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Marist Bulletin - Number 198


Goyo, Saint Marcellin s artist

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Goyos signature adorns the portrait of Saint Marcellin that was displayed on the façade of St. Peters Basilica in Rome on the day our founder was canonized. This portrait, a source of pride for any artist, is not an isolated work but part of an ongoing series. Goyo has revolutionized the way we see Saint Marcellin, becoming universally acclaimed for the richness of his imagery and variety of themes, helping us draw closer to the founder, each in our own way

Br. Lluís Serra
FMS Message 33

What is the earliest memory you have of wanting to be an artist?
I was about eight or nine years old… I remember the teacher in our town giving us typical pictures to copy. For some reason, he liked my work. Thats probably when I began to feel a desire to follow up on something I really liked to do and that led people to say that I had a lot of talent

Your parents noticed your artistic talents and your liking to draw and paint?
Yes, even though we were a family of modest means and struggled to make ends meet. All I had was a set of colored pencils. I didnt start using tubes of oil colors until I was 18, when I was finally able to buy some. The materials were.

Early on, were your paintings imitations of what other artists did or an expression of your own inner world?
As a teenager I was a great fan of Dalí. For a time I closely imitated Dalís way of painting. Then, when I turned professional in the 90s and began to work with a gallery on a formal basis, I became very interested in Renaissance art, in the Italian masters of the 13th and 14th centuries. Subsequently I added a more personal touch to this Renaissance style.

When drawing faces, do you receive inspiration from specific people, or just use your own creative imagination?
I always start from my observations of the real world, whether people or things in the media, in magazines, in movies, or on television. Then I recreate what has impressed me about a face, a profile, and deliberately transform this so it will express what I want to portray.

Usually people are the focus of your paintings rather than still life, landscapes and other subjects...
Yes, the human figure has always been what brings out the best in me, whether its somewhat hidden behind clothing and masks or lately more itself... As Im painting, I get really excited when I see how I can subtly alter a subjects expression just by raising the eyebrows slightly or lowering the eyelids. Its so interesting to see how the face changes when you simply add or subtract the slightest distance between the eyes. The human body will always be a mystery, and it continues to thrill me. There are other figures, like on the Christmas stamp I designed, which combine classicism and modernity.

Is there an interpretation of your work that has attracted your attention, maybe even surprised you or helped you know yourself better?
Actually the above observation made me think long and hard. The truth is, yes, looking at my paintings you see scenes of people, but each one is in his or her own world, in a kind of autistic way. I suppose the works reflect my way of moving through the world. Its curious, many people in other countries like my approach. My paintings are quite universal in that respect, they give pleasure to a lot of people.

Do you paint for a living or do you live for painting?
I suppose a bit of both. Nowadays I know that everything I paint is welcomed and sells. I enjoy the freedom to do what I really want.

In what country does your work have a special appeal?
I have many American, German… clients, but the gallery in London is where my art exhibits are most eagerly anticipated and enjoy the greatest success. A gallery agent handles all my piantings and exhibits them there and elsewhere.

Have you tried to inventory the works youve created?
No I havent. Im pretty hopeless when it comes to that - I dont even take photos of what I do. When Im working on a painting I feel that it... well, it belongs to me in some way, and thats when I should enjoy it. Once its completed, I have nothing to do with it. I dont even have an archive. I leave everything in the hands of the gallery, and thats it. Some works are difficult to let go, and I continue to be struck by them This one for example, here it isnt fully displayed… At any rate, this is the book that brings together eleven years of my work with the gallery, and there are many catalogues.

Lets move on to religious art. What have you painted in the religious realm?
The first religious painting I did was in the novitiate. During the 1980-81 school year, at the entrance to the novitiate chapel in Villalba, I did a picture of Jesus and Mary. Its still there. And another painting showing praying hands combined with the Marist anagram, the M and the A. That too is very Dalian. To the right there is a kind of universal family with Christ projecting rays of light on the whole world, something very glob-al now that globalization is in vogue. I painted a Last Supper, similar to the one in the residence at Nuestra Señora de la Roca. There by chance I came upon a technique I used for depicting the clothing of the Apostles. After that my most well known work is the Christ with the boat. That was a sticker I made for Easter 1982 in Alcalá de Henares. Brother Elicio enlarged it and made it much more appealing. Thats the painting that has has been most well received by the public, together with the Virgin that is in San José del Parque, in what used to be the entrance to the Provincial House. The Virgin holding the child in her arms, translucent figures... Then there are all the murals I have done for Marist schools prior to the one in Chamberí. Also works commissioned by the Bishops Conference, for the Jubilee Year in 2000…

Youve said that your paintings express a lot of nostalgia. What elements appear as an expression of your religious side? What I mean is, when people contemplate your religious paintings, what devotion or spiritual qualities can they perceive in you, and what religious values do you transmit?
The Christ with the boat transmits a presence, a humanness - I dont know, an intensity of emotion that is some-thing very human and therefore very spiritual, a need to communicate, to be near and in solidarity, close to people. I dont see Jesus the way people rep-resented Him in the 19th century, with a halo, somewhat standoffish. Its His glance that makes Him special, connecting with you, seeing whats going on in your life, and what your needs are.

What is the meaning of Marcellin Champagnat in your interior life and artwork? How have you gone about discovering and experiencing his presence, shaping his image?
Its like I was just telling you. When Brother Agustín Carazo suggested that I create an updated image of Champagnat, I made a preliminary attempt on an old discarded canvas in the novitiate - That was in 1981 - with a very inexpensive set of paints that I bought in Villalba. It was Champagnat with a toothy smile. This was the first image that Agustín Carazo used in his work as postulator. Ive lost track of the canvas. The image I made for the beatification featured Champagnat seated at a desk, very studious. That was my way of trying to make him accessible, like someone in a movie you could go to and have him portray your own feelings. The enthusiasm that I felt as a Marist was an expression of what was going on inside me, feelings of unbounded joy. Then when the canonization came along, people told me I would need to turn out more serious work and use designs a bit more conventional. Im happy with the portrait for the canonization because its rich in color, especially showing Champagnats inner person. Technically, its quite well done. Its classical, yet theres a certain updatedness to it.

What sentiment did you want to express with that portrait for the canonization?
I was hoping to express all the personal and spiritual richness in Champagnat. I know Brother Balko liked it. He sent me his congratulations through other brothers. That was very important to me, be-cause he had been very critical about other images of Champagnat that I had done. At a meeting I had with him at the Hermitage, he gave me insights into the traits that characteristized Champagnat. Remembering his recommendations, I was able to apply them to the painting for the canonization. Thus I got to express quite a bit more than in other versions.

It turns out that now, for better or worse, there are two versions of the painting for the canonization. In one, Marcellin seems younger, and in the other more mature. What do you think of the fact that you were asked to make the founder, say, a few years older?
Working on commission gives you that advantage. Commissions make you rack your brains to achieve something the client wants. If Pope Julius II hadnt commissioned Michelangelo to work on the Sistine Chapel it wouldnt exist, be-cause the artist could hardly have completed the project if left on his own. So commissions oblige you to keep going and strive for an ideal, even though they come with the inconvenience of the restrictions that they impose on you. Thats the way things are.

Of the two versions of Marcellin, a young founder and the more mature one, which do you like more?
The first image has that youthful glow... Looking at it now, I can see that yes, really, he seems a little too young looking - too immature I was going to say. I dont know...

When he founded the Congregation, Marcellin was 27 years old…
Maybe Ive gotten older and see that he looks too young in this portrait. I think the older-looking image is more realistic, yes, the better one.

When the initial version of the painting arrived in Rome, before shipping it back to you to make some changes, we took some high-quality photos for publishing purposes and we also made some posters. Meaning that in print, both versions now exist
Yes, thats the nice thing about art: people have their own tastes - I have no problem with that.

What impresses you the most about Marcellin Champagnat?
Im always left with the feeling that hes a good man - his kindness, close-ness to people, ability to recognize their needs and address them. He was so human and able to reach out to people, open himself up to others; Yes, I think Ill continue to create expressions of what he means to me. I dont know if Ill find what Im looking for. Ideas pop into your head, even when you wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes you say to yourself, Im going to paint this and then in the morning when you awake you see what a silly idea it was. Its complicated to shape something thats ethereal. But yes, I maintain he didnt complain about problems but got to work resolving them. I like his ability and quickness to solve pressing problems. He continues to give me a lot to think about.

Do you think you have yet to paint the definitive portrait of Marcellin Champagnat, and that youre going to make another attempt some day?
Yes, I think Ill continue to create expressions of what he means to me. I dont know if Ill find what Im looking for. Ideas pop into your head, even when you wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes you say to yourself, Im going to paint this and then in the morning when you awake you see what a silly idea it was. Its complicated to shape something thats ethereal. But yes, I maintain the hope of painting something new and interesting.

Do you see any difference between the pictures of Marcellin Champagnat from your novitiate and scholasticate days and the most recent ones that youve paint-ed? Has there been an evolution?
A chronological evolution. The first images were very youthful. Now when I look at them, I think I made him appear too young. Theres an evolution toward maturity, which is a reflection of my life.

Marcellin Champagnat continues being the point of reference for your personal or spiritual life today?
Yes, as I was telling you earlier. Especially in the great humanness that he had, in his capacity to reach out to people, and in his readiness to help anyone in need...

When you were painting in the novitiate, did you feel understood by the brothers in charge? Did they think, this guys crazy, or be-cause you were painting things of the founder did they say good, as long as hes painting saints, every-things fine?
In the Juniorate I didnt do anything in an organized way. That happened after I entered the novitiate. I was very motivated because people seemed interested in my work. Brother Raúl, the master of novices, was al-ways very happy that I did drawings for our publications, for those of the Province. That was a wonderful time because I was doing what I liked, enjoyed the experience and put my whole heart and soul into it. Technically the work didnt have much merit, but I thought I was the king of painting, even though all the drawings were done in ink. On top of that, they were well received - for me, it was like hitting the jackpot.

You have also done works related to the world of education. In Marist education,which you know very well, what values would you single out, ones that you later incorporated into your paintings?
Presence and simplicity - I see the world of education as the reflection of Champagnats spirituality, or rather, the possibility of drawing near to people, to the kids that you are going to educate, in a more direct or closer way that other spiritual traditions, not with great theoretical pronouncements but by taking care of specific needs.

You have brought this way of educating to your paintings…
Yes, its what I tried to do for example in the mural at Chamberí. I portray the brothers doing the heavy-duty construction work for the school. Its a metaphor because I dont know if things really happened that way... I picture the brothers building with stone, lime, cement, …putting in the windows, the glasswork. Using this metaphor I want to express their presence in all aspects of the schools life. From the very beginning, they build the school and all it means in terms of participation, dedication, and commitment.

Do you think that in our education programs we should give more importance to art in its different facets, or it is already present in a sufficient way?
I dont know. I imagine that things depend very much on everthing the State requires in regard to education in the different political regions. I dont know the situation in each school. It also de-pends on the demands that parents and students make. I wish there were more people who asked your question. I have learned through friends who work in public education that those in charge are going to do away with a host of jobs be-cause people arent demanding an arts curriculum. You cant force people to choose music or painting... If parents tell their children that theres no future in those areas, what can we do about it? History goes in cycles.

How do you see Maria in your paintings?
Always and especially as a tender mother, with a very maternal gaze, very welcoming, having very beautiful features, deeply peaceful

When you paint Mary, isnt their some nostalgia in her expression?
I think so, yes. All the women that I paint appear that way. They have that. remoteness associated with ideal beauty, they seem to have a serenity that classical painters tried to ex-press in Venus de Milo, verifying that series of mathematical designs that classicists devised to project peace. I paint this way instinctively - the women are filled with peace and a sense of yearning at the same time, and if I could I would endow them with even greater warmth.

If you had to save two or three of the paintings youve done, which ones would you leave for posterity?
I havent painted them yet… some day. Right now, I wouldnt risk choosing any Ive done so far.

You havent painted them yet…
I dont think so. I hope the best is yet to come. I hope they materialize some day. And if not, so what? Let me say this, the time I really feel great is when Im painting and bingo, its done. When you complete a work, you have to think about the next one because the one you just finished is history, and thats all there is to it.

You painted the mural of the Marist Family at the General House in Rome. You had just gotten married…
Yes, I did it on our honeymoon. It all began when Brother Agustín Carazo, Postulator General at that time, attended our wedding and said to us, How about coming to Rome for your honeymoon. Well see Italy together, visit the city, and while youre there, you can paint a mural. He was always needling me.

Did you paint some of the pictures in the Hall of the Superiors General?
Yes, I painted the portrait of Brother Charles Raphael. After that I was commissioned to do the one for Basilio Rueda…

Your years with the Marist brothers, what values have they left in your life?
99% of my personality, of my way of doing things; the simple way I approach life, how natural it is for me to be truly human, especially in putting people be-fore ideology. Brother Ruperto, who used to take care of the hens in Sigüenza, gave me my first definition of art: Are you an artist? he asked me, and then he quickly added, An artist is one who does things well. And philosophers are for-ever laboring to explain what art is… When all is said and done, all the brothers that I have met and with whom I have lived are ever present in my mind. step further. If thats what you aspire to, you can work on a single subject over and over again.

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