Black Trunk of the Pharaoh

José Carlos Naranjo and Alan Sastre

23 June – 12 July 2017
Private View Thursday 22 June 2017, 6-9pm

Curated by Mathew Gibson

Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop is delighted to announce the opening of Black Trunk of the Pharaoh, an exhibition of paintings by José Carlos Naranjo and Alan Sastre, artists from Spain living and working in London.

Black Trunk of the Pharaoh relates to the mystery of inspiration and the inexplicable source of creativity. Asked about his aesthetic principles, the celebrated singer of cante jondo (deep song) Manuel Torres replied that he never allowed himself to be carried away by the ordinary or the overly familiar, “In cante jondo, what one has to look for and find, is the black trunk of the pharaoh.” Analogous to Torres’ search, the two painters in this exhibition are looking for the black trunk, an Iberian version of Pandora’s Box that was opened to unleash all evils into the world, leaving only hope behind.

José Carlos Naranjo shows two series of paintings working across abstraction and figuration. ‘After the Waterseller’ is a meditation on his first experience of seeing painting as a child, Velazquez’ The Waterseller of Seville. Remembering nothing of the distribution of forms or the faces of the figures, he seeks to recover through painting the powerful sensation he had that painting was for him and he would follow it. The other series exhibited is an ongoing engagement with Goya’s six small paintings made for the Duke and Duchess of Osuna on the theme of witchcraft and the supernatural.

Alan SastreBlind Paintings’ are a series of smaller paintings so called because the results are unknowable. Working in an aesthetic key developed from 20th Century Spanish and American abstract traditions, Sastre has developed a process for painting whereby each stage becomes forgotten or unknown, and only very occasionally is the final peeling back of latex a revelation. In larger works Sastre opens a dialogue on the nature of the painted gesture; close inspection of the painted surface reveals the impasto drips and swipes as painterly illusion.

Accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue featuring an essay by artist and writer Benjamin Cockett.

The approach to painting of both José Carlos Naranjo and Alan Sastre suggest a rigid point of questioning. At what point does the painterly; the natural flow of paint across a surface, become conditioned by a need to de-mystify? Painterly means an engagement with the surface of the painting, a full understanding of the materiality of paint. If paint moves then a painterly artist will move with it, declaring the surface to be fluid, alive. That the surface is in fact paint is an open declaration, as significant as the fact that paintings can also be windows into another space, whether based on traditional ideas about perspective, or the space created by looking into a monochrome colour.

José Carlos Naranjo (b 1983, Spain) lives and works in London. He studied MFA Art, Idea and Production in the University of Seville in 2011 and BFA Painting Program in the University of Fine Arts, Seville. Spain. He undertook the Residence Program of Paintings in the School Visual Art in New York in 2013. His most recent solo shows were at Yusto/Giner Gallery in 2016 and Birimbao Gallery in Seville in 2014 and 2012. Shortlisted for the Columbia Threadneedle Prize in London in 2016. He won the First prize in the Griffin Art Prize Iberia, 2015, Griffin Gallery in London. First prize in the 28º BMW Painting Prize in Madrid in 2013 and first prize in the Figurativas´11 in Barcelona. Selected for the Contemporary Visions V in Beers London in 2015 and selected for the 2012 XIV Call for Young Artist. Luis Adelantado Gallery in Valencia, Spain.

Alan Sastre (b.1977, Barcelona) lives and works in London. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona and Pictorial Procedures and Mural Techniques at School of Art and Design LLotja in Barcelona. He obtained a scholarship to study at the University of Granada, a residency and grant at the Rodriguez Acosta Foundation, and a fellowship at Cooper Union School of Art in New York. In 2015 won the Liquitex Acrylic Painting Prize at the Griffin Gallery Open. Selected exhibitions include “Babble” and “Cuarta Pared” at Galería Combustión Espontánea, Madrid; a Solo Project in Estampa Contemporary Art Fair, Madrid; “Saturation. Spanish Contemporary Painting in Three Acts. Performed Painting” at The Ryder, London , “Contemporary Visions V” at Beers London,  “Shuffle” at Kreuzberg Pavillon in Berlin  “The Exchange Show” at the Great Hall Gallery in The Cooper Union Foundation Building, New York or “8 Zeichner aus Spanien” at the Das Eschmertal Museum, Herne, Germany.