Joan Rom / Bruno Ollé Antagonistic proposals at the Fundació Suñol
By: Joan Morey


Fundació Suñol hosts a monographic exhibition by Joan Rom (Barcelona, 1954) going on till January 25th 2014. Under the title “E.R.T.” (meaning something rigid, closed and circumscribed) establishes an itinerary through the artist’s work from between 1986 till 1996. All the works in the exhibition belong to that period, as Joan Rom decided to abandon his artistic career in the late nineties. He continues to work with the arts as a teacher and viewer, although these latest aspects are perhaps not important biographical appendices for this exhibition in which the power and strength of the fifty-one selected pieces is clearly legible. The exhibition includes sculptures, installations, drawings and photographs. In each of the rooms a specific facet of the work is considered together with its influence and impact on the Catalan artistic movements of that decade.

Joan Rom’s training and artistic activity coincided with a period of intense cultural dynamism throughout Spain, caused primarily by the end of the Franco regime and the political and social openness of that time. The country then opened itself up to artistic events going on in the rest of Europe and the United States, where the creative ferment generated far-reaching artistic movements. As a result, the work of Joan Rom was influenced by Arte Póvera (poor art, an art current form the 60s/70s), the conceptual and the minimal, but in turn distanced itself from such movements while in practice the works are more poetical in tone. The pieces are multifaceted compositions (including timber, wool, leather, rubber, paper ...) found objects (from which he obtained these materials) and waste material (which takes on new meanings) to which he lends a poetic dimension and new meaning.

Joan Rom, challenging accepted conventions of the time, incorporated certain mechanisms within the work such as the act of collecting materials, the notion of chance and new ways of dealing with objects belonging to other disciplines. In this way he dissects and reorganizes in order to retain the object’s memory but transforming and highlighting essential aspects of its form. Focusing on the sober treatment of language, Joan Rom produced a body of work that shifts between figuration and abstraction in which the viewer can wander easily without having to understand exactly what the artist is communicating.

In parallel Fundació Suñol presents the “Hoy es siempre todavía” exhibition by Bruno Ollé (Barcelona, 1983) at its Nivell Zero gallery. The brief career of this artist is significant within the context of this proposal, which does not limit itself to the gallery interior but extends beyond to the annex courtyard. To do so a wooden structure like a fence divides the room and the courtyard into two, creating a new situational exhibition. This site-specific installation examines the ability of an element to drastically change the preconceived idea of a space or landscape. In this case, the impact on the Nivell Zero gallery space which undermines the idea of the 'white cube' as a container for work which is forced out of the space, which at the same time neutralizes our expectations of the space and what we will find therein.

Various sculptures made from assorted materials are organised along this new route, based on the strategic intervention, some of which are found objects and others somewhere between sculpture, installation and drawn-out painting. As noted by Bruno Ollé “giving oneself to an artwork means leaving your fears behind. It also means reading between the lines. To escape scientific and theoretical certainties, accepting error which in some ways is more accurate. The work is generated from the assemblage of disjointed images allowing dreams to be constructed from them.” This way the artist gets to explore, build and draw from such principles, in his anxiety to change and de-contextualise their environment finding the very mechanisms he uses to establish his language.

On the other hand, and more conventionally, drawings from the series Temporal continuo are also presented which the artist undertakes regularly as if it were a visual diary. The exploration of line and space presented here within the three dimensionality of the room saturates the paper. With these pencil drawings including sketches, ideas, or simple lines we are provided with visual aids in order to help us understand how the artist views form and space. These drawings are the testimony of a particular time and, while at the same time, a work which extyends indefinitely through its biographical strokes, minimal architectural representations and studies of display.

This unusual exhibition highlighting Bruno Ollé’s subtle way of doing things contrasts greatly with the power and historical precedent of Joan Rom. Two exhibitions featuring the work of two artists who are completely different but who employ similar techniques, materials and means of production, albeit for very different reasons. Establishing links between the work of Joan Rom and Bruno Ollé goes beyond their formal similarities. It makes sense now that both artists can be appreciated under the curatorship and artistic philosophy of the Fundació Suñol but it’s probably even more interesting to see how their respective careers were forged during uncertain times for the art world.

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