What is the purpose of art? To commemorate historical events, convey important messages, or perhaps, to encourage us to reflect? My answer to this question lies in the extraordinary series of paintings by Spanish artist Lino Lago — “Fake Abstract”.
What do we see when looking at his canvases? Their bold monochrome surfaces reveal just a glimpse of something unexpected: a satin gown, an intricate coiffure adorned with flowers, a mysterious eye gazing at us with a joyful spark. Even those without an art history background will likely recognise famous women from Rococo and Classicist portraits. But what do all of these diligently painted over ladies have in common?
Each of their portraits was painted following the strict conventions of their time. And that’s what Lago contests in his works. One could ask: what is wrong with following the rules, if the resulting artworks are spectacular, marked with technical mastery and loved by the audience around the world? In fact, for many decades, the standards and evaluation criteria dictated by European academies of fine art limited and hindered the artistic freedom of those who didn’t meet and follow them.
This takes us back to the initial question of what is the purpose of art. To obey some arbitrary rules or to serve as the means of unrestrained creative expression? Asked in an interview, what was the guiding principle of his creative process, Lino Lago answered — freedom. By painting over famous masterpieces, the artist commits a bold act against a well-established art history canon. He challenges the authority of old masters, letting them speak to us only through the finger-width gap in the monochrome paint layer.
Indeed, his works encourage us to reflect on the relevance of these old masterpieces in the 21st century. How do they enrich us beyond serving as a history lesson on fashion and hairdos in the 17th or 18th century? In fact, the less of the original we see; the more thought provoking it becomes. And this is precisely what we need the art for.
transl. Paulina Kralka