The Alhambra as a subject of “Abstraction and Light” for the architecture historian and artist William Curtis

Visit to the exhibition ‘Abstraction and Light - Drawings, paintings and photographs’ which, from today until 22nd November can be visited in the Chapel and the adjoining rooms of the Palace of Charles V.
The Alhambra has for many years been a source of inspiration for the artist, photographer, historian and architecture critic William J.R. Curtis (Birchington, 1948). This morning, the Director of the Monument, Reynaldo Fernández Manzano, accompanied the multitalented artist on his visit to the exhibition ‘Abstraction and Light – Drawings, paintings and photographs’ which, from today until 22nd November can be visited in the Chapel and the adjoining rooms of the Palace of Charles V. 
Considered one of the most important historians of architecture of our time as well as an internationally regarded painter and photographer, William Curtis said that this exhibition has enabled him to get closer to the Nasrid Monument from different perspectives: “I see myself as a child of the Alhambra! Almost 40 years ago I visited this place and it still inspires me. It is one of my favourite places in the whole world and I have travelled everywhere always in search of the great architecture from all the different periods. The Alhambra is not only a building, it is also a symbolic landscape and a constructed poem. I keep going back to it”.
As well as exhibiting paintings, drawings and photographs of a profoundly emotional nature, the exhibition also explores a way of viewing architecture and landscape in which particular emphasis is placed on light, shade, water and space. “My works, in all the techniques I use, evoke the visible and invisible forces of nature through abstraction. Going beyond representation, my abstract paintings and drawings, which I call “mental landscapes” suggest a whole host of phenonema – the sea, clouds, rocky strata, forest – but cannot be tied to any specific subject in particular. They are always ambiguous. There is a strong emphasis on the material, but the objective is to explore the immaterial. A work of art can suggest strata, levels, traces and atmospheres of the landscape, while evoking a certain invisible spirit. At the same time, it can reach the hidden nooks of the memory and imagination”.
Curtis is the author of various books that are now considered ‘classics’ such as ‘Modern Architecture since 1900’ and ‘Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms’ and is also greatly interested in the architecture of Islamic societies. The exhibition ‘Abstraction and Light – Drawings, paintings and photographs’ is made up of more than a hundred works of art, some connected without frames to the walls, others displayed horizontally in cabinets which suggest the transparency of water. In this way the Polygonal Chapel of the Palace of Charles V “has been transformed into a sound box thanks to the abstract paintings that seem to float in space. In the darkened adjoining room, the projected images focus on light as a universal feature of architecture over the centuries”.
Curtis’s photographs seem like paintings “with a strong abstract character. This is why I always try to evoke the poetic character of buildings and sites” the artist said. The exhibition ends with another section of projected images, entitled ‘Mirrors of the Imagination’, displaying above all the atmospheres of the Alhambra. According to Curtis “I remember the spirit of the place; its reflecting surfaces of water; its sublime light and its mysterious shadows. Some tables of light show travel notes and miniature abstracts called ‘microcosms’, which allude to the creative transformations of lived experience”. 
In the same way, the videos on display in the exhibition introduce various different themes of the show and Curtis’ experience of the Alhambra and the landscapes and gardens: “More than an exhibition of paintings, drawings and photographs, Abstraction and Light distils a new original vision of the Alhambra”, the author explained.
The exhibition is accompanied by a long bilingual catalogue (Spanish and English) produced in collaboration with TF Editores and designed by Carmen Moreno Álvarez. The catalogue includes an introduction by Álvaro Siza Vieira, various essential texts about abstraction by William J.R. Curtis himself, an epilogue by Juan Domingo Santos and various other critical reflections about the artist by different authors.
For more information, please see www.alhambra-patronato.es 

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