J O S É A N T O N I O S O R O L L A
"Every beginning is difficult, but I have a good feeling about the future of my art."
- José Antonio Sorolla Gallén
Landau Contemporary is proud to present an online solo exhibition of works by Spanish artist José Antonio Sorolla Gallén.
Sorolla's figurative paintings transcend the confines of the traditional photograph in their emotional resonance, amplified by a hale sense for the theatrical.
Although José Antonio has worked with a paintbrush since he was 11 years old, the self-taught Castellónian artist educated himself through voracious reading and practical experiments with medium and style, fomenting an interest in the artistic movements and theories of modernism, as well as the artistic legacies bequeathed by the great Spanish masters.
However, it was not until well into his 20s that he began to paint 'from life', starting with two series entitled “The Artist’s Studio” and “Still Life”, both catalytic in the development of his figurative style.
"I painted expressionism for a few years, and then I was also painting abstraction for a few more years," the José Antonio recalled recently. "I returned to figuration painting with still-life motifs, I also painted the painter's studio, with all the materials that the artist uses...I was painting for a few years in this way. It was easier because it did not depend on anyone, only on the motif that I composed in the studio, and I could change it to my liking."
During this time, painting still life, I learned a lot. I never used photography, I always painted directly.
- José Antonio Sorolla
"I considered it to be a very important stage in my career because I learnt very much technically."
"The Artist's Studio", in particular, formed the basis of the cinematic images that are prevalent in his work today. For this series, he said, "I used to set theatrical scenes and, as I always paint several works at the same time, I had different sets in my workshop, and that was chaotic."
Later, when he searched for motifs outside of his workshop, sometimes using several models at the same time, he turned to photographs to facilitate his art, taking a surfeit of images to preserve working memory and capture the endless variations of tone and shadow as the light moved from dawn to dusk.
"It is very uncomfortable to have models on the seashore posing for long hours while I paint," the artist said. "With all the people around watching or, for example, the series right now, having them posing inside a museum. As you can understand, photography makes my job easier. It is much more comfortable."
Any day on the beach, walking, in the pool, etc. there is an image that attracts me. From that moment, I try to turn that image into a scene. I imagine the painting.
- José Antonio Sorolla
The shift towards figurative painting, influenced by Gerhard Richter and Edward Hopper's figurative periods, in which images are likened to still frames from a movie screen, was seamless and intuitive for the artist. "Painting for a few years expressionism and then abstraction helped me a lot," he said. "Because when I went through different styles, I finally knew that figuration was my thing."
In recent years, José Antonio has immersed himself in nature and the study of the human form. His subjects are found through his camera lens, often painstakingly and theatrically positioned in the foreground of immense skies, rolling hills and tranquil seascapes, their subtle shifts in hue and tonality provide an atmospheric counterweight to the sharp lines and rich colours of the human figure.
"My way of working is very simple," José Antonio said of his methods. "I sometimes find images that catch my attention and I start to explore all the possibilities from there. Other times, I paint people I catch in random situations I like and without their knowledge, I always try to keep naturalness in the scene."
About "The Artist" series he says: "What attracted me was a young woman with a camera who photographed the sea. I assumed that this young woman could be an artist doing her job. First came the scene and after the paintings."
"Once the scene is clear, and I can already imagine the painting," he says, "I call the models and take pictures. I like to work with people who are close to me because I find it easier to direct them."
However, he worked differently on "The Lifeguards" series. "Here I had to ask permission to photograph them and I didn't direct the movements of the lifeguard. I just look and shoot when I think the time is right."
"Finally, before I start to paint, I have to make a selection, which is complicated, and I sometimes need help since I usually take many photographs and then choose very few to work with."
Yet, José Antonio creates paintings that transcend the photograph with their emotional range, accomplished by eliminating the hierarchical focus of individual elements that are seen in traditional photography. Instead, he places all the defined objects in simultaneous focus and contrasts them with the subtle gradations of tones used for the surrounding atmosphere, which appears to fold and dissolve into itself.
Our collective bond with nature, especially the sea, also buttresses an emotional connection with his work. His paintings stimulate the memory of everything we feel when we are in its presence and everything we miss about it when we are not; he offers a vicarious experience of ordinary people gazing at the horizon or experiencing the world, with which we identify.
My way of working is very simple. I sometimes find images that catch my attention and I start to explore all the possibilities from there.
- José Antonio Sorolla
José Antonio always works in series and, despite a deep affinity for the sea as his subject, he preserves an intense curiosity for new ideas and scenes that stimulate and challenge his creative potential. "The motifs that I use in my work arise in the most unexpected ways without hardly looking for them. Any day on the beach, walking, in the pool, etc., there is an image that attracts me," he says.
His 2018 series of the Cuenca landscape was one of those unexpected discoveries: "When I travel to Salamanca from where I live, I have to cross the province of Cuenca, an extensive territory with a varied landscape, so different from the coast," he recalled. "In one of these visits came the inspiration to paint this new series. It was on this trip that I was caught by the colours. After walking through the fields, I was trapped by silence."
"It was spring and, in this season, the red of the earth and the green of the wheat dominate everything. Some isolated trees dot the landscape and become protagonists. The heavens are exuberant. The light is special. It is definitely a simple landscape but of great beauty."
From the moment of inspiration, José Antonio transforms the striking image into a scene, condensing the myriad features of the surrounding architecture and visualizing the corresponding line and form that will transcribe it onto canvas. He imagines the painting and studies all the possibilities of light, colour, and movement, and the effect each will have on the painting’s surface. "I always try to be very careful with the details," he says.
José Antonio's attention to detail, to capture the essence of a scene and reveal its expressive equivalent in colour and form, is what makes his process so labour-intensive. Each painting starts to declare itself over time. To stay focused, he works in series and on many paintings at once, which helps prevent artistic stasis and restore creative flow.
Typically, the artist starts a new painting in the series while others are still in progress, and returns to them to add or make adjustments, over and over, until he believes they reach a state of optimal expressiveness. Before then, they face his studio wall so that, when turned, he can look upon them with renewed perspective.
Just when things got easy, or after a long time painting the same series...I needed a change. That feeling is still in me nowadays.
- José Antonio Sorolla
Currently, José Antonio is working on a fresh series that attempts to capture a moment of serene introspection and aesthetic awakening as people engage in the beauty of art, aptly entitled, "In the Museum."
He says he thought of the idea years ago but only began to interpret his vision now. "The inspiration came from a visit I made to various museums in Madrid," he said. "I saw people totally engrossed looking at the paintings and sculptures, and I immediately realized that they were good images to transfer to the canvas.
It happens many times that you have more than one idea in mind, and you have to give way to one after another.
- José Antonio Sorolla
Like his other series, these latest images offer the impression of a scene from a film that conveys the tangibility and emotional depth of a passing moment. Landau Contemporary is privileged to present the first images of these new works that will arrive in the gallery this fall.
José Antonio works from photographs, but his paintings do not shock nor are they a statement against abstraction, as with the Photorealists. Instead, his works serve as tableaus that show the artist's love for his subjects and his unusual attention to light and colour which captivates the viewer and draws us into his world.
Film still from J.A. Sorolla Gallén
Teresa, The Young Artist
José Antonio has exhibited his work extensively and globally since 1983, including in France, Russia, Lebanon, Canada and the United States. Painting is the only vocation and livelihood he has known, a veritable testament to his inherent gift of relating viscerally and visually to collectors for over three decades, a rare occurrence in today’s competitive art world.
Born in Onda (Castellón) Spain, from a long line of Spanish pottery craftsmen, José Antonio Sorolla Gallén picked up his first paintbrush at the age of eleven. Without a formal education in studio arts, Sorolla gathered considerable technical skill and invaluable aesthetic knowledge via observation and hands-on work in the family studios, painting and glazing ceramics.
A self-described ‘sponge’, his fascination with painting grew, and by the age of twenty, he was assiduously studying books and manuals on oil painting. His first foray at the easel resulted in an expressionist period, using various media such as straw, paper, and hessian leftover from paint cans. Improvisation was exciting to the new painter, and not knowing the final result left him exhilarated and especially eager to broaden all possibilities.
His painting stages were liberated without abrupt change and smoothly linked in transition, where one style gently emancipated itself from the former. When things got ‘easy’, or after a long time immersed in the same series, he would grow restless and seek new horizons to explore. He states, “I have always liked to drink from different fountains, as we say in Spanish.”
The shift to figurative painting seemed natural in evolution, as he has consistently desired to challenge himself methodologically and intellectually. His current influences are from the figurative periods of Gerhard Richter and Edward Hopper, whose images are likened to still frames from a movie screen.
Now in a contemporary photorealistic phase, Sorolla is working simultaneously with nature and the human form. His subjects are found through his camera lens, painstakingly and theatrically positioned in the foreground of immense skies and seascapes. At other times, he catches his subjects quite candidly in natural poses, which strikes him as honest and endearing; the weary slouch of a shoulder, a lazily bent knee, faded denim awash in vivid sunlight, or a group of tourists gazing idly at a cloudy ocean panorama.
Selected Group & Solo Exhibitions
2018 Art Miami, Landau Fine Art
2018 Solo exhibition, Landau Fine Art
2017 Galleri Kim Anstensen, Gothenburg
2015 Galerie Atzenhofer, Nuremberg
2014 Cynthia Noura Art Gallery, Beirut
2014 Mayer Fine Art, Norfolk
2013 Formats d'hiver, Galleri Kim Anstensen, Gothenburg
2013 Solo exhibition, Cynthia Noura Art Gallery, Beirut
2012 Caution! Not a photo! Lazarev Gallery, St. Petersberg
2012 Exposition spécial Noël, Daniel Besseiche Gallery, Knokke-Le Zoute
2012 Solo exhibition, Gallery Fineart, Moscow
2012 Solo exhibition, Galleri Kim Anstensen, Gothenburg
2011 Small Format. El Quatre sala d'art de Granollers, Barcelona
2011 Le Siants Galerie, Barcelona
2010 Le Siants Galerie, Prague
2009 Una mirada plural, Centre Cultural Palau de Vivel, Vall de Uxó, Spain
2009 L'Algepsar Gallery, Castellón
2008 Solo exhibition, L'Algepsar Gallery, Castellón
2008 Solo exhibition, Molí de la Reixa. Onda Exhibition Hall, Castellón
2007 Solo exhibition, Museo de la Baronia, Ribesalbes
2005 Amicia e Arte, El Museu del Taulell 'Manolo Safont' de Onda and Fiorano, Italy
2002 Retrospective, Fundación Caja Castellón, Onda Exhibition Hall and Sala de Exposiciones Casa de Cultura, Castellón
2001 Asensi Gallery, Castellón
1998 Solo exhibition, Onda Exhibition Hall, Castellón
1996 L'Art i L'Home, Second Cycle, Centre Cultural Polivalent, Fundació Caixa Castelló, La Vall D’Uixó, Castellón
1995 Del Este Gallery, Valencia
1994 Galeria Octubre, Jaume I University, Castellón
1994 First Festival, Arte del Desecho, Parque Ribalta, Castellón
1993 Torres Begué Gallery, Madrid
1990 Solo exhibition, Sueras City Hall, Castellón
1989 Solo exhibition, Pictograma Gallery, Castellón
1986 Caja Rural, Vila-Real
1985 Solo exhibition, Trassos Gallery, Castellón
1983 Onda Town Hall, Castellón
We thank you for visiting our online exhibition. Please contact the gallery to find out more about this exceptional artist. Images are courtesy of the artist and his daughter, Teresa Sorolla.