Albert Puntí

NON-PLACES PROJECT

BAUDELAIRE AND MODERNITY

Charles Baudelaire, in Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne (1863), states that painting should reflect the society in which the artist lives. “ In each period men have dressed in a different way and this, fashion, must be udes by the painter to give a vision of the society in which he lives”.

In the 19th century, the fine arts academies requested that painters depict hictorical scenes, paintings about historical event during Roman times, the Middle Ages, etc. On the other hand, artists such as Meissonier, who dressed his characters in 18th century clothing, or Alma Tadema, Leon Geròme o Waterhouse, who painted scenes from everyday life in the Roman empaire or out of King Arthur legend, were acclaimed thorought Europe. To Baudelaire the painter “ must seek everywhere the passing and elluding beauty of current life, that feature which the reader allows us to call modernity.”

Impressionist painters deviated from academic painting and depicted their characters dressed in the fashion of their own time. But besides clothing, it must be taken into account that in historical painting architecture and décor are also medium to transmit the character of bygone times. Thus, in order to portray the present, architecture and décor must also be current. When Monet painted Rouen's cathedral under different lightings he was doing a very valuable pictorial study, but he was not depicting his time (or in Baudelaire's words, modernity), while in his paintings of the trains and station in Saint Lazare, he did represent the modernity of the late 19th century.

In my opinion, the impressionist painter that best captures the modernity of his time is Gustave Caillebotte, who paints people wandering along the boulevards that were being open aroung Paris que pinta gent passejant pels bulevards que s’estan obrint a Paris ( Paris Street; Rainy Day), or the new steel architecture (The Europe Bridge).

MARC AUGÉ AND THE NON-PLACES OF SUPERMODERNITY

The modernity mentioned by Baudelaire stretches from late 19th century to the sixties and seventies in the 20th century, from that point onwards authors speak about postmodernity. It is obvious that in the period of a little more than one century, society has changed tremendously, first due to the evolution of transport (cars and airplains) as well as long-distance communications (telephone, radio, TV), and from the late 20th century with the development of IT, internet and mobile phones.

The anthropologist Marc Augé defines the current society as supermodernity. According to this authous the defining characteristic of our society is the overabundance of events and spaces, as well as the individualization of references.

This spatial overabundance, coupled with changes in scale related to the evolution of transport and communication, result in new spaces that are necessary for the system to work, but that from the anthropological point of view are not identitary spaces, or historial places or spaces where people relate to each other. These are the non-places.

To Augé a “place” is a space which has an identity, a history and creates relationships between people, while a non-place is a transitory space, occupied only while we go on our way from one place to the next. The non-place doesn't create a singular identity or a relationship, only solitude and similitude.

Thus, one of the defining characteristics of supermodernity is the creation of non-places: motorways, airports, filling stations, supermarkets... The public spaces of supermodernity are no longer the streets or squares, they are the non-places. The boulevards in Paris were the space of modernity as the periferal roads and motorways are that of supermodernity.

The concept of non-place requires a change in the pictorial representation of cities. If we agree with Augé in that the defining characteristic of the supermodernity in which we are immersed is the creation of non-places, painting boulevards, gardens or the historical centre of the city is just as anachronistic as painting their inhabitans dressed in 19th century fashion.

WORKING METHOD

Most of the non-places presenta series of difficulties (permits, danger, ...) that make it almost imposible to paint them in-situ. Thus it is more convenient to use photography to get some records to be used later on during the painting stage in the studio.

Using photography as an initial stage does not necessarily mean an interest in hyper-realistic painting or copying these photos as such, they are merely a starting point. On the other hand, even within photorealism/hyper-realism there is a wide varity of authors , themes and styles, with the common feature of painting from a photo rather than from nature.

My work is technically different from photorealist paintes in that they use aerographs to get images with a great field depth, in which everything from the front to the backstage is equally and sharply on focus, refusing the use of atmospheric perspective.

Many photorealist painters are more interested in the aesthetic result than in the subject or theme, and even some of them consider theme to be of no importance. In my case however, theme is just as important as the aesthetic result, and in the case of the non-places the theme preconditions the aesthetics, which must be based in the concept of “sublime” rather than on beauty.

Albert Puntí