Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Very thankful for 2013, looking forward to 2014 so Happy New Year!

2013 was a year that brought forth new projects and new frontiers for my work. In the beginning of this year I was still working on the project Devocionales: neo colonial retablos from an archetypal perspective. It was originally planned to be a collection of 22 retablo paintings reinterpreting the 22 major Arcana from the Tarot, using the archetypal core themes as departing points for the colonial- neo-colonial narrative connections.  Instead, It became more flexible and broke away from what I felt was becoming a constricting conceptual structure that limited the meaning and possibilities of the work. In the end, the project became a collection of 20 pieces loosely based in the Tarot but always pointing towards the archetypal themes not only present in Tarot and astrology but in art history as well.  It has been the most complex work I've worked on so far, layering signs, symbols and elements from different historical traditions but all converging at the same archetypal meeting points.

This work was presented in September at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum at Mesa, Arizona and got good attention and a very positive response from the public. I am very grateful to Tiffany Fairfall, Colette Pencenka, Patty Haberman, Betty Florez and Marco Albarran, who with professionalism and hard work helped make this project possible at the museum. It was presented alongside another interesting exhibition titled Messin’ with the Masters, an excellent group show of contemporary artists reinterpreting the works of the old masters. We had a great time in Arizona, met some old friends and made new ones as well. Oh and I should mention that one of the pieces (La Emperatriz) that formed part of Devocionales is now part of the museum’s permanent collection.

 La Emperatriz (2013) Oil and metal leaf on panel 24 x 47 
By Patrick Mcgrath Muñiz
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum Collection

In the second half of this year I prepared work for a second solo show titled M@donnas: Reintepretations of the image of Mary. After completing Devocionales, I felt the need to create a work that was lighter, much more intuitive and direct. The idea was to present painted reinterpretations of the image of the Virgin Mary depicting her in relation and to several contemporary issues such as consumerism, environmental crisis and the mass media pervasive global culture.  

 Space Age Madonna (2013) Oil on canvas 24" x 36"
By Patrick Mcgrath Muñiz

This collection of 15 oil paintings on canvas and panel was presented in November at La Antigua Galeria de Arte in Antigua Guatemala. This project had a very good response from the general public and very good coverage from the media. I wish to thank Estela de Johnston, gallery manager and Frank Lee Mays, gallery owner for providing me with the space and opportunity to show my work in Guatemala once again. Mercedes, Christian and Monique, the gallery staff also did a very good job and it’s always a pleasure to work with them.  

Finally in December, the show Devocionales: neo colonial retablos from an archetypal perspective was transferred to Tansey Contemporary (Formerly Jane Sauer Gallery) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One thing I enjoy about my job as an artist is the opportunity I get to travel and visit new places each time I have a solo show.  New Mexico in winter was a surreal experience for me, not being used to seeing snow and desert in the same place, it was simply beautiful! Travelling with my wife made the experience even more fun as we ventured together on a trip to Chaco Canyon, to visit the complex ancient ruins that are a must see for anyone who has the time when visiting the state. 

La Papisa (2013) Oil and metal leaf on panel 24" x 47"
By Patrick Mcgrath Muñiz
Available at Tansey Contemporary

Of course the opening night for the show at Tansey Contemporary was the highlight of the trip and it had a very good turnout. Media coverage was great and response was very positive as well. I am very pleased to be working with such a nice team of professionals that give it their best when it comes to presenting new work to the public. I wish to thank Jane Sauer who gave me the opportunity to show my work at the gallery and to Richard Boyle and Jorden Nye for their friendship, dedication, and support for these past two years.  I was also very glad to meet Paige Diem and Jeff Uffelman, who are artists themselves and now contribute with their expertise at the gallery. Mike and Jennifer Tansey, the new gallery owners, have been great to work with and I feel honored to be one of the artists represented by their gallery.

I wish to thank them and all of you for your constant support throughout my artistic career. I wish to specially thank my wife Blanquita and my family, in Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Spain and Florida who have been there supporting me for all these years and to my close friends and colleagues who keep me inspired with their work and friendship. I can already see 2014, a year full of blessings and creative potential waiting to be unleashed. I hope to keep this blog going, this artist studio super productive and wish you all Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year! See you next year!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

M@donnas: Contemporary Re-interpretations of the image of Mary

 Rainbow Madonna (2013)
30" x 30" Oil on Canvas
Patrick McGrath Muñiz

After completing "Devocionales" Neo Colonial Retablos from an Archetypal Perspective", currently on display at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Mesa, Arizona, I started a new project  titled "M@donnas: Contemporary Re-interpretations of the image of Mary". If I consider "Devocionales" to be like an archetypal jigsaw puzzle, "Madonnas" would the creative exploration of one of the pieces from the puzzle. She is the daughter of "Devocionales" for it was the project I had in mind and looked forward to work on while I painted the retablos for "Devocionales". Derived specifically from the piece "Virgen de las Revelaciones" this work is vividly colored and a lighter approach to one of the many archetypes I worked with in the previous project, that is the archetype of the Mother and Child. From Mother Earth, to Mother Celebrity Diva, the work explores different relationships between various contemporary issues affecting our world  and reshaping the meaning of the Mother and Child archetype.

Maria Mundi (2013)
35" x 50" Oil on Canvas
Patrick McGrath Muñiz

The present collection of oil paintings on canvas and wood are inspired by the sacred imagery of the Virgin Mary from Spanish Colonial art. By recontextualizing colonial iconography, the work responds to some of the current global and Neo-colonial issues that affect the Americas today. The depictions of contemporary “Madonnas” are visited by characters and narratives that derive from Pop culture, consumerism, Hollywood and the Mass Media Apparatus. These interventions reflect on how the environment, economy and culture of former colonies have become heavily influenced and indoctrinated by new colonial powers, large trans-national corporations and the global market economy. As in most of my work, I appropriate past propaganda tactics and painting devices from the time of the conquest and colonization of the Americas in order to provide historical continuity and a link between the Colonial and the Neo-colonial narratives. Even though one might sense the implied negative effects, the narratives inhabited by baby angels, animals and other fictional characters, project a light of satire, charm and even optimism onto the ecological and socio-cultural issues in question.

Nuestra Señora Protectora del Libre Comercio (2013)
48" x 48" Oil on Canvas
Patrick McGrath Muñiz

This collection will be on display at La Antigua Galeria de Arte  4ta Calle Oriente #15, 03001, Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez. The Opening will be on November 9th, 2013 at 4 p.m.
For more information visit the gallery website or the facebook event.
To see more of my recent work you can also visit Jane Sauer Gallery, in Santa Fe, NM.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Eco-Madonna: A retablo painting process

As part of my current project "M@donnas. contemporary re-interpretations of the image of Mary", I have documented the painting process of one of the pieces in the collection. I shall discuss the technical aspects behind the work in this article. 

First of all, the retablo triptych used for this piece was created in Ciudad Vieja, Guatemala by the Camargo brothers. Every time I travel to Antigua, I visit their shop and hand them drawings and designs of what I want them to carve for me or I simply purchase work they already have created. Their work in wood is pretty unique and it is inspired in colonial art and architecture, a very good reason why I like to incorporate their frames and supports into my work. 

The first part of the process involves an imprimatura or thin layer of oil paint, usually made of umbers and/or siennas. The neutral earth colors allow me to work from a middle tone ground towards the lights and darks. 

After I have applied the imprimatura, I proceed to rub off the brushstroke marks off the surface with a soft cloth. This is also done to take off any excess of paint so it will make the job much easier for the next step.

Once I have a more or less even surface that is not too wet to work on, I will start my underpainting. I usually start off  by replicating from a photoshop collage and some preliminary drawings I made.

I am using a 5/0 Kafka pinstriping scriptliner brush, one of the best for this kind of work.

 I am not too concerned about making mistakes at this point. If I don't like what I see, I simply rub off and re-draw over. I am basically drawing with oil paint, which is very thin and usually of the same color of the imprimatura (just concentrated or slightly darker).

I do not need a super detailed piece at this moment but just a general outline of where the characters will be and the overall setting and space relationships. I can detail later on.

Once the underdrawing is complete, I start adding lights with another thin round sable/synthetic brush. I am using titanium white for this but I could be using flake white as well or a mixture.

My primary attention always goes to the protagonists of the composition, I feel once must have a hierarchy in mind well in advance when painting. I spend more time on the planned focal point from the very start.

Notice I have also added some darks into the composition. For this I have used Ivory black and Burnt Umber. I keep my color palette very limited for this part of the painting process.

With a little of Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber I start defining the darker skins of my characters.

With a larger brush I start working on the skies. I often use two colors and blend in with a larger blender brush. The best kind of brush for this should have soft and dry. At this stage I have started adding temperature variations to the piece. A cooler blue sky turning into a warmer yellow contrasts with the even warmer portrait of the Virgin Mary.

At this point I start to define specific features of not only my characters but of important objects and surrounding elements.

Assigning colors and values to each brush speeds up the process even if you have to spend an extra time cleaning up afterwards. By doing this you will save time while painting and avoiding muddying colors in the process.

For this type of work I prefer to allow one day for the imprimatura and underdrawing to dry before applying subsequent layers of colors.

As I paint and define background skies and characters I make sure I lighten the background a bit more when characters are darker and darken background when characters are lighter. This will allow them to pop out and become protagonists  in the composition.

 Although much of the work requires sound drawing and detail, I should point out that I am also blending and blurring out edges as much as I define just so things don't look too sharp and become more atmospheric. This of course should be a conscious decision and not repeated over every element. Be selective and consider the implications of blurring or erasing edges for this will inevitably be tied up with the content and meaning of the narrative you wish to project. 

With every piece, before I finish I take a step back and look at the overall composition, lighting and spacial relationships. At this point I may decide to add or edit elements and minor changes occur until the piece becomes cohesive and satisfies my intended narrative. Often a piece is finished earlier than one has planned as certain planned elements are omitted as they seem to become unnecessary add-ons.
Remember to just keep the essentials in a narrative. Narrative works that become too complex become too overwhelming to read.  Below, an image of the finished piece:

Oil and metal leaf on carved wood triptych
18" x 23.5"
by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

This piece along with 12 other paintings will be part of my upcoming solo exhibition "M@donnas" at La Antigua, Galeria de Arte, in Antigua, Guatemala. The opening will be on November, 9th, 2013. For more information about this exhibition you can contact the gallery at  artintheamericas@gmail.com
More updates on this project will be be announced soon so stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New lovers in the Planet of the Apps

Planet of the Apps
Oil on canvas 36” x 36”

In allusion to the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Planet of the Apps is a satirical piece that comments on the strong influence and power of modern technology in human relationships. This piece also makes a reference to a famous 1968 classic film Planet of the Apes. Smart Ape characters Zira and Cornelius can be seen hiding behind the bushes right in between Adam and Eve. 

 Planet of the Apps (detail)

Planet of the Apps also stands in as a painting inspired after the sixth Major Arcana of the Tarot “The Lovers”, which in many versions has depicted similar scenes of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In this particular version, the Adam and Eve ignore each other and pay more attention to their smart phones. Adam’s parts are covered by a shopping plastic bag while Eve’s is covered with the traditional leaf device. 

                                              Planet of the Apps (detail)

They are framed by a large circular window and on the outer corners, three chimps and the prehistoric ancestor of all mammals, Protungulatum donnae, the link between humans and beasts. The earliest known mammal is seen reaching out for the latest known technological “App” with an acorn symbol on it, suggesting the driving force that divides humanity from the rest of living mammals in the planet. 

 Planet of the Apps

The three apes cover their eyes, mouth and ears, quoting the Japanese proverbial principle: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. Darwinian Evolution plays a small but no less part in this narrative. Within the rounded frame behind Eve and on the far right a Tyrannosaurus Rex moves out of the scene as a falling asteroid in the sky is about to collide. Close by, a broken billboard reads “I Consumer therefore I am”. On the far left behind Adam, the descendant of the dinosaur, a Chicken with chicks walks down a road. Nearby another damaged billboard reads “Slave, Obey your Master” citing Colossians 3-22.  Right next to the ad, a circle of apes worships a tall dark obelisk. This is another pop culture reference from Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Three crosses on a small hill behind require a closer look in order to discover the logos of well known multinational internet corporations. 

 Planet of the Apps

 Above, sitting over a tree branch a little cupid makes a gesture of silence to a surprised serpent, while he listens to music in his I-Pod. This painting reflects on how vitally important and central technology has become in our social lives, not only changing the way we relate to each other but the way we relate to history, culture and religion as well.

Planet of the Apps

 This painiting will be on display along with other 19 pieces on my upcoming exhibition. "Devocionales: Neo-colonial retablos from an archetypal perspective" at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, from September 13th thru December 1st 2013. For more information visit www.mesaartscenter.com.. To see more of my work you may also visit Jane Sauer Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.