loving: all her magical creatures, the inimitable protagonists that nobody has painted like her and who are only hers and of whom with her go, although for all of them she says her song.
Castañeda's genius, young by its fires and its rages, old by its long sapiences, conqueror of sensibilities by the graces it has received from the gods, has renewed horizons before it, some of them which come back and other new and tremolous of promises. If art is soother of human miseries, this woman who paints with the most ad mirable of authenticities, that who puts all the blood of her emotions in each stroke of her brush, or in each tense caress to clay, this woman makes us better because she gives us the gold of the children which are each of her paintings to deliver us from the lead of our indigences. There is nothing in her art which is a fortuitous attainment and in that there is confession and dream. The attractive strength of the creator lies precisely on what is set above and on the previous determination of never reducing her work to a question of form; on the will of delivering herself entirely to the living and intimate version of things, to that which goes beyond the search for an ideal truth.
She is thus because I thus see her. And I dare to state such a conclusive declaration because, on occasions, one has to be brave enough to say what one thinks: there do not lack, though certainly there do not abound, on the stages (more or less showy) of the paintings we are offered, people with quality and with talent, with earnest desires of transcendency and explorations of the indefinite.
Up to now I have not been allowed to meet so pure a nature, so true to herself, so sure and, at the same time, so bitten by doubt, like this passionate, timid, defier, delicate, energetic and complete, terribly human who is the painter Emilia Castañeda.
For a profile of Emilia Castañeda
Giorgio della Rocca
Monograph "Emilia Castañeda", 1999.
Behind the heavy curtains, just half opened to hide the identity of the woman, a voluptuous curve covered with silk as transparent as crystal is insinuated with elegance. The angelica I white of the velvety feminine epidermis stands out and seduces. The elegance of the leg takes life. It is such a beautiful, feminine leg that it is worth enjoying it in all it uniqueness, excluding any other part of the universe, satisfied to lose oneself with passion in something that won't repeat itself. It is a state of grace to be able to contemplate the tenderness, the malice, the candor, the other form of thought that these images release.
Emilia's brush, an Emilia Castañeda who wants to paint the nude and soft woman in imagen and likeness, advances precisely and offers this ambrosia, which obliges us to lick our lips, to man. Erotic painting; feminine woman and monsters from our burning imagination, mixed up in an Edenic garden between tulles and satins almost hiding a prohibited game or reserved for Epicureans. Almost a parody of love, or, better, an allegation against enslavement.
Emilia Castañeda comes out free, she breaks norms with her painting which does not want to go with just one subject but with various schemes. On the same canvas pictorial themes both resist each other and yet live together and the different regions of these glorious bodies of real females in such suggestive poses are disputed. With Emilia Castañeda what is feminine wins its eternal battle with what is masculine. For Emilia Castañeda humanity has reached the divine thanks to the female. Feminism and Chauvanism pull each others'hair, but the painter from Madrid feels admiration for the feminine deed, for the beauty of woman. For Emilia man is a god, but a fallen god who only dreams of the greatness of the heavens.
Her magical and delicate colours awaken the ardour of passion. The Devil, Incubus or succubine, does not alter the femininity-sensitivity relationship. The forbidden games of the goatish male do not cloud the plastic beauty of the lesbian caress. Man's desires, hidden in these phantasmagoric lines, are trivial, grotesque and vulgar but do not mist the femenine tenderness relationship. The breast of a woman does not ask to be mauled, it only wants a hand that will caress with feminine tenderness, lips which will transmit and a light and redeeming elevation. Her legs, clear objects of desire, are forms which lead towards sensual pleasure. This is Emilia Castañeda's painting, born in Madrid and studied in Barcelona cradle of fine brushes.
In her women, in her oils and drawings, there is neither rebellion nor aggressions, only a profound lassitude, maybe a certain disillusion. Her paintings, large and appealing, accuse with skill, incomprehension, innocence or submission of a creator who suffers from these anathemas and looks at life with the eyes of a girl but never with resignation.
Emilia Castañeda, a painter from the second part of our century, has shown in galleries at home and abroad. She has won prizes, learnt from life and suffered. Today Emilia, with the serene eyes of the classics in her Barcelona studio, amidst heavy drapes and damask covered sofas, gladdens with the pale nudity of a woman's body. Fixing her attention on a point of this anatomy, almost submerged in a dream, she reveals to us with a stroke of the brush, with all the loneliness that creation requires, the sweetness and the bewitchment of all the limbs of a simply beautiful, erotic, feminine body...
Emilia Castañeda: women´s figure on reason
El Alcázar. December 24th 1986
The representations of fantasies are more beautiful than those of reality, because they lack the roughness of concretion, and shapes blur in the misty ambition of how things should be. That´s the way Emilia Castañeda seems to understand it in her oils on canvas, where women are the subject of study.
She analyses women´s anatomy in different positions and ages, their expressions..., but curiously enough, she doesn´t place women in a feminine atmosphere like other authors do when working on that theme; she works only on women´s figure and the changes that front view, profile or foreshortening provide.
The point here is to unravel that certain mystery Castañeda is researching under a well-known appearance.
She has a Cartesian mind and her intention, I guess, is to hold an easy, immediate emotion, taking care of the rigor of relief, the weight of mass and balance in volumes. All of it, despite an atmosphere of back lights, half-lights and dim lights that might be felt as a poetic and sensual whisper. But that refers only to form, not to content.
Not even when she works pastel, a technique suitable for the softness of intimacy, the painter from Bracelona ceases in her attention to the strength of women´s body.(Sokoa Gallery).
Erotic refinement in an elegant way
Bülacher Tagblat 06/1983
Unterberg Art Gallery
With his exhibition for this summer -until 19.06.83- the gallerist Kurt... gives the chance to art friends in his country to know the Spanish artist Emilia Castañeda and her work. Castañeda, born in Barcelona in 1943, shows a strong personality clearly related to informal.
After intense studies from 1956 to 1971 and having finished her professional training, she takes part in many exhibitions in Spain as well as in France and America, where she gets several awards. With this exhibition in Regensberg she is introduced to the Swiss public. Her subject matter is unilateral and multilateral, shocking and smartly discreet. She works exclusively on the body as a theme, specially women´s body, and she does it passionately, committing herself. The relationship between the artist and her work, seen in every piece, is completed by her world of ideas. Emilia Castañeda reflects positive values in her work by showing a superior woman, with strong personality that asserts herself, although she may look vulnerable. This is clear in "Sueño con el camaleón" (dream of the chameleon): the animal hounds the sleeping lady trying to devour her, but she doesn´t lose calm because -here we find the artist subtle sense of humour- the monster is too small to be scary.
Emilia Castañeda has the talent to express erotic refinement in an elegant way, avoiding heaviness. With her "erotic divertimento" she airs the frivolous side of human relationships under a veil of audacity and irony.
Woman as a symbol in Emilia Castañeda´s work
"El Médico" February 14 th , 1986.
[...]Emilia Castañeda we observe this understanding she now confers on women´s personality, changing from female to symbol. Her work is founded on an intellectual basis. Her images show an exquisite sensibility, heritage from a "modernism" she has never left, as in "El espíritu del jardín" (spirit in the garden). Her women appear under the sign of failure, disappointment, vanished dreams. She puts a broken doll at a splendid, impressively structured, nude figure´s feet; a woman, pale face, let her arms drop in languid neglect as if they were not articulated; garlands emerge from another´s woman bare hands. Sometimes, the rebel artist comes up behind the presence of a kind of goddess with a male at her feet. More than a slave, he is understood and built up as an oval that refers to the creator feminine principle; on the other side, the sarcasm of the goddess feeding a cat with a sardine.
Emilia Castañeda took her characters out of the ambiguous artificial lights of bedrooms at night. The light she uses now surrounds women like a halo, idealizing them. With one of her paintings, where a pale woman kneels leaning on a balustrade, she reminds me of Joan Llimona´s works.
Determining trip: the painter has gone from erotic passion and aggressive rebelliousness, to a certain mysticism or, better, to an idealization of women´s presence. From body to "psyque". But, as usual, these movements emerged from flesh fatigue, take place after an agreement with the ghost of tedium, that "spleen" "modernists" knew so well. In short, with melancholy.
Noticiero Universal (extract)
[...] Though they both show good deal of imagination, Castañeda is in possession of much more important pictorial and drawing resources. Imagination is not everything in her work, nor her ability to create significative atmospheres for a certain figure group or a symbolic scene. The fitting of those figures, composition rhythms and the pictorial making are a work of infrequent quality.
Her colours are bright and extremely delicate, tending to exquisite cold tones, making what is severe, what is sensitive and what is dreamt go together, denoting a technique maturity, result of many constant efforts to assimilate painting experiences through direct observation of reality.
Emilia Castañeda by Angel Marsá
There´s nothing wrong with painting making poetry, as long as painting keeps being painting. Intimism, in painting, points that alliance with poetry, with the warm and close allusion, with the sensitivity that easily shudders. That alliance is not good when painting and poetry are not genuine.
Genuineness means full and effective realization. And Emilia Castañeda´s painting is genuiene because it is made with full effectiveness: plasticity, concept, making, colour, form. Poetry too, but by tacit alliance -in agreement-, not by sentimental influence -emotional-, deliberate in a way. In fact, there´s nothing deliberate, insisted, previous, in Emilia Castañeda´s painting, so gently, so crucially feminine. Painting is not feminine when painted by a woman, or masculine when painted by a man. Femininity is not in painting, in art, in presence, but in essence.
Painting, art, has no sex, hence its angelic extraction, as Eugeni D´Ors liked to suggest. So, we may find that there´s something aerial, something subtle and pure, close to the weightlessness of flying, in Castañeda´s painting. The quintessence of women´s figure, hardly suggested, gets closer, more effective and real, more ambiguous, more dreamt and therefore more poeticized.
But Emilia Castañeda´s painting is irrevocably, in essence, painting beyond the obvious -and non obvious- poetic fantasy that surrounds it. Her colours are rich in nuances: pearly greys, tender blues, delicate pinks, iridescent whites, recreating lost worlds, soft surfaces, translucent skins, fugitive forms, so peremptory and evident though. Painting is there, zealous for its prerogatives, sure of its reality. (...) And that´s the secret in Emilia Castañeda´s painting, that combination reality-fantasy, allusion-evidence, poetry-plasticity. Lightness against the negation of gravity, flying as opposition to fall, weightlessness victorious against weight. (...)
Everything in Emilia Castañeda´s painting is ordered and balanced. Painting and poetry polarize their respective magnitudes in a perfect equidistance. That´s the virtue of classics.
Erotism in Emilia Castañeda
Erotism in Emilia Castañeda is an insinuation of libido, in very small details.
In other words, something could be happening on the canvas, but nothing happens actually. An erotism of extremely subtle expressive qualities, made for one aesthetic purpose: the promotion of sensual pleasure as a fun game of lights, colours and bodies, dancing freely in honour of Eros.
Emilia is obviously an artist of fruitful imagination and superlative intuition, by all appearances, not cerebral. Nevertheless, she knows how to use the right resources (pastel and oil) to get that vague situation game-reality on the canvas.
She deeply studies each one of the previous steps to the achievement of her work; she calculates with engineer precision before she gives plastic expression to her idea and she offers us that subtle atmosphere of fantasy, full of emotions, shown on the textured background of life, like all of her characters.
Jaime III Gallery.
March 9th, 1979. Palma de Mallorca
Erotism requires tact and responsability, since it borders on pornography, both separated by a thin line. Only when sex is conceived with sensibility, with no mental twistings or unhealthy imagination, one can achieve the sublimation of erotism and identify it as aesthetic, artistic and poetic. It is so in Emilia Castañeda´s work. This idea of genesis as pure and natural is in her case supported by extraordinary drawing, good technique and exquisite sense of plasticity.
In oil as in pastel, she uses that deep division to develop her idea of beauty through the human body, never static or indifferent, but according to feelings, experiences and emotions. Emilia Castañeda doesn´t show plain and direct, she knows how to make her characters breathe in an evanescent atmosphere, extension of their experiences, in a way that a subtle colour, a delicate texture or a small object, become suggerent symbols.
- "Mundo". (1977): 44-47. Text by Josep Sandoval.
- "Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts". (1983): 28-29.
- "Interpiel y moda. Edición europea". (1985): 66-67. Article by Rafael Kyoga-Berliner.
- La mujer como símbolo en la obra de Emilia Castañeda. "El Médico". (1986): 42.
- "L´Art i la Dona". (1986): 8.
- "Galart". (1986): 10. Article by H. Orbañanos.
- "A Gran Scala".(1987): 52.
- "Divina Barcelona". (1987): 26-27. Article by Miguel Sen.
- Las curvas del amor. "Penthouse". (1988): 78-87. Article by Giorgio Della Rocca.
- "Playboy". (1990): 15-20. Article by José Baca.
- "Divina Barcelona". (1993): 72. Ritz Hotel exhibition.
- "Socios". (1993): 60-63.
- "Art". (1995): 53. Review on the exhibition at Gallery Mellado.
- "Interviú". (1995): 86-89. Article by Justo de la Vega.
- "Barcelona, School of Figurative Painting". (1996): 3.
- "Temps de Lluna": 18-22.
- "Le Nu, Inspiration". (1996): 7-8. Article by Rafael Kyoga-Berliner.
- "Forum". Deutsche Bank Group. (1997): 23-24. Article by Josefina López.
- "Iradier-Deportivo femenino". (1997): 36-38. Article by Sara Masó.
- Las audacias de Emilia Castañeda. "Espiral de las Artes". (1997): 58-62.
- "Artes Plásticas". (1997): 25.
- "Absolut Marrakech". (1998): 122.
- "Artes Plásticas". (1998): 69-72. Article by M.D. Muntané.
- "The European East Magazine". (1999): 84-93.
- "Prestige Magazine". (2000): 64-74.
- "Qué más. La Vanguardia". (2002): 15.