During a trip to the UAE last year, Los Angeles-based artist Quim Bové visited the Liwa desert and was captivated by the energy and magnetism he felt in the endless expanse of sand dunes. He came back earlier this year and spent two months working from a studio at The JamJar in Alserkal Avenue to create a series of paintings that capture that experience.
We visited the artist in his temporary studio and watched him put the finishing touches to his paintings that are abstract interpretations of metaphysical concepts such as time, the cycle of life, humankind’s place in the universe, the gravitational forces that keep celestial bodies in their orbits and our mystical connection to the cosmic energy.
Using techniques of action painting, Bové throws oil and enamel paints on his large canvases to create swirls and splashes of colour. The explosion of energy on the canvases is reflected in the studio with the floor, walls and even the furniture covered with paint. But as the artist enthusiastically explained the meaning behind every brushstroke, colour and texture in his paintings, it became clear that he methodically plans and executes every composition to depict the unseen energy and forces of the universe.
What is this special relationship you have with the desert and how does it inspire you?
I was born in Spain and when I moved to the US, we lived in Arizona for many years. I loved going to the Sonoran Desert and was deeply inspired to create abstract paintings that conveyed the spiritual energy I felt in that environment. When I am in the desert and look at the sunset, the stars and the night sky I can feel the cosmic energy and good vibrations all around me. The environment compels me to contemplate the mystical connection between humankind and the universe. Since the origin of mankind, human beings have looked up at the heavens and wondered about the celestial bodies, the invisible forces that govern their movements, and our place in the universe. The desert inspires me to think about these metaphysical concepts and to express them through my paintings.
Why was it important for you to create this series of paintings in Dubai?
In the Liwa desert I could strongly feel the energy and magnetism and was inspired to create new works. But I can feel this energy everywhere in the UAE. When I work here my mind is in tune with my inspiration and the energy and emotions flow easily onto the canvas. Before I came to the UAE, I had already developed a relationship with Opera Gallery Dubai and participated in a group show hosted by them, so I am happy that they invited me to create this series exclusively for them.
What is the process by which you have translated your experience into a visual language?
It began with quick sketches made in the desert. Later as I absorbed the experience I began to develop the sketches into large scale compositions. My paintings are multi-layered. I spend a lot of time in creating a flat, smooth surface that allows the paint to flow freely. I work with the canvas on the floor and use the effect of gravity by throwing the paint on it. However, the process is very controlled to give me the forms I want. Every layer of paint is then covered with a clear coat of resin and colour washes so that each painting has over 10 layers. The resin makes the surface shiny as a mirror so that viewers are reflected in the painting and become part of it, enabling them to have a dialogue with the work.
Unlike most abstract artists, why do you like to give titles to your paintings and provide descriptions?
I think about every element in my compositions and I want my viewers to know what I want to portray through these abstract forms. The titles and descriptions provide them a key to enter a different dimension. For example, my painting Black Movement features arcs of black pigment emerging from a dark mass on a silver background. The idea here was to capture the dynamics of motion, energy and gravity, expressing the metaphysical forces that surround us and our connection with the universal force. Similarly, Gold Orbita alludes to the convergence of energy paths leading to the creation of stars. I used gold pigment here because this metal was created billions of years ago by the collision of asteroids on the earth’s surface and is a symbol of timelessness, while the high atomic density of the metal evokes the strong force of gravity and universal energy.
Do the colours you have used have special meaning?
The colours are the most important part of the work. I have used primary colours that are close to nature and to our primal being, so we can intuitively feel their energy. The swirls of viridian green in Green Fluctuation represent a crystallisation of the movement, convergence, and dynamics of pure energy from organic matter. In Blue Confluence, the vibration of the broad swathes of pure blue pigments over the golden background express the union of powerful energies that collide creating a new universal event.
In Rotating Universe, I have used sweeping strokes of magenta to depict the rotational forces and the expansion of energy in the parallel worlds of the human mind and universal paths. I have also used concentric circles of magenta and black in Rotation View to indicate the conscious and subconscious mind, and the universe outside as well as the equally infinite expanse and energy of the universe inside. In another work, a burst of bright yellow alludes to the gravitational field around us, inviting viewers to contemplate our place in the universe and the forces of the universe that keep things in place.
What response do you want from viewers?
I hope viewers can feel the spiritual energy I have sensed and are inspired to think about the connection and relationship we have with the universe. But my main aim is to convey joy and positivity and invite viewers to open their minds to the beauty of the universe.
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.
Quim Bové’s UAE inspired paintings are on display at Opera Gallery Dubai until December 31.