José Luis Puche
Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Duchamp, Magritte and Chirico are just some of the classical and contemporary influences listed by this young artist from Malaga, who in 2008 took his exhibition Next stop to Birmingham. He decided to become a professional painter in 2005, but at school he had already grabbed the attention of his teachers with early imitations of the Guernica by Picasso.
Rather than study fine arts, he read history of art at university, more out of familial obligation than personal choice. However, he has never regretted this decision: “the study of fine arts are excessively academic and formal. History has taught me the concept of art”. Puche then moved to Rome to conduct his doctorate degree. “Rome allowed me to consume an excess of classicism which I needed to fully develop my painting. I took to the extreme one of Leonardo’s pledges in which he stated that an artist should dedicate himself to drawing for eight years of his life, without touching a paintbrush. I therefore dedicated eight years to drawing. They were eight years of learning that allowed me to move towards contemporary art.
In Next stop José Luis Puche forces us to face death in his desire to remove the drama from it. “When I first saw the sculpture of the Dying Gaul, what surprised me most was its serenity”, explains the artist. “Death should be faced from a natural perspective, not as something dramatic”. Even so, the work he created for the Birmingham exhibition culminated in a piece called Brutalismo: five bodies hanging above empty space united by tubes. It is based on a photograph published in the press of a public execution in a square in Iraq. “I found it terrifying. The hanging bodies and a public space filled with people taking photographs of themselves with the dead bodies”, explains Puche. “When I was working on it, I found myself looking away on several occasions”.
Neither background nor warm colours interest him. “I am interested in the scene, the essence. The absence of background and warmth allow the personality to transcend”. The tubes? “They are the nexus of union between what you are and what allows you to be as you are. In La hora de la más corta sombra (The hour of the shortest shadow) the subject is joined to a machine, depends on it, and the machine is what ultimately destroys it”, clarifies the artist. “Someone once told me my work was extremely bleak. I answered that hanging on the same wall as my work was a crucifix, and that in essence this wasn’t all that different. It’s just another way of seeing death”, explains this artist from Malaga who uses art to channel his critique of the world surrounding him. “There are many things that can be made better, and art is a good channel for doing this”, comments Puche. He has done this with Next stop, and he did this at the time with Etiquetas por un tubo, a collection created in 2007 in protest of the obsession to label people. “I finished off the exhibit with a painting of a clothes-line titled Undersun. It was a metaphor for recycling: I wash myself, I dry myself, and I do something else, with a different label”.
After surviving the responsibility of starring in his own personal exhibition, Puche is working on his next collection and searching for the way to live from his talent. “In England they pay you to exhibit your work, while here you need to be grateful just to be given the space to show your work at all!” Even so, he admits that institutional initiatives such as MálagaCrea and Iniciarte, both of which have recognized his work, have helped him make a name for himself. “If it wasn’t for prizes like these, very few people would pay attention”, concludes the painter.
Puche promises to be bolder in his use of colour in the future. He confides that he has his eye on the Church as the next subject to be tackled in his work. “In the 21st century it continues to exercise a power which does not correspond to it and takes away freedom from the people”. We will be ready and waiting for the coming work produced by Jose Luis Puche, who promises to surprise the public with his art, as well as his dazzling smile.