Manu García

There is a recurrent motif in Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading regarding a simple pencil, which the protagonist sharpens daily in order to record the absurdist events transpiring before him during his indefinite period of incarceration prior to execution. As readers, we soon become aware that the protagonist’s remaining time in the cell directly corresponds to the length of his pencil – and his very ability to record his surroundings.

A similar pencil – oversize, omnipresent – seems to stalk the works of Spanish artist Manu García. Be it inspired by Nabokov or not, the young painter posits similar importance on the pencil – well, it is arguably the most basic communicative appendage for an artist – and García himself claims his paintings are a similarly diaristic process. Perhaps this giant pencil, worth of a fever dream, is about the very internal process of using a primary tool to create a painting and tell a story. A callback to the artist’s own self-reflexive process of discovery by making the very works we see, and using the foundational and constitutional elements of the work as the work in itself. Yves Klein called this being an aesthete, so important were the tools to making the work, (in his case International Klein Blue), that they became the work in and of itself.

The pencil appears to welcome viewers, moreover to invite viewers into García’s thought processes when creating a work. “The beginning of the works is usually completely abstract… developed in sessions I try to keep as free and random as possible so that I can come up with things that surprise me.” Throughout his works, one sees how his thought processes are further inherent to his creation. Just like Philip Guston, who began painting the detritus and debris around his studio, we see banal elements that have been (carefully?) arranged within the painterly space: kettles, pencils, shoes, Crocs, bits of stitching or various bric-a-brac, or even what appear to be colour swatches tested right upon the canvas surface. There is a pony-tailed woman, whom we interpret as, perhaps, García’s lover or partner. All items appear to be of great familiarity to the artist, almost as a sort of codex for us to decipher in creating a greater mythology surrounding the work. And there is a delicious, visceral freneticism paired with the maturity and confidence to step away from a canvas to allow these visual cues space to breathe, to interact. Comparisons to de Kooning, who worked vigorously and seemingly from a place of pure intention, seem fitting. For García too, this process could be akin to automatic writing: “the work [is conceived] as a game; not in a trivial way, but in the sense of playing with images and spaces to connect with myself and others. Putting together aspects apparently far from logical in a field where primitive impulses and a fragmented aesthetic can share a space.”

García’s work seems concerned with invoking a kind of emotion, but also with creating repeated metaphors and allusions that create a greater narrative. As viewers, we are invited to approach the works with our own stories – stories that we might use to decipher the referents and symbols utilized herein. The infantile scribbles of Red Moon Head speak to childlike wonder; the presence of birds in Like the Bird who Learned to Fly might suggest the dawn of spring, the avian familiars outside García’s studio window, a gesture toward a song, a poem (Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” springs to mind), or even a popular quote by Martin Luther King, (‘We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.’) Finally, that recurrent pencil says a lot about the ability an artist like García has in recording his surroundings and presenting them, for eager eyes, to interpret.

MANU GARCÍA (b. 1994, Oviedo, Spain) currently lives and works in Oviedo, Spain. Fernández studied Fine Arts at the University of Salamanca, graduating in 2017. Group exhibitions include: Opening of HAGD Contemporary, HAGD Contemporary, Aalborg, Denmark (2023); Watch Me Burn (curated by Rasmus Peter Fischer), Ruttkowski;68, Paris, France (2022); An invisible line, Estudipablodelillo, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain (2020); Corps primaires, Galeria C.O.A, Montreal, Canada (2020); PERSONA, Estudiopablodelillo, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain (2019); Rica Pulpa, Estudiopablodelillo, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain (2018); Cuaderno Moreno, Espacio Naranjo, Madrid (2018); Oasis, Sala LAI, Gijon, Spain (2018); Descodificando Descomisariando, Sala AVAM Matadero, Madrid, Spain (2018) and; Selection best TFG Da2, Salamanca, Spain (2017). Residencies include: La Brea Studio Residency – The Cabin LA, LA (2023). Solo exhibitions include: Solo, Galerie Wolfsen, Aalborg, Denmark (2022); I prefer the Sun Except at Night, Borrón Hall, Oviedo, Spain (2021). Prizes include: San Marcos Award, The Salina, Salamanca, Spain (2015; 2016 and; 2017); Bienal de Noreña (first prize), Asturias, Spain (2016); Young Creators La Gaceta, Salamanca, Spain (2014; 2015; 2016 and; 2017); Casimiro Baragaña (exhibition), Pola de Siero, Spain (2017 & 2020); Casimiro Sainz National Painting Contest, Reinosa, Spain (2018) and; 29 Plastic Arts Exhibition of the Principality of Asturias, Asturias, Spain (2018 & 2019). Manu also works with HAGD Contemporary in Aalborg, Denmark.

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