Painting on the Move
Francesc Ruiz Abad, winner of the 2015 Arranz-Bravo Visual Arts Prize, is one of the finest emerging artists on the Catalan painting scene. Indeed, painting is regaining its central position within the demanding –and often iconoclastic- contemporary art world.This is due, to a large extent, to the fresh, powerful, questing revival that the genre has undergone thanks to a new generation of painters, born in the 1990s and that, like Francesc Ruiz, engage in painting without complexes or prejudices, open to action, to transversality, to the journey, to living, social, community empathy, to willing optimism.

Francesc Ruiz shares his influences with this new generation of painters: Peter Doig, Alex Katz, David Hockney and German painting, principally the school of Leipzig, where Francesc Ruiz even lived for a time: Neo Rauch, Jonathan Meese and so on. They eschew the painterly refences of the previous generation, anchored in the introspective existentialism and Neo-Expressionism of Kieffer, Baselitz, Barceló, Plensa and the like, and prefer to model themselves on the more ironic, psychedelic, pulsing work of enduring painters in our own context, artists such as Pere Llobera and Rasmus Nilausen.

German and British painting from the 1990s survived the fierce wave of European neo-conceptualism through a painting that reconciled anti-ethical concepts attacked by post-modernity: irony and sincerity, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, naivety and painterly rigour. This is the spirit that theorists like Vermeulen and Van der Akker call “meta-modernity”: a spirit shared by many cultural movements that, in this second decade of the new century, are emerging around the world to propose a new mood, one that repels post-modernity’s vaporous relativism and scepticism, which brought about the almost complete invisibility of painting.

Francesc Ruiz has no prejudices when it comes to painting and its tradition, nor when it comes to linking painting to the strategies of the conceptual movements of the 1970s: the journey, processual art, documentation, the transitive spirit of cooperation... Ruiz’s work finds a balance between the fresh quality typical of the artist’s nomadic spirit and desire to travel – always on the move. From Calonge to the world, and with the pictorial wisdom of contemporary painting. As Anna Dot mentions in her excellent essay for the catalogue, Francesc’s painting seeks to grasp the mystery and strangeness of the world’s things, in an attitude similar to the artistic gaze that has generated much of modern western painting (from Dada to Surrealism, from Nouveau Réalisme to German Neo-Expressionism).

And, at the same time, Francesc Ruiz’s painting is affirmative, optimistic, ironic, but also irreverent and even iconoclastic in some cases. It has a childish, naïve base, but his innocent gaze is not sceptical: he aims to be constructive, to transmit knowledge. This is painting set free, conceived in the freedom of travel, but also solid, because it rises naturally from a tradition, one that the artist understands and champions. In short, painting in transit and in transition, capable of awakening consciences, once more, in the heart of western contemporary painting.
Albert Mercadé
Artistic Director Arranz-Bravo Foundation