Núria opened her first exhibition in 1983, at the Sala Villarroel (Barcelona), and her work has been shown in as faraway places as Copenhagen and Oslo. She’s also a writer who has won several Short Story prizes, and keeps unfolding a parallel activity as an award-winning Virtual Reality artist: she is indeed a versatile, tireless, brilliant woman, and her life overflows with creativity.
Her work is endowed with personality, a precious feature in a modern author as most work seen today in galleries tends to be a plain repetition of languages that go after each other in an sterile exercise of mainstream aesthetic mimicry. What Núria paints is, apart from a brief first period of baroque and abstractism, essentially a figurative painting. Her subjects are, nevertheless, unreal. She paints dogs, faces, women or angels in the same style as she paints planes, cars or hats. All of them are rendered in a sweet, subtle way: they look lonely, tender and even funny.
Not that she is a romantic, soft woman –she is everything but that; she looks at the things she wants to keep track of always with a clean gaze, that kind of gaze she’s always offering to her friends. Daring, bold, upright, intelligent, convincing, she gives us an innocent world.
We can also see her characters as they evolve and develop. At first they were dark, dramatic, almost ghost-like. They caught you by surprise; they were anything but shallow. They stood alone, with a solemn air, into their own worlds, suspended into an invisible, amniotic bubble. They dwelled in their own “Showers”.
We later find them gathered into families, adults embracing children, people sleeping in their beds or carefully arranged around a dinner table. A bunch of angels fly among them; ironic, teasing, slightly shameless angels who also get together, revelling and jumping, legs spread out in splendid watercolour compositions.
This is also the period of hats. One is not sure of what they are doing there, why they appear, but what counts is that they exist. One looks at them and feels invited to reflect. They are almost-abstract shapes evoking upside-down hats, balanced and still shapes that counterbalance the tableaux of unrecognisable figures.
I’ll say it again: in Núria’s world, images are highly unusual, atypical, and that’s very attractive. One gets hooked on them, they’re mesmerizing. One always feels compelled to work out their inner secrets.
From this point of view, one of the most skilful, ambitious, daring and successful series is, I think, that one where a group of individuals, out of proportion and surrealistic, stand in profile having wheels instead of feet, in oversized layouts, among objects and shapes in a colourful and original arrangement, spectacular to say the least. Núria feels comfortable in oversized formats, she knows how to fill them in unexpected ways, and her most stunning paintings arise when she mingles very different elements instead of simply isolating the characters.
There is also a series of bizarre works, where one is likely to find a crowd of skeleton hands as well as, say, cauliflowers. Alechinsky or Guston might perfectly be some of the distant sources of these paintings, but their oddly striking visual language makes you forget any other world than Núria’s, a world that she has dared to put before our eyes in an unique way.
And there they are, planes plowing through the air as if it was water, bending their bodies just as sharks do. And also the cars, distorted and cheerful cars, full of happy little people, Plasticine-like cars, dented, square-cabin cars, as far from a limousine as they can be. Man and woman travel together and laugh: it seems they’re having fun. Cars and motorbikes laugh and enjoy just as they do. Those cars bear some resemblance to the earlier beds and tables, now turned into heavenly dwellings. Maybe they’re just that very same bubble from the first showers series.
And, in the end, seriousness and isolation are back. Dogs are transformed into individuals who don’t laugh, just rest. They sit and look at the viewer. They bridge the gap between the earlier and the recent work, made of faces: secretive, mature and melancholic faces among other faces, driven into loneliness. And then, the ladies appear; naked, mischievous, quiet ladies. “Ladies” is precisely the name of this series. They are not sad, they are passive but self-reliant communicators. They do not boast about anything, they don’t need to. They just smile and live.
Núria is the kind of artist that, in order to express herself, seeks inside. Far from being a social chronicler, she’s an inside chronicler who tells us about her and about the figures she offers us, those figures rendered in out-of-context, neutral environments, without further references: thoughtful and insightful, but also vulnerable and gentle. So attractive that we would like them to stay with us and help us clean, keep the essentials.
I guess she still bears many mysterious, silent beings to give birth to.
I wait for them, and already love them.