Restoration of a work by Darío Urzay
The Belly of the Observer (Threshold of attention) (Afterimages), 2001
Every year the museum undertakes a range of conservation and restoration projects on works of art in its permanent collection thanks to the sponsorship of Iberdrola, a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. This year's programme features a special project that has focused on one of the most distinctive and sophisticated contemporary works in the collection. The Belly of the Observer (Threshold of attention) (Afterimages) by Darío Urzay (born Bilbao, 1958) is the result of a commission by the museum itself in 2001 in conjunction with the exhibition Gaur, Hemen, Orain, which was devoted to contemporary Basque art.
Darío Urzay conceived the original work for a specific site in the museum, the corridor in the so-called “modern building” with its large glass windows giving onto the Plaza del Monumento a Arriaga. The work comprises two, interconnected parts in which the independent elements are less important than the overall work, of which the starting point is the “primary creation” of the small paintings (Threshold of attention).
The five small panels (150 x 122 cm) of Threshold of attention, executed in oil, resin and photographic paper on wood, provide the starting point for the large ones (280 x 235 cm) given that they are their negative image. They were then photographed, digitalised, printed on translucent material (Afterimages) and installed between two sheets of glass mounted in iron frames.
The work thus offers a summary of most of Urzay's artistic concerns, including the fusion of artistic techniques and media (painting, photography and digital creation); the combination of the abstract and its correspondence with reality though greatly enlarged images based on biological forms; the manner in which the viewer is encouraged to undertake a dual contemplation which completes the work in that person's gaze; and the use of red, and its complementary green, as a metaphor of life.
After more than fifteen years on display the work revealed significant alterations. After a detailed study in which the artist himself was involved a new presentation has been created, involving reprinting the various elements and their reduction to just eight. In addition, the four large images are now shown in back-lit light boxes in a wall-based installation.
In the artist's words, this new presentation offers a different “way of being” for the works and a different relationship with the viewer. Nonetheless, it remains the same; a synthetic creation and possibly the finest of Urzay's “negative paintings”, which has now regained its chromatic intensity and the dynamic expressivity of each of the images that have been restored.
The restoration involved a new printing of the four elements of Afterimages which make up this work together with Threshold of attention. The number of elements of each of the parts has been reduced from five to four. This process was undertaken in collaboration with the artist, Darío Urzay, and Estudios Durero. Based on the original images, new UV prints have been made on a special fabric (Artist Backlight Senfa) which offers the highest printing quality. Each of the four pieces of fabric has been mounted on a corresponding aluminium panel which has LED strip lighting to back-light the images. The transmission of light has achieved the translucent effect desired by the artist.
Meet the artist
Speaking live in the gallery Darío Urzay will explain the creative keys to his work and will discuss the process of its restoration with María José Ruiz-Ozaita, head of the museum's restoration department.
Free activity exclusively offered to Friends of the Museum
Thursday 19 July, 11.30 am, Room 32
Information, tel: + 34 94 439 60 60
Iberdrola, committed to society
Since it was first founded Iberdrola has been committed to the development of the communities in which it is present in terms of energy, culture and social issues. In this sense Fundación Iberdrola España represents a further step in that commitment through its support for initiatives that contribute to improving individuals' quality of life.
The Fundación focuses its activities on training and research in the fields of energy through the award of grants and funding for young people; biodiversity, with projects that protect the environment; cultural development, centred on the protection and care of the cultural and artistic heritage; and international cooperation with society's most vulnerable sectors through initiatives relating to facilitating social and workplace inclusion, particularly with children and young people.
Iberdrola's collaboration with the museum is based on three strategic lines of action:
• The Conservation and Restoration programme, which every year funds the treatment of a series of works of art in the museum's permanent collection.
• The Iberdrola-Museum grant for supporting training and research in the field of the conservation and restoration of works of art.
• Educational activities specifically designed to introduce the museum to the special needs public, including those with visual or cognitive impairment, and through social insertion programmes.
Finally, and with regard to the work by Darío Urzay presented today, the Iberdrola art collection includes two works by the artist: Nocturnal Landscape 1 and Nocturnal Landscape 2, on display in the atrium of the Torre Iberdrola.