Ciria: The expansion of Painting.

By J. Óscar Carrascosa ( Twitter @J_OscarC )

José Manuel Ciria is one of the international Spanish artists with most predicament. A rich history of success and professional recognition have led him to the best of his career. Now, apart from the newly created Ciria Foundation he has designed an important philanthropic and cultural support program. In this line of action, he has kindly agreed to be interviewed for Chrom-Art.


José Manuel: First of all, thank you very much for supporting us, we are an international project based in London. You work between New York, Berlin, London and Madrid. Do people need this international perspective to understand and confront Art?

I was born in Manchester of Spanish parents. My grandmother lived in Paris for 20 years. Since my childhood, traveling has been part of my life. In my development as an artist it was logical that this sort of nomadism would be reflected in my work. I like to observe differences in the thinking, politics, psychology and sociology in the environments around me. My interests not only adhere to theoretical and research approaches, I seek to see my work transformed depending on the country and city I live with what I see and the people with whom I interact. Obviously this international perspective that you mention, has allowed me to have more information, and benefit from more resources.


And at what point do you think contemporary art is today ? The YBAs are still going on, we have not abandoned the idolatry to superstar artists, sometimes very challenged by critics as the case of Ai Weiwei, and installations and even performances seem full in force if not enjoying renewed strength. Definitely we can't see the woods from the trees, please tell me, do you think we are at some particular point or are we still immersed in a fog populated with lights?

I've been saying for some time that art is in an enviable health, with a legion of artists doing extraordinary works. In my opinion the problem is currently divided into two: On the one hand, there is a profound problem of hypertextualisation. There comes a time in this contemporary world of weak or even nonexistent thought in which we live, where there is too much written about the same standards without new ideologies and ways of tackling what is appearing in the art scene. It is as if we tried to use old tools to fix and understand state of the art machines. An uncomfortable exceptionality occurs when we find a new theoretical approach within the last twenty or twenty-five years. We can't barely perceive how the surrounding landscape is transformed, we do not get a glimpse of the immense change of models that will take place over the next decade. Within this "snapshot" it appears as if hermeneutics do not advance.


Moreover, and perhaps more attached to your question, there is a huge amount of disinformation with regards to the art market. A market that has been changing at high speed where the only true god is money, which has positioned a number of merchants / shamans who dictate what is right and what will be fashionable next season. Within that "mainstream", there are things that are truly exceptional and many others that are absolutely worthless. Plight of the art collectors today when they have to discern between quality and stakeholders siren songs. Certainly we live in a thick entropic fog.


Are Europe and the United States still the two poles of world art? Frances Morris, director of the Tate Modern since January, argues that the traditional discourse has changed over the years of this century, and has staged in the selection of works that will house the expansion of the new building designed by the Swiss Herzog & DeMeuron .

We simply underline the importance of a particular discourse placing things in relation to varying degrees of success. We apply a reading in terms of relation or contrast that we can dump, from our contemporary vision, on those artistic "objects" that are already immersed in tradition, and the new ones. It is simply that the fashionable occurrence is adopted or proposed in some exhibitions. It might sound interesting, being indulgent. The intention is supposedly to make us think, but they treat us as if we were toddlers. There is an old saying, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. Strive to find "charms" in the work you have at your disposal and try to give it the action of a new conceptual content. For the neophyte it can be fun.



And in all this we're talking about , where the Spanish art located?

In total and absolute periphery.


Do you think the Spanish art enjoys a real consideration of being a cultural asset by the Spanish public institutions?

 I don't! In capital letters. In times of crisis and deficit, I agree that we must cut budgets and we must all tighten our belts. But the apathy that we live in now is far superior to all logic. Culture isn't valued neither are intentions of getting to appreciate it. There is no political group now that wants to approach art selflessly and apolitically. We agree that a museum or institution can not program the same with a fifty or a two hundred budget, but regardless of the available budget in Spain, we are unable to use imagination  in order to create bonds of international trade to cut the costs of art proposals. Politics is too intertwined with cultural bodies which sometimes get to drown art, and corruption in many cases is immense, precisely that which is usually carried out by outsiders and some other hustler. It will be painful for many to have to recognize that the most interesting projection of Spanish art abroad, took place during the Aznar government, with Miguel Angel Cortes as Secretary of State and Jesus Silva as Culture Director. The Seacex program was an unrepeatable miracle that proved remarkably cheap for all that was accomplished, and reinforced dramatically the positive image of Spain combining culture and art exchanges and implementation of many Spanish companies in the world, supported unreservedly by the Royal Family. No artist was asked their political affiliation. Nothing like that has ever happened again.


Allow me also to ask about you. Lately you are giving more importance to installations. Are you in a period in which you consider necessary to go beyond the limits of the canvas?

In the late nineties I had many notes and drawings for works of installation nature, those ideas were collected as such in the catalogs of those days. But it was not until 2001 at the Museum of Herzliya Tel-Aviv and the Rekalde Hall of Bilbao together with the exhibition that  Moisés Pérez de Albéniz organised for me in his gallery in Pamplona in 2003, that these works began to be a regular part of my experimental speech. After the workshop / completely installative exhibition at the gallery Antonio Prates Lisbon in 2004, I have included an installation in my institutional exhibitions every time I could, regardless of the periods of time in which I am more focused on purely pictorial research. In my case, the installation is always an expanded extension of my painting, which, despite the need to invade the new territory, allows to observe what happens to form a picture. I start with the canvas and I come back to the canvas, and I simply analyse the pictorial from different perspectives.


This year 2016 has seen the birth of Ciria Foundation, which counts amongst its patrons with Guillermo Solana or David Anfam. Among the objectives of the foundation are the reflection on conceptual art, but I also know that it is an institution with a strong philanthropic purpose. Could you summarise its main lines of action?

I am very excited with the Foundation and effectively the aim of its guidelines is to focus on the reflection of painting and conceptual art. What we want from the Foundation is to bring Spain thinkers and art critics of first international class  and organise meetings with our own hermeneuts. Creating these small platforms of thought, I'm sure will provide an appropriate way to inform and educate people who want to get closer. All activities will be sponsored and our ambition is to introduce exhibitions of international artists either live or through different curators, who have not had the opportunity to show their work in our country. Also, of course, we will organise a center of study focusing on my own work. We will make annual publisings on all activities of the Foundation, creating relationships between large centers and peripheral areas, a thousand things ...




What motivated you to push to creat this foundation?

 It is pretty simple: Noting that we have many shortcomings and infinite initiatives are not carried out. The sincere intention is to cover many holes which nobody is taking care of, from any institutional establishment of the art world in our country. Also, we aim to provide a vehicle for those who are interested in learning, art reflection and its enjoyment.



More information about the Artist available on

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