Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gustavo Torner, Negro, Blanco, Rojo

Gustavo Torner, Negro, Blanco, Rojo, 1963

Gustavo Torner (b.1925) is a Spanish painter and sculptor.  He was a forestry engineer who began his artistic career by drawing botanical plates for a book on forestry in 1947.  He began painting in 1951 without any formal training, and by 1955 he had his first solo exhibition.  Torner is an abstract artist, but his paintings have strong referents in the natural world.  We can see desolate landscapes and the relationship between earth and sky.  His sculpture is perhaps more purely abstract, though some of his paintings are as well.  His paintings frequently feature a strong division of space, with two distinct spheres meeting, and this relationship becomes the subject of the piece.  Negro, Blanco, Rojo does feature this basic approach, but somewhat differently from most of Torner's work.  Rather than a clear and decisive division, the red unites the spaces.  The "horizon line" is lower in this piece, creating a more unbalanced composition. Meanwhile the red circle is suspended in the black space and bleeds onto the white.  The circle enhances the suggestion of sky and land, appearing like a dark moon, but the red below undermines this interpretation and creates an unsettling imbalance.  This painting is dark and ominous, mysterious and evocative.  It is a powerful piece that is representative enough to question our relationship with nature, but abstract enough to create uncertainty.  The emotionality of this painting is complex and subjective, and Torner's signature style and stark coloration are effective and fascinating.

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