Our Men in Tahiti
Our Men in Tahiti, 2016.
The exhibition is composed of a series of works inspired by the ‘The Ebb-Tide’ (Bajamar), a late novel by Robert Louis-Stevenson. For the development of this new project, Zabell has been immersed in fieldwork that has led him to different parts of the world such as Scotland, the United States and Tahiti, following any signs relating to the book, primarily its locations and through interviews with the world´s top experts on the subject.
From the end of the 1990s, Zabell has primarily developed projects examining the effects of performance and narrative on painting and installation, in which he frames one of his principal lines of investigation: the personal interpretation and translation of musical, literary and poetic works, like in the case of the French Alain Robbe-Grillet, to whom he dedicated three of his most ambitious projects, and musicians such as the Hawaiian Ernest Ka’ai, or the celebrated Olivier Messiaen. Zabell freely recreates the works of these artists to capture their ideas on the canvas, and disrupt the concept of fiction, and the relationship of the spectator to it. The works turn the spectator into the protagonist, viewing this challenge to trace the relationship between the works of Zabell and the different episodes from which they are inspired.
In “Our Men in Tahiti”, the artist has proposed to continue an investigation around Stevenson´s novel, but transcending its boundaries, exploring if it has meaning beyond the story that it tells, if its author was exposing a political ideology or even ideas related to the philosophical field. Each one of the canvasses is inspired by a concrete fragment of the novel, fragments of which the artist writes on the back of the canvas, almost by way of a written map of his individual pursuit of Stevenson, of his ideas, and of his adjoining destiny as an artist.
As is now customary in the different series of Simon Zabell, the artist has developed a new technical and formal process for these works: the paintings from “Our Men in Tahiti” are characterized by a combination of the application of dense layers of oil predominantly in grey and an airbrush stencil of fluorescent colours. The combination generates an ethereal atmosphere that envelopes the spectator and takes them to the places of the South Pacific.
The project is complemented by a video created by Gonzalo Posada that documents the entire process, from the reading of the novel, the visit to the places described in Stevenson´s work, some interviews with researchers and specialists, as well as the paintings, by way of conclusion, to the works of the Malagan artist.
This new series has been realised thanks to the I Beca Foundation BBVA a Creadores Culturales. One of the first works of the series was awarded with the I Premio de Pintura Pepe Estévez.