Exploring the city as a toponym that is framed by a scope of human activities has been at the center of various artistic practices throughout the 20th century. Whether presented as an archaeological site of former glory, a present-day formation framed by the shimmering lights, buzz and traffic, or a more futuristic settlement deprived of people, the city has been observed through anthropological lenses and is hard to imagine without the presence of language used for various indications and navigation through the urban landscape. e.g. cityscape.
An artist who continually explores these two motifs is the Catalan painter Ramon Enrich. Although at first glance his cityscapes and typographies do not have anything in common, their liaison rests on an interpretational level. Namely, both types of works are wrapped with mystery; while the geometric depictions of urban environments that lack human presence seem utopian or dystopian, the paintings depicting letters positioned in carefully arranged formations seem like the transcriptions of the lost civilization, the one that fled the city or has just vanished without the trace.
The presumptions can vary, but what is the most definite is that Enrich tends to underline the psychological potential of his paintings, rather than just the physical one. By observing architecture and typography, the artist seeks for the uncanny that should be if not rationalized, then translated and presented through the pure geometric form.
The overall formal and poetical quality of Enrich's approach can be reminiscent of Metaphysical art and even the contemplative nature of the Color field painting.
To find out more, we talk to Ramon Enrich about the most dominant aspects of his artistic practice.
Widewalls: At first glance, your works evoke Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical art in general. That being said, could you emphasize on your approach to the genre of landscape, or in your case cityscape?
Ramon Enrich: My language always revolves around an architectural vision, simplicity in the syntax of elements, and a revision of the Mediterranean spirit, light, color, rhythms. I always keep in mind that cliché of the painting as a window that comes from the Italian tradition of the fourteenth century. In a formal territory, I am fascinated by material painting, the sensuality of color, and the idea of the stage. A well-lit lie.
Widewalls: There is also something archaic with these cities since their architecture seems reminiscent of ancient settlements in Asia and Africa, while the color scheme evokes the palette found in the natural environment. On the other hand, they may look as if built by an alien civilization. Is this tension between the familiar and the unknown part of your articulation?
RE: Indeed. In my work, there is a desire to find a global architecture based on a debugging process. Simplicity is at the same time the utmost sophistication. I look for common elements and the repetition of rhythms in a timeless scene. It is a way to add excitement to the empty landscape; there is no intent to portray a surreal or dreamlike world.
I believe more in a psychological drive of space and in the construction of a universal landscape. The intention is to connect with the old space quality. It is a priori a pleasant scene but at the same time, it wants to control the mystery as an inner game that is familiar to all of us.
Widewalls: Alongside these cityscapes, you also work with typography. Could you tell us a bit more about these works?
RE: It's an exciting and very intuitive subject, it has a lot to do with poetry and sculpture and not so much with graphic design. I've talked about it many times with my friend David Carson. It is a world without rules where suggesting is much deeper than being explicit and clear. A subject you can't learn while studying.
Common technologies and software in design impoverish and reduce the emotional possibilities of communication.
Widewalls: It seems that the typographies are an extension of the cityscapes as they operate as the fragments of the unknown language of the civilization inhabiting them. Where do you see the connection?
RE: My typography works are screams, parts of poems, traces of something beautiful that has left its practical and functional part to become a flat content, a naked environment without human presence. The graphic is a dialogue and a link to who we really are, a world of connections where communication makes us social beings.
This is what I propose by bringing the silence of my landscapes closer to basic and essential codes of communication. Numbering, initials, industrial buildings with serial spellings, signs that have lost their practical function to become only questions for the observer.
Widewalls: The paintings of cities are deprived of human presence, which makes them really relevant in the current moment of the pandemic and the lockdown - best illustrated with videos of empty capitals around the globe made by drones. What is your reaction to that? Have you conceived your paintings according to your personal articulation of a dystopian future or this is just a mere coincidence?
RE: The current situation does not involve any complicity in my way of doing and thinking. I believe in simplicity and in empty spaces because that is where our thinking has the most freedom. I have always believed in silence and a solitary environment for art. John Pawson, Donald Judd, James Turrell, Richard Long are working with the silent as an artistic discourse; that interests me as the real material.
A silence connected to the world that, without being pretentious, I would like to believe that it approaches simplicity with spiritual pleasure.
In the current situation, I only see media noise, cheap philosophy of urgency, a pain that does not propose any real change.
Widewalls: Since it is hard to tell how the entire planet will operate in the months to come, an adequate question is do you think your practice will change after the pandemic?
RE: I don't think so. These days I've changed some work routines but it's basically been a time when I've tried new materials and tidied up the studio to keep expressing myself in my place.
Featured images: Ramon Enrich Studio Views. Courtesy the artist and Artistics.