The language of the Unspecific. Catalogue 1992
Appearances notwithstanding, Manuel Luca de Tena’s work is biomorphic, invoking the energy of the living but revealing it with models neither classical nor modern, based simply on the quality of the matter and the colour as guarantee of a painstaking, patient and unhurried process.
José Ramón Danvila
On shadow and light. Catalogue 1994-95
The weight of the East makes itself felt, above all a certain slant in the painter’s gaze, ultimately matured in awareness of landscape born of a different spiritual modulation of complicities – whether inverse or not hardly matters – between shadow and clarity. That undoubtedly allows a curious fusion, a hybrid form of consciousness which, thanks to a remote light, illuminates unexpected spaces from the heart of darkness.
Pentatonic Scale for the painting of Manuel Luca de Tena. Exhibition catalogue. 2003[…] And gold … It is unsurprising that Manuel Luca de Tena has lately been dazzled by the golden gleam of its presence, pure, immediate, tenebrous material presence. Gold’s surface, tactile carnality can be caressed and savoured in these painting like a taste whose perfume reaches the last folds in the mouth and adheres to the palate, filling us completely, saturating the eye with a compressed light, denser and heavier than that inherent to painting, a light we can only grasp by succumbing to a certain spirituality.
Óscar Alonso Molina.
Invitation to calm. La Vanguardia. Madrid, 04/04/2010
There are languages that excite, that incite action. Others, like this painting, are calls to repose, calm, contemplation of a created world that placates, elevates. Simulations of landscapes, trees, rains, foliage, gardens; allusions, suggestions, ellipsis, provoking a harmonic sensation, empathy with a lyrical plasticity, amiable, yet still profound.
On detaining space. Arteshoy. 15/04/ 2010
Because the referential base of Luca de Tena’s works is serious, not pretending to appear to be anything, much less “modern”, the labour of this artist aspires to be something, perhaps to detain space, and maybe stop for a moment to admire the perfect beauty (fragile and tremulous) of trees blossoming as spring begins.
Mariano de Blas.
Matter of light. El País, 13/07/1992
The painting engrossed in its reasons, it is at once, as if naturally, without departing even slightly from that literal presence, able to act as magnet for such associations, as powerful as they are indefinable, as if painting were able to contain the unconscious world without even having to name it.
Emerging landscapes. El País 22/11/97[…] the romantic ascendancy which, in the memory of our own continental tradition, assimilates the nebulous melancholy of those hypnotic visions, banishes any suspicion of exoticism. Yet, after all, much as in his abstract compositions, the emotion of these canvases is also born of the awareness, submerged, of the Far Eastern landscape.
Perception. ABC, Arts and Letters. Madrid, November 2006.
Evermore inexplicably seductive, baroque in all its evocations of light, liquid blackness, red and gold, flecked with snow and pollen, refined and elusive, Manuel Luca de Tena’s work is a splendid example of total landscape, constructed from the inside out, from the entrails of painting itself, and memory, to symbolic forms and an impeccable logic in the representation revealing something of what we will see one day when we really do learn to look.
Javier Rubio Nomblot.
The Madrid artist Manuel Luca de Tena (1954) handles pictorial space with a fully-assimilated concept of the art of Japan where he lived for several years. The confluence of that culture with his own, plus his profound knowledge of contemporary music produce an original pictorial work possessing the content of the “classical”, understood as a modernity remote from fashion, spectacle and the banality of the “twelve million dollar sharks”.
Elegance and beauty are given form in the environment he is capable of creating with his most recent exhibition, terms I use quite removed from their devaluation in a discourse of sentimentality and stupidity. In his new work, the content has evolved from structures to a degree geometrizing yet also elegant, albeit closer to minimalism, seen three and a half years ago also in the Gurriarán Gallery. The artist now takes support from evocative natural configurations, the branches so beloved of Zen artists for their fragile delicacy, yet with the strength of the flexible.
The succession in his work might be understood as a temporal variation of chromatic tones, the insinuation of forms, where “Branches” points to that plant image which is gradually covered with “White Rain”, a series of “Fallings” until reaching a “White Space”. The titles of his works illustrate exactly a progressive overlaying of the image, placing it in a “poetic play which situates it at the boundary between the internal and the external, the visible and the invisible, the concealed and the revealed, where what is visually absent may play a decisive role in the perception of the final image”, as the gallery’s press release rightly explains.
The outcome is a stratigraphic space of increasingly provocative and enigmatic references and quotes, both iconographic and chromatic, a space with an invitation to the meditation of the filled silence, contrasting with the large window in the main exhibition hall, almost at ground level, from which the street can be contemplated, without the noise of a lively Madrid city neighborhood. However, the more than forty works in this exhibition have other aims. The horizontal pieces, of golds on grayish backgrounds, work as a counterpoint to the more abundant vertical, predominantly white paintings, where the gold marks that reference to the “classical” while more evidently combining the play of textures, of brushstrokes, of the transparent and the opaque. Luca de Tena resolves and attains this with a masterly technical deployment, rich and sage, with different pictorial usages and different brush gestures, making his output a contribution which would not be possible with other resources such as photography or infographics, maintaining the relevance of the pictorial medium with its particular unicity and so its congruency.
Finally, right at the back of the gallery are the black and white India ink drawings of plant forms, intimate works once more making clear how well the artist has absorbed and combined Japanese culture to enrich his means of expression, rather than lapsing into the folkloric historicism of those who copy another culture, not deconstructing it but rather devouring its appearances, divesting them of content which is neither grasped nor is it their own. Precisely at this time of an excess of consumption according to North American form and word as paradigm of the reigning cultural capitalism, these works by Luca de Tena prove more pleasantly surprising.
Because the referential base is serious, not seeking to resemble anything, much less “modern”, the work of this artist aspires to be something, maybe to halt space and perhaps stop for a moment to admire the perfect beauty (fragile and flickering) of flowering trees as Spring begins. That green promise that now appears (concealed) by the petals of snowed flowers.
MARIANO DE BLAS