Exhibition: Marta Cárdenas Donation - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum


2015-06-19 • 2015-09-07

Marta Cárdenas Donation

Romm 33


In 2014 the Museum received a donation from painter Marta Cárdenas (San Sebastián, 1944) of a major set of her works, amounting in all to 295 works on paper and 55 artist's sketchbooks. A selection from this donation is now presented.

Cárdenas's career as an artist has been marked by the unceasing search for ways and means of expression, a search paralleled in her life by her travels, which have left a deep impression on her work. After her early training in the late 1950s in the Artistic Association of Guipúzcoa (San Sebastián), she studied at the San Fernando Fine Arts Academy in Madrid from 1963 to 1968. A year later, Cárdenas travelled to Paris, where she discovered painting from the life. On her return, she began to work on a series of landscapes in which she tried to capture the moment and get down her perceptions through the handling of light and colour stains. Encouraged by Chillida and b she also began to show her work, often with Vicente Ameztoy, Carlos Sanz and Ramón Zuriarrain, with whom she shared an interest in figurative painting. In 1975 she went to Ottawa, where, in the same year, she married prestigious composer Luis de Pablo (Bilbao, 1930). They lived in Ottawa for three years.

From 1977 on she travelled constantly and spent time in Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, Milan and Lisbon. She always took with her a sketch pad, a "laboratory-sketchbook", as she put it, wherever she went, getting observations and drawings down of everything and anything she found interesting. In 1979 she  decided to paint outdoors only, increase the size of her canvasses and produce her works practically in a single session, which obliged her to use a rapid, markedly gestural technique. Her work veered towards an intimate landscape art focused on exploring the tonal qualities of colour; compositional elements were reduced to minimal plant or orographic detail. As Cárdenas herself put it: "maximum economy in the drawing; maximum richness in the colour".

In the 1980s Cárdenas concentrated on a sort of sensorial, synthesised landscape built out of space and light. At the end of the decade her discovery of Zen philosophy left its mark on her painting. She began to use graphic resources borrowed from Oriental calligraphy to condense, in a single gesture, her entire expressive intent.

A journey to southern India in autumn 1996 brought about another change in her oeuvre, as she began to experiment with colours at several removes from visual reality. From then on, her work evolved towards a more evident materiality in which freely applied colour predominated.

Today Cárdenas lives and works in Madrid, and is currently preparing a major retrospective to be held in San Sebastián next year.