BS Art

Alfons Borrell

Barcelona 1931

At a tender age, Alfons Borrell began his forays into landscape painting, with which he became acquainted on his visits to the studio of Hermen Anglada-Camarasa in Port de Pollença. A member of the Gallot group of Sabadell, a significant milestone in Catalan informalism, alongside Manuel Duque, Antoni Angle, Gabriel Morvay and Josep Llorens, Borrell achieved modernity silently, without fanfare or obvious imitation. Gestural abstraction, or action painting, was a constant feature in his work; this was set against a landscape background and always in the same form, as if invoking Cézanne. Spurred on by Joan Brossa and Perejaume, his work was given fresh impetus starting the 1970s.

For Borrell, abstraction merely suggests and the objective comes back to the simplicity of the way in which it is expressed: in Untitled (2002) the painting does not signify the landscape but is the landscape, its smell and the memory of it that remains when it has been stepped on. The words by his friend Joan Brossa, whom Borrell worked with on bibliophile editions of books, and the play of balances with the chromatic subtlety of the compressed masses make the rectangle within the rectangle the main gateway to the artist’s inner landscape. The geometry used in repeated shapes, in this case the rectangle, evokes and frames the space.

The visual shock at the far ends of the nature interpreted leads into a line of explosive serenity, into an analysis of the painted emotion and into the transparency of the opacity of art. This provocation by Borrell’s abstract pictorial work directs the spectator to the terrain of meditation in order to confirm the notion of freedom that the artist had been taught at the age of 19 by Anglada Camarasa. Abstraction functions as a release for the painter, allowing him to express emotions and feelings in the individual and collective environment: the space within the space, in a kind of interaction achieved as a result of the lack of precision over the margins, by means of the freedom of the colour as it invades the central rectangle and highlights the violence of the tension between the two sections. What was hidden and opaque is now exposed, luminescent, as a result of the rectangle inserted into the main large rectangle, a small window opened onto uncontaminated painting, as sincere as the character of the artist himself.

Borrell’s pictorial art has no explicit referents, nor any corrosive figurations, and allows us to make out or imagine within it numerous informative possibilities, which, together with the spectators, formalise the work: masses shrouded in warmth, superimposed mountainous reliefs or the cool dusks of autumn. The suggestion of this canvas is infused through the tearing of the bright red, of the right-hand segment that sets the pattern. The spectator is invited to plunge – alongside the artist – into claims and impressions that may even be opposed to each other. A pendular passage from vague sponginess to the impact of the thick line.

18.X.2006 belongs to Alfons Borrell’s last period. It began in the 1980s, characterised by tremendous simplification, a palette often limited to two colours, sometimes including the actual canvas background, and an extremely austere composition, with one or two squares stuck together or placed in reserve, as occurs in this canvas, on an intense monochrome background. This moment perfectly ties in with his works of the late 1950s, just before the upsurge in action painting by the Gallot group.

Borrell’s painting eschews the radical nature of American minimalism, of hard-edge painting, to venture into the lyricism of visionary artists such as William Turner or the late-Romantic painting of the turn of the 19th to 20th century, in pursuit of the sublime in a pantheistic contemplation of the landscape. Borrell’s large dyed backgrounds are not flat but vibrate just like the lines that outline his discreet geometry.

Other works: 23.IV.85, 1985;  Untitled, 1976.

  • Alfons Borrell 23.IV.1985  1985
    Acrylic on canvas
    160 x 195 cm
  • Alfons Borrell Untitled  2002
    Mixed media on canvas
    89 x 116 cm
  • Alfons Borrell 18.X.2006  2006
    Acrylic and collage on canvas
    160 × 200 cm
  • Alfons Borrell Untitled  1976
    Pencil on paper
    65 × 50 cm