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ALBA - Paintings & drawings from up your bondage series

"A real painter" - this designation frequently encountered in discussions or written texts about certain artists is a term which quickly ought to arouse the greatest degree of' suspicion on the part of the artist in question as well as on the part of the listener or reader, inasmuch as this "real-ness" frequently involves a notion of authenticity that covers up an ungrounded dread that any refinement and conceptualization would first destroy the artist's "uninfected" approach to his/her work and go on from there to undermine the viewer's “direct” perception of' the art. This “hear-the-truth" cliché” involving the real painter makes it difficult to put such a designation into use. Put there are certain circumstances which do justify, in some inexplicable way, the application of this nomenclature: one such circumstance being Alba - and his paintings.

Alba often works in series, not in such a way that his paintings are serially connected but rather in the sense that, in specific periods, he flings himself into specific kinds of scenery. This results in a number of paintings which, in different ways, permit themselves the luxury' of being infatuated with these chosen areas. Consequently, his recent bar-series and bathing-series. And, here and now, a brand new bondage-series.

Alba himself calls his paintings "my studies of nature". He is a true romantic who lives up to so many of the romantic virtues, even though the noble one never comes to shroud his subjects in romanticizing veils, which might otherwise he tempting inasmuch as the subjects who never rebuff his attention are indeed scantily clad females, pictured in more or less compromising situations. As the artist himself says: "I've really tried to make still-life paintings, hut I ended up with pin-up girls."

An ambiguity about the Romantics was that they were able to envision nature as a truth which had not yet been spoiled by humanity, with its everlasting cultivating garden tools, while, at the same time, they did not restrain themselves from setting up a "wild" naturalness. They implanted an image or an interpretation inside of nature itself and created an artificial nature, an Ideallandschaft, with sinuous waterways, artificial grottoes, bowers of imaginary hermits and ruins left over from times long gone. In this way, their cultivated non-cultivatedness laid the foundation for our images of nature.

Something similar is going on with Alba: genuine nature never actually turns up inside his studio. The nature at the root of the present series is an American bondage magazine from the sixties, which was mailed to him by a good friend, ostensib{v prompted by the artist's avowed interest in this sphere. This motive, this mood, this "landscape' has then been found fit, following ripened ruminations, for being the nature-object of' a closer examination.

The interest in nature, with a simultaneous falling out in the meaning of what is natural, is one of' the points of' intersection between Alba 's paintings and the Romantic. However, with Alba's gaze, which is by' no means a "heholding-with-moistened-eves-turnedtoward-the-greatness-of-vanished-times” gaze, there has been, as the very time-frame of the bondage magazine serves to indicate, a modernity interpolated into his romantic. As a legacy from pop art, it is not nature itself', hut rather an image of nature that has been "cultivated" beforehand which constitutes the object for a reading. By making use of a low-brow, massproduced porno magazine from the sixties, a contemporaneity is introduced, and questions about the truth value of notions like genuine and "unadulterated" nature are posed. With such a piece of "nature" in mind, the artist would secure for himself from the outset a position with a highfalutin, idealized notion of nature in view. From here, one could only' proceed backwards. Instead, he stands with a specific object - a magazine - in hand, which moreover contains photographs of objectified persons (how can you ever be looking for "the objective" as much as when you are begging to he beaten?). And from here, one can presumably only' move forward!

Fascination and tact are the bearing forces in just ahout all elements in Alba's paintings. And, as has been mentioned, these are never enveloped into some amalgamating, aestheticizing veil. They might he incontrovertibly beautiful, but they are never nice and neat - correctness is disquieting to him. What is crucial about these paintings is whether the event actually' happens; a picture's proficiency is determined by' whether there is just one spot, in a hand, a foot, a shoe, a leg, an ass, a piece of lingerie, a grimace or a gesture, where an elusive detail can be found that just "hits the spot" to the extent that all considerations become confounded; you stand there, dumbfounded, with your hat in your hand, and if you’re a painter - I'm not ashamed to admit this - with some smidgen of envy, distended, all alone, between 'our faculty of seeing and these details. And then, suddenly, Bonnard sticks his foot into the door.

Alba is not chasing after these details. Instead, with cunning and craft, he lures them d own into his net of lingerie, women's legs, half-transparent superimpositions and colors. Most of all, the colors. When you inquire about Alba's coloring, he answers' "Well, I couldn't do without it." This imparts the most obscene color compositions with a self-evidentness, as if a sickly, splashed greenish-yellow had never been in better company' than that of a more impasto-like bluish-brown.

And the porno magazine's objectivized human figures thus acquire their individualitv and vulnerability' and intimacy once again. Inside the magazine, the subject is objectivized; in Alba's paintings, these sex-objects are re-subjectivized. And as he says, "I'd certainly like to have the humour there, though all this here is really' heavy' stuff'."

lb Monrad Hansen

translated by Dan A. Marmorstein