Swab 2015

Originally published on Pink and Brown Magazine

Once again we share some of the highlights from the Swab International Contemporary Art Fair, Barcelona. There were many fantastic artists to discover, here are our top five finds, in no particular order:

Juan Escudero in Galería Alegría, Madrid:

Galería Alegría represented Juan Escudero within the programme of Drawing Applications. Born in Bilbao and currently based in Barcelona, Juan Escudero’s drawings are simple, yet incredibly detailed, and form part of his series Piel (Skin). In them he explores the act of drawing a line and the natural wave and forms which can emerge naturally from that action. Using india ink, the artist draws line after thin line upon the paper, creating the effect of waves and textures from their varying closeness. They are abstract and process-lead drawings in which you can get lost and imagine different possibilities, one of which could be that they detail the relief of a landscape, like a topographic map.

Juan Escudero

Juan Escudero

Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza in Galerie Alain Gutharc, Paris:

Presented under Solo Swab, a programme curated by Direlia Lazo and Carolina Ariza which presents individual Latin American artists whose work is of a procedural and documentary nature. Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, an Ecuadorian artist based in Paris, exhibited a fascinating project. In her piece Untitled (Extras), 2009-2014, the artist used an eraser to remove the bodies and faces of anonymous people found in newspapers. She collected the eraser residue of each individual and stored them separately in tiny glass vials. Presented are a few of the newspapers, in which we can see large blurred areas where she has erased, a display case filled with hundreds of glass vials, arranged and labeled like scientific specimens, and a list which documents each person erased (the newspaper and date they were taken from) and links it to the corresponding vial. A tribute to the “extras” in our everyday life and a reminder of the many things that go unsaid, unnoticed, or unrecognized. Galerie Alain Gutharc was awarded the prize for Best Art Gallery at Swab 2015, sponsored by the Fundació Banc Sabadell.


Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza

Teresa Solar Abboud and Belén Zahera in Salón, Madrid

Shown within the Swab Seed programme, curated by David Armengol and representing independent spaces dedicated to contemporary art, Salón presented a compelling exhibition of ceramics. Based on a text from Gulliver’s travels, the project explores the physicality of language, playing with ways of representing words as objects, giving shape to a gesture or a vocal cord. Teresa Solar Abboud, for example, materialised sign language by moulding her clay based on the gestures, spelling out words like “chicken” by putting together the shapes imprinted by her hands when forming each letter. The objects were arranged on a shelving unit, and moved around each day and combined in different ways, creating new dialogues and connections every time.


Teresa Solar Abboud and Belén Zahera

Luisa Jacinto, Germán Portal and Gloria Martín in Galería Silvestre, Tarragona:

Galería Silvestre had a fantastic booth inside the Swab General Programme with many wonderful artists and an inspired presentation. While I enjoyed all their proposals, the highlight was discovering these three painters. Luisa Jacinto has a way with colour and brushstrokes, her paintings transmit a kind of serenity while retaining a sense of mystery which keeps the viewer wondering what is happening on the canvas. Germán Portal‘s paintings have a surreal edge. His large and striking painting, Figura al Sol,is clearly inspired by Picasso’s Nude Standing by the Sea, but in Portal’s version the figure is a structure made from cardboard templates. In this humorous series, Vanguardismo DIY, he questions the aura and glorification around certain works of art and artists. Gloria Martín‘s paintings are simple but contemplative and clearly thought-out. She takes everyday objects and visions and by virtue of the attention she shows them, she gives them an importance, turning them into mysterious and meaningful objects.

Javier Ayuso in 3k Art

3k Art is an online art platform which participated in the fair within the MYFAF programme of young galleries. What stood out the most in their stand was the work of Spanish photographer, Javier Ayuso. His series Walking Around (Sucede que me canso de ser perro) draws its inspiration from Pablo Neruda’s eponymous poem in which he reflects on the uncertainties and absurdities of existence and says “it so happens that I’m sick of being a man”. In his photographs Ayuso explores these concerns from the point of view of his dog, captured in moments where he appears almost human. Ayuso draws parallels between human and animals behaviors –encouraging the viewer to reflect upon the animal qualities which can perceived in human behavior as much as the human qualities seen in animals.


Javier Ayuso

See more of their work in Swab:

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Swab is an art fair dedicated exclusively to young emerging artists – most of the programmes within the fair are restricted to artists aged 45 and under. This year the fair presented 65 galleries from 22 countries, including Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Greece, and many more.


Home is not always as glamorous as being in exotic places but it feels good and comforting all the same. In his piece, Home Sweet Home, Damien Hirst screenprinted a plate to look like an ashtray, a comment on the gritty comfort of home as well as the fragility of human existence.

Home Sweet Home. Damien Hirst. 1996. Screenprint on porcelain.

Home Sweet Home. Damien Hirst. 1996. Screenprint on porcelain.

Cigarettes are a common motif in Hirst’s work (even after he quit in 2006) which he uses as a metaphor for life:

“For me, the cigarette can stand for life. The packet with its possible cigarettes stands for birth, the lighter can signify God, which gives life to the whole situation, the Ashtray represents death […] being metaphorical is ridiculous, but it’s unavoidable.”

Matisse: La Gerbe

La Gerbe. Henri Matisse. 1953.

La Gerbe. Henri Matisse. 1953.

La Gerbe (The Sheaf) is a large-scale ceramic mural by Henri Matisse which was commissioned in the early 1950s by Sidney and Frances Brody for their new home in California. The mural occupied a large empty wall in their sunny patio, and was the centrepiece of their home. Apart from La Gerbe, the Brodys had an extraordinary collection of modern art which included works by Picasso, Braque, Giacometti, Calder, and Moore, all of which were displayed in their elegant home designed by Quincy Jones.

Frances described the mural as having “a marvellous luminosity” and said “its simplicity of design never fails to bring warmth, gaiety, color and beauty to an area observed by all who pass through any part of the house. This is truly the heart of our home.”

La Gerbe in the Brody residence

La Gerbe in the Brody residence

LACMA has published the amusing account Frances Brody wrote on her experience commissioning the ceramic mural from Matisse. Click here to read it. The mural Apollo (pictured below) was Matisse’s initial proposal for the Brodys’ commission, they rejected it and persuaded him to make a new design. Frances wrote in the manuscript that she “disliked it intensely”, luckily she was thrilled with his next proposal. This piece is now in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. Personally, I think its beautiful also, but maybe not as appropriate for the setting.

Apollo. Henri Matisse. 1953.

Apollo. Henri Matisse. 1953.

In 2010, after Frances’ death, La Gerbe was relocated (a very difficult operation considering its weight of 1,000 Kg.) to LACMA, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

It doesn’t look half as magical without the tree and the warm and comfortable ambiance, but still, if it means more people can enjoy it, it’s ok with me. There’s still something wonderful and fulfilling about walking through an art museum/gallery, standing and gazing at works of art. I hope someday I’ll stand in front of this one! It makes me wonder, although Matisse is one of my all-time favourite artists, and I’m in love with this mural, if I lived with it, would it lose its magic?

La Gerbe as displayed in LACMA

La Gerbe as displayed in LACMA

Images thanks to LACMA