ARTE AL LIMITE: CLAUDIO BRAVO - CONFESSIONS OF A BOURGEOIS PAINTER
After a stressful series of exhibitions in Florida, Madrid, London, Montecarlo and La Loire, Claudio Bravo ends 2006 with a show in Chile, where he exhibits his best works of the last 5 years. Bravo is one of the most valued Chilean artists in the international market, and his dazzling technical virtuosity has received high recognition. Close to seventy, he admits that he gets tired faster, but in spite of everything, he wants to die at the age of ninety, working on his easel.
By Ana María De Aguirre
"A talented man, to whom Heaven gave a gift that nobody else has". That's Claudio Bravo, as seen by Claudio Bravo.
It's a fact that his talent has converted him in one of the most successful living painters worldwide, which allows him to live as a king, concentrated on his canvas, and being highly valued in the international market. His works are listed in the prestigious public and private collections like the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Museo Rufino Tamayo (Mexico), the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA (New York), and the Meter Ludwig Museum (Cologne), among others. With a successful career that started in Chile at the age of 17, it is worth mentioning that he was selected at the age of 36 to exhibit in the fifth Documenta Kassel, in 1972.
So, year in, year out, Bravo accumulated exhibitions throughout the world. At the beginning of 2006, the Naples Museum Of Art in Florida showed a retrospective of his works, and there was another exhibition during the second half of the year in the castle of Chenonceau, France. The painter closes the season 2006 in Chile, with a selection of his best works of the last years, shown during December in Galería A.M.S. Marlborough in Santiago.
En route to far away places
At the age of 24 and without any money, he left his homeland. "I went away from Chile because there was no taste there.", he says from Morocco. Then he went to Madrid, where he got famous by means of drawing portraits of celebrities.
He made more than 300 portraits in eight years, for example of King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofía and the Infantas. During his first years in this city, he studied the great masters of Museo del Prado, especially the collection of Italian Renaissance and Spanish Baroque. His favourite artists were Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Zurbarán, who were very important in his artistic development: "When I went into the museums and studied the main artists, my ideas changed, and then I did my best portraits", he remembers.
In 1963, Bravo had his first exhibition in Madrid, where he kept on showing through a decade. In 1970 he exhibits in Staempfli Gallery, New York, with very good reviews. He went to Morocco, where he currently lives in one of his three palaces. "I got bored of painting portraits, I had a good amount of money and, as I like enjoying life, I said goodbye to Spain. I wanted to do what I pleased", he states.
In Tanger, the ambience, the people, the colours, the landscape and the lack of social pressure that he had experienced in Madrid gave an existential turn to his thematic repertoire. In 1981, he exhibited for the first time at the Marlborough Gallery, New York, which presents him, Fernado Botero and Rufino Tamayo as exclusive artists. In 1994, he had a major solo exhibition in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Chile, that meant the reconciliation with his homeland. The exhibition had 180,000 visitors.
Bravo's reality Morocco fed the painter's creative mind, increasing the thematic repertoire of his works. His techniques are oil, charcoal, pastel and engraving, showing a reality that sometimes exceeds which lies in the models. "I try to mix what is eternal with what is present, and I think that I'm achieving my purpose", he says.
His painting has been described as realist, hyperrealist, and even photorealist, labels that Bravo refuses. "My work was at first very realistic, but later I started being a bit abstract. I have aligned myself more with the priorities of modern art, but I don't forget the fact that I'm realistic. While you're getting old, you're getting young", he declared in the catalogue of his last show. But there's no photorealism in his work. "The word photo annoys me, because I have never painted from a photo. I have been influenced by many artists, including not only the great masters (...) I have sailed over the history of art through my paintings". His prestige goes far beyond his expectations. "The success of my pictures exceeds all my dreams, I never thought that I was going to be so famous, so expensive. I never thought that I was going to have presidents, kings and ministers knocking at my door".
Claudio Bravo inside
Do you identify yourself with an artistic trend? How would you define your work?
It's a very strange mix. My pictures are completely realistic, as the ones from Museo del Prado, but the themes are completely different. Now I hardly ever paint figures. I have had an exhibition with canvas that looked like abstract paintings. They looked so realistic that you wished to touch them.
Have you researched on new pictorial techniques to apply on your work?
I don't want to betray myself. I have a very special talent to copy the reality, and I have tried many times to do another kinds of painting, but my friends - great painters - told me "don't be mad, you have a gift from Heaven which nobody else has". I copy a different reality, I re-invent it, just follow my gifts. Why would I betray myself by doing another kind of painting and following the others? I like being myself, not being like anyone else, so the only way is following the gifts that God gave me. I paint reality, and as it's full of mistakes that I don't like, I correct it.
What's your work methodology?
I have had nine exhibitions in the last two years: one in Florida, another in Madrid and London. Now, I'm in Montecarlo and in Loire. As you see, I can't stop working. I have to keep on painting the whole day. I start painting at nine, I have to answer calls, the kitchen, the service… that's why I fall asleep at nine pm, so tired am I!
Do you have the feeling that your pictorial work means a contribution to the visual arts?
My contribution to art is doing the best works that I can do. I think that nowadays artists don't work but improvise, they buy an object, turn it over and that turns out to be an sculpture! I think that the only example that I can set to the young artists is first-class working, I'm a hard-working man.
How do you face criticism?
Critics seems funny to me, and I collect the bad ones. I read them to my friends and we die of laughter.
What's your relationship with Chile? Have you ever thought about coming back?
I have three palaces in Morocco, with 36 workers, I can't go away from a place where I'm so well organized. I had a country house in Chile, but I sold it because I got ill every time I went there. It's too far away. So, I have devoted my time to my house here, and I enjoy everything that I like. The morrocans are very loving with me, and it's like my own family, so why would I go away?
Translation: Raúl Molín López