Pere Llobera's third solo exhibition at Galerie Fons Welters opens with the painting "Abandoned Model" (2013): a clear image that simultaneously raises many questions. In a darkened room, a model is spread out on the table. Is this a classical sculpture built from stone, or does paint here indicate flexible cardboard, styrofoam? All appears to resemble the form of drifting ice about to melt. What is this miniature model’s purpose? Could it have been collapsed, this design that looks more like a tiny ruin? Did someone consciously abandon it, or has it been prematurely halted for another reason?
The painting is typical of the Spanish artist, whose work is as virtuoso as ambiguous. Seemingly effortlessly, he interweaves personal associations and memories with universal feelings. Growing up and resisting it; endurance and “Tired of being strong”; the significance and meaning of an art work and the role of the artist; these are themes that featured in different exhibitions. Llobera is part of a long tradition of painting and his work implies a contemporary self-reflectivity at the same time. Yet, he will surprise you time and again: escaping a definitive definition, drawing from many sources of inspiration, Llobera continues to remain authentically elusive.
The exhibition’s title "Del joc i del foc" – about the game and the fire – is derived from a poetry book by the Catalan poet Carles Riba (1893-1959). Just like this writer played with words on an abstract level, the painter composed an exhibition that sounds like a poem. Increasingly, Llobera narrows down the narrative to only a fragment. In the free associations and loose brushstrokes might just hide an impending catastrophe. The passionate fire turns ominously black at times. But his paintings, in which surrealism and reality alternate, also make you smile. Contemporary reality, Llobera says, might already be as strange as a chimpanzee behind the wheel of a Ferrari (“Untitled”, 2013).
For Llobera painting is a continuous, intensive journey forcing him to leave behind the known to break new ground. In all his vanity, he preferably compares himself to a musician who is awaited by songs not yet created. Like people at an airport, looking for the person whose name is already written on the cardboard sign in their hands. The opposite is the recurring retreat. In "The Cave" (2013) Llobera depicts himself and a friend as the hermits St. Paul of Thebes and St. Anthony. In isolation, a flood of thoughts springs from the canvas, or is it more likely to implode? Still, in this shelter an open door does exist, floating in the form of an empty speech bubble. For the artist, the painting itself is the way out.
The first step is noticing the exit screen and the second one planning the escape.
[Rosa Juno Streekstra]
Pere Llobera (Barcelona, 1970) has finished a residency at the Rijksakademie Amsterdam in 2007. His solo and group exhibitions include a.o. Galerie Fons Welters; Galeria Fúcares Madrid (ES); Gallery Hidde van Seggelen (UK) ;Dordrechts Museum, (NL); Galerie Maribel Lopez (DE); Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (GR); Vieleers Gallery (NL).