We are pleased to present ‘Absent Friends’, our first solo exhibition for the Spanish artist Guillermo Martin Bermejo.
Guillermo’s pencil drawings describe a romantic inner world populated by the creative minds that have comforted and inspired him. Some are simple portraits drawn on pages taken from old books; others develop into elaborate scenes where these characters interact with the settings and traditions of the artist’s village in the mountains north of Madrid. Their disarmingly naive quality belies the complexity of this personal realm, where fiction overlaps with reality and the narratives of famous artists interweave with Guillermo’s own life.
The title of this exhibition, ‘Absent Friends’, suggest the emotional structure of Guillermo’s approach. A series of small portraits features leading figures from the culture’s historical firmament: composers Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev; writers Gore Vidal, Lytton Strachey, and Robert Walser; poets W.H. Auden and George Trakl. Each has the sense of a treasured image, like an old photo made more personal by the artist’s hand, as if in portraying them Guillermo is also partly describing something of himself.
In his larger scenes, Guillermo elaborates his portraits into narratives set in the mountain village where he lives. Derek Jarman and Lucian Freud join William Blake, Virginia Woolf and Mary Shelley in a reimagining of Blake’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’, the artists defying time and space to attend a memorial to the fallen Icarus in the Sierra de Guadarrama. In a similar mountain setting Erika and Klaus Mann dream together as Kurt Weill rehearses ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’; William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ is reimagined as a village tale of a descent into base animal instincts caused by isolation; and a version of Andrew Wyeth’s ‘Christina’s Dream’ finds the American landscape transplanted to the Spanish mountains, observed by the angel from Thomas Wolfe’s ‘Look Homeward, Angel’ and accompanied by Eugene Grant. In all these works, the artist’s everyday world becomes the stage for a complex theatre of creative memories. In black and white, these drawings explore how the arts lend colour to daily experience.
Guillermo Martin Bermejo is a Spanish artist based in a small village north of Madrid. His most recent solo exhibition, ‘La Pleyade de la Espana Moderna’, was held at Museo Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid in 2019 – 2020, and in 2020 Madrid’s Museum of Contemporary Art acquired a series of twelve drawings for their collection. He has also exhibited at the Real Academia de San Fernando, Madrid (2018); Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga (2017); and the Fundación Santiago y Segundo Montes, Valladolid (2016). His works appear in a number of notable collections, including Colección Caja Madrid, Colección Caja España (Valladolid), Biblioteca Francisco Javier Martin Abril (Valladolid), Marine International Bureau (Mónaco), and the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.