Como un subwoofer en el botellón
I met Samuel Almansa a few years ago, the night of his first solo exhibition. The proposal he presented was something I had never seen before. The colors and shapes touched me deeply, and I was not surprised to see that many people reacted the same way to that debut. The following months I got to know Samuel as an artist as well as as a person, and the friendship we built revealed to me a very prolific and transversal work, the result of a rabidly creative mind, with millions of things to tell. We both agreed that he had to find his own way to do it.
The first time Almansa had an airbrush was when he was twelve, a gift from his older brother. That device, whose objective was to paint the metal sheets of trucks, remained in a drawer for more than ten years, left aside over the multiple techniques with which the artist, at that incipient moment, wanted to experiment with. Media and supports such as video, drawing, spray paint or murals have nourished the work of Samuel Almansa, without fully satisfying his constant concern about art and its own function.
The numerous humanitarian trips in recent years, completely removed from the place and context where he grew up, allowed him to reflect on the purpose of the creative act, discovering that the act of painting, the creation itself, is the purpose in itself. This turning point meant reconciliation with the images of his past, with what he knows and makes up his history. His neighborhood, his roots, his people and his memories began to be the main object of interest, they once again fed his genius, releasing a part of himself that had never before had a place in his work. This process was accompanied by the rediscovery of the airbrush, not only as a purely functional tool, but as the means that allowed him to plastically capture the turning point that he had experienced in that last stage. That paradigm shift inevitably transformed his style, giving way to a new figurative, radical, and deeply honest stage.
Como un subwoofer en un botellón is Samuel Almansa’s latest project and, up to now, his most personal. The exhibition, of a purely pictorial nature, shows a series of images of a traditional nature that automatically create a link between generations, placing before the viewer each identity symbol of a time, a specific context, a certain way of living, automatically linking with a broad collective memory.
El Arenal in Palma, the neighborhood where Almansa grew up, makes up much of the city’s vast periphery, a place where numerous working families built their home, many of them moving from the peninsula to the island decades ago. At the same time, the area is one of the maritime areas closest to the center, and is almost entirely dedicated to tourism. The souvenir shops on the beach accumulate quintessential kitsch objects, while, in some parallel streets, the trucks that begin their work day at five in the morning sleep.
This double aspect of working class and tourism makes up the idiosyncrasy of the area. The images on the back of the towels, each one more excessive and impersonal than the last, a mix with the customs inside the homes, homes like that of Samuel Almansa, where his mother took care of him and his siblings while his father drove the truck from dawn to dusk. Thus, in his mind, the botellones, table football, techno, motorcycles and reggaeton actively coexist with the flag and carajillo bars, with the images of the virgins and gold chains as a family inheritance. These elements are not just images, in his mind they are sounds, sensations, experiences and emotional bonds that establish who Samuel Almansa was and will be but, above all, who he is today.
Although apparently they are contradictory concepts, in this exhibition Almansa presents us with a “radical normality” that consciously revolts against the denial of its origin and its roots, those that for the longest time wanted to hide to fit into the so-called “high culture.” As it is known, the contemporary art system is an intricate and inaccessible network, where only a few privileged people achieve the acceptance of a few. As if art were not culture, as if it should not, by right and duty, be accessible to everyone. Thus, the system of art becomes a falsely unintentional performance, a competition where the most alternative, the most mysterious, the most unapproachable wins, creating a pretentious absurdity in which, in reality, everything is the same. Where, quoting Ana Iris Simón, everyone is the same while thinking themselves different.
Samuel Almansa does not try to change the unwritten rules of said structure. Through his work, he does not intend to fulfill the pristine and singular profile that in many cases is given to the artist. For him, painting is just another job. Creative and intellectual work is not above the physical effort of the electrician, the bricklayer or the truck driver. He feels like one of the numerous workers who stop to have coffee at the bar in the morning, those who exchange ideas and make judgments about the events that happen on television that can be heard in the background. Opinions that Almansa listens to without prejudice, nourishing of the spirit of people whose vision of the world is different from the perspective of Samuel’s generation and yet one that presents a spirit worthy of vindication.
On some occasions, he himself has told me that people usually do not understand the emotional weight placed on him by the environments in which he moves in. If so, perhaps mentioning the park in his neighborhood is the key to this text, to this exhibition, and to Samuel himself, to really infer what we see in his creations. Every night for years, the park has been – and in some ways continues to be – the epicenter of his emotional baggage, where he has forged his aspirations and his imagination, formed by neon lights, the volume of subwoofers, French kisses, the noise of the 45cc several streets away and the nights of drinking. The same airbrush blurs the border between idea and plasticity, since it allows you to capture the blurred perception of the moment and the evocation of one’s own memory.
Samuel Almansa’s work does not have a nostalgic character, it does not seek to join old fashions from the 90’s and 2000’s that have become fashionable again in recent years due, above all, to social networks. On the contrary, the artist aims to show that his visual references are still valid, that what he represents is not a revival, but rather that it is still part of the collective essence of the peripheral neighborhoods, of a character set of different generations.
Como un subwoofer en un botellón is a reconciliation with artistic practice as an end in itself, without attempting to change the world, only to reflect it and, in this way, demonstrate it. At the same time, the exhibition is presented as a form of insurrection against the artificial, where the authenticity of the ordinary stands against the presumptuous.
To talk about who Samuel Almansa is is to talk about each of the elements that make up his roots. Through the images, details and moments captured on the canvas, the artist manages to pay tribute to the daily life of the environments that make up his home.
Text by Belén Martínez