Spanish painter Jaime Valtierra’s oeuvre includes neo-expressionist painting, drawings, and prints. The impressive and complex work often features vivid brushwork, bold colours and the use of black lines in the style of modernist artists from the early twentieth century, most notably the work of Chaïm Soutine, a transformative influence for Valtierra’s practice. As well, the brush stroke and drawing mark bears great similarity to the work of Oskar Kokoschka, but with a contemporary sensibility, and an approach to light, shadow and colour that seems in turn informed by the legacy of Spanish painting. Fragmented narratives, esoteric motifs and the presence of the ladder, the figure of the artist and other emblematic Expressionist features also tie the artist’s practice to the enigmatic and disturbing paintings of Max Beckmann and Francis Bacon.
Beyond such ideas of antecedents and stylistic concerns, Valtierra shares with these artists an interest in the evocation of emotion, a kind of theatrical dramatic embodied by figures in motion. As a contemporary artist committed to the industry and technical aspect of painting, the artist makes many of his own oil colours from pigments, and begins with drawings, noting “From there I study, explore and rehearse with multiple drawings the composition which will the become the painting. I execute large paintings in an intensive and continuous number of sessions and generally tend not to retouch.”
Valtierra fills the entire picture plane with colour, activity and strangely eerie narratives, that seem at once archaic and contemporary. Compressed scenes with skewed perspectives of people creates a sense of chaotic angularism. In certain images there is a realism in the depiction of objects and people, and in others a more stylized rendering. Nevertheless, the work is united by a sense of the carnivalesque as well as a connection to the work of old masters, expressed in a painterly language and iconography entirely of the painter’s own invention.
Today, the artist notes that his work emerges from an interest in history, literature and philosophy and the exploration of “points of relation between Spanish and English history, including topics such as the myth of El Dorado, the Armada conflict, religious wars and the reformation.” Such engagement reflects the complexity of Valtierra’s work, a practice that innovatively intersects contemporary concerns, painterly technique and historic motifs.
Rosa JH Berland