Piece of the month June 2009


Emilio Quintanilla Martínez
Chairof Navarrese Heritage and Art


The Pamplona painter Miguel Echauri has donated his work entitled Tazas y pan, an oil on canvas measuring 115 x 139 cm, to the Museum of Navarre, on the occasion of the anthological exhibitionheld at the museum between March and May 2009.

The painting, dated 2002, is a very representative sampleof his current style, the result of a maturity reached after a long production and extensive pictorial experimentation.

We could explain this work by referring to the roots of his painting, which are linked to the teaching of Ciga, with whom he was initiated in this art, to the Spanish baroque betrayal, so close to the tactile representation of surfaces and the ideological charge of the still life of vanitas; to the importance of the expressive value of the subject, in close relation to the broad Spanish informalist movement, of whose members Miguel Echauri is a contemporary, or to other historical or aesthetic categories.

But none of them explains the painting as profoundly as the experience of this painting itself, the world of suggestions that direct contemplation of the canvas conveys and suggests. Here we see, placed on a table in front of a parapet, a series of everyday objects that might even be called vulgar: a few loaves of bread, a couple of bowls and a cauldron, arranged on rough cloths. And behind, a parched stony landscape and a caliginous sky. The colours run through a wide range of ochres and blues. The technique is of a meticulousness that characterises this artist.

Miguel de Echauri. "Cups and bread

Miguel de Echauri. "Cups and bread". 2002
Museum of Navarre


But the mere description of the painting contributes practically nothing to its understanding, since the objects represented and the way in which this is done are but the keys to penetrate a whole world of suggestions, of invitations to communication, which can awaken in each of those who contemplate it feelings as different as the spectators.

Of course, we cannot fail to mention, admiringly, the great mastery of the painter's official documentwhich allows him to capture, with a technique of great virtuosity, and achieving exquisite nuances, the material qualities: the roughness of the canvases, the qualities of the objects, the gradations in the textures, which, above all in the landscape, allow us to establish the spatial evaluationand depth, the lights which lend volume and timelessness, the aerial perspective.

The meticulous technique, without falling into miniaturism, manages to dignify the humility of the objects depicted, and so this kind of blanket, surely old and, of course, humble, acquires as many violet shades as a royal mantle; the rusty cauldron becomes almost a piece of goldsmith's work, dignified by the care taken in its representation; the humble bowls have the shine of the finest ceramics....

And what can we say about the landscape, perfectly defined spatially, inert, almost lunar, but with the desolate beauty of the desert.

And all this opens the way to communication with the spectator, who is the addressee of the painting, and to whom a univocal vision is not presented. Some will see, as if they were tasting Proust's madeleine, a past world of which these objects are a reference and whose memory is awakened now; others, the passing of time and therefore, the invitation to carpe diem; others the survival of a past that is longed for; there will also be those who see symbols of destruction, the inexorable and destructive action of time, and perhaps there will also be those who experience the invitation to overcome a past world of which little can be taken advantage of.

Or none of the above possibilities, but other, intimate, singular, personal sensations awakened by the humble objects in the painting.

Miguel Echauri's painting has been sufficiently treated by critics over several decades. The best bibliographical compilation, as well as a rigorous scientific study, is the recent work by Francisco Javier ZUBIAUR CARREÑO, Miguel Echauri, Pintor, Gobierno de Navarra, departmentde Cultura y Turismo, Institución Príncipe de Viana, Pamplona, 2009.