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Maria José Royuela: The Art of Reflection

C-152. Sin Título, Paintings, 39 x 29
”Patience” is a word one rarely hears in the hectic, ambitious art world of today, where everyone appears to be in a hurry to succeed, and where the work is often hurried in execution, serving as a mere accessory to that quest for success. For this reason it is refreshing to hear the Spanish painter Maria José Royuela say, “My work is the fruit of patience. Mine, my patience, which leads me to paint from quiet observation of my surroundings and from listening to my interior.”
    Indeed, the quietude and stillness of Royuela’s paintings in the venerable, patient medium of oils on canvas is what strikes one immediately upon encountering them. From a distance one could easily mistake her canvases for the subtlest of color field abstractions, given the delicacy of her forms, the subtlety of her tonalities. Up close, however, one discovers in the intimacy of Royuela’s “Sin Titulo” series tangible visual evidence of the truth of John Calvin’s belief that “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
   The lush, verdant colors of summer are not what attract Royuela’s eye, mind, heart. Rather, she is drawn to the bone-dry whiteness of winter rocks, with their timeworn cracks and crevices, as fine as graphite lines; to the sere shades of dehydrated vegetation; the mortal hues of sun-starved flowers and grasses; the substance of common soil; to colors that she calls “not frivolous but honest.” 
    And yet there is a sensuality to her treatment of landscape subjects that makes one think, oddly enough, of Andrew Wyeth –– not only his wintry country scenes, but also of the pale flesh tones of the nudes in the “Helga” series. Perhaps this can be attributed to the almost sentient feeling that Royuela brings out in nature, the sense of it being like a feeling entity, that she captures through her use of earth tones, of pale ochers and muted reds, colors that, as Wyeth himself said of his own palette, have “almost a lonely feeling.” 
    In an interview, when asked what was the hardest part of her artistic journey, Royuela answered, “I feel like I’m going upstream.” This, of course, is a natural feeling for an artist who eschews the kind of sensationalism that is likely to get instant attention in today’s art scene in favor of what she refers to as “authenticity” and “reflection.”
     Rooted in the soil of her childhood in La Rioja, Spain, the paintings of Maria José Royuela, with their muted colors and simple forms, transport us to a timeless place of stillness and serenity. Here, the receptive viewer may escape what Royuela refers to as the “materialistic and superficial” concerns of urban culture, and find a space for reflection. For even in nature, her work seems to tell us, one must beware of the showy and superficial, and dig deeper to discover the greater mysteries hidden within the firmament. Such work has become a rarity in recent art and is something to be treasured.                                                                                                                                                               
 –– by Maurice Taplinger

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