The language of visual transfiguration of Roca Bon.
After gaining a firm command of the methods of creating Christian iconography and altarpieces and after passing through the dominant leading art movements of the 20th century, the spiritual qualities of Roca Bon’s visual language once again has gained the transfigurative strength of an icon.
Evolving towards an art of mystical space, which invites to meditation, silence, the search for spiritual reality…., the artist attempts through his language of geometric abstraction to usher us into a metaphysical realm.
Altarpieces and mural paintings forged his artistic roots.
His first teachers: His own father, the painter Fernando Roca Guillemi (awarded third prize for sketching by the City of Paris in 1913) and the altarpiece painter Jordi Aluma.
His challenge: The eternal search of both physical and metaphysical reality. His brush extracts the transcendental aspects of common things, expressing the inexpressible, painting the silence, empowering the senses, not obliging them.
His passion: Geometry, because “it is the foundation of civilization, the beginning of everything”.
“Geometry is like a calligraphy that cannot be read in a literary manner but which induces a state of serenity and relaxation conducive to knowledge”.
His originality: To embrace painting without limits in order to express the universal by capturing the timeless values.
His focus: Autobiographical painting. Genre, still lifes, urban landscapes, personal experiences giving each an ethereal breath.
The present work of Roca Bon maintains harmony, equilibrium, and order; although his palette has darkened, he continues to maintain the optimistic breath that characterizes all his paintings. Roca Bon is now immersed in a search for a perspective which creates a deep and unique metaphysical atmosphere in each composition.
Even when he paints a landscape he subjects it to his transforming alchemy. In art if one wishes to progress, the passion for nature must be controlled. A rock will remain a rock if the hand of man does not intervene.
A contemporary iconography. The foundation of the icon is geometry, therefore his present work could be defined as a contemporary iconography.
An icon appears concrete, anti romantic, plain, simple, but it hides a meaning. One must know how to decipher the mysteries it conceals. The icon’s settings always appear flat and it’s perspective non realistic but in fact it has depth. Imagery expression is neither happy nor sad, (an indispensable feature for mystical or a spiritual art); it is simply serene.
“Similarly my present paintings are neither sad nor happy. They are spaces in which nature is transfigured.”
An interactive space for the senses. Roca Bon’s paintings require no interpretation. Each viewer according to his own receptivity may perceive their concealed mysteries.
“I desire in my painting to provide space for the viewer which respects his silence, and gives him the opportunity to freely discover the painting’s beauty and the sensations it provokes beauty, like good music requires time, space, so that the hearer can grasp it and transport it to the other senses. Only this way can its vibrations affect the soul.” This is what I expect of my painting: that they release a full range of sensations in the viewer. My over-arching concern is that my work creates a space to think and meditate. A space which is habitable, in which things can be transfigured.
The metaphysical connection: Roca Bon offers his art as an instrument to mediate between the visible world and the spiritual world.
“In my work I try to express the universal, not what is particular to one culture, race or religion the eternal search of both physical and metaphysical reality is a way to recognize the creative will of man a way to the transcendental nature of men a way to reach man’s transcendental nature I extract the timeless values of the past I attempt to empower the senses, not to oblige nor lead them”.
Beauty is Hard. “To penetrate a painting, to penetrate beauty is hard,” recognizes Roca Bon. “The art being made is primarily for the senses, from the skin outwards. But beauty that is more sublime is hard to see and nowadays, since we want everything fast, there are barriers that prevent us from entering it”.
When Art is Made Timeless
“When art becomes spiritual or timeless as it has been demonstrated in the art of Mesopotamia or old Egypt, it continues to connect with contemporary artistic values an Egyptian pyramid is contemporary because it is timeless, it is not old fashioned, it doesn’t tire. Everything that has an artistic value also has a spiritual value.”
The Design Era: “The 21st century will be a century for design. Design brings harmony to man, makes him live better; homes, theatres, restaurants, are a recognition of the creativity of man”.
“I have a Baha’i vision, that is universal of life”. Because of this I search for symbols that define the mystical side of people. “In my present painting the vision of mysticism is universal”. With the Baha’i revelation he finds the equilibrium of a spiritual humanism that gives him meaning of the transcendental, and offers him a constant vision of the past, the present and the future”.
Ferran Roca Bon receives his first lessons in painting from his father, the altarpiece painter Fernando Roca Desvern Guillemi, 1884 – 1967)”, in the small house that he used as his studio in his home in Sant Just Desvran.
“I grew up in a dream-like atmosphere, in an area bordering the great city where nature was still to be developed; an area charged with comfortable intimacy, shadowed only by miseries peculiar to those years after the war.”
Despite the magical transmutation fashioned by the brush of the artist, the house where he spent his childhood, with its garden, well and palm tree, are readily noticed in many of his works.
“My best works” – recognizes the artist – “have been the interiors of homes. My canvas tries to retain the happiness of the good times lived”
His first contact with painting techniques is at the studio of his father and that of Jordi Aluma, for whom he worked several years. The training acquired during these years allowed him to develop the technique now noticeable in all his work.
First contact with leading art movements.
In 1958 the young artist travels for the first time to Paris. As luggage he only carries a few addresses of painters which his father has given him plus the excitement of a young man of 18 who leaves Spain for the first time, a post war Spain that he felt was impoverished artistically and economically.
There he enters into contact with leading art movements, and discovers Chagal among others.
“This was very powerful. I was 18 and I was coming from a country where there was nothing. It was my first contact with the avant garde, with Juan Gris and Chagal. But it was the latter who influenced me in a very special way since with him I discovered the autobiographical work, poetry and dreams. I understood that even a cup of coffee is autobiographical and this helped me give transcendence to everyday things”.
On returning to Barcelona the contrast between the world he had just known and the limited reality that surrounded him awakened in him the desire for adventure. His only thought was to discover new horizons.
An altarpiece painter of fame in the Philippines
In 1960 his search for new horizons took him to Marseilles, where he embarked for Hong Kong and from there for the Philippines. He settled in Manila, a city where he lived for almost 5 years and where he became well recognized as a painter of religious murals and altarpieces.
His work would pave the way to meeting the painter and art patron Fernando Zobel who, enthusiastic over Roca Bon’s fine technique, put him in charge of the restoration of his important collection of colonial art.
While meeting the difficult demands of his restoration work, Roca Bon, in addition, produced a large number of oils and watercolours and exhibited them at the Luz gallery in Manila.
Religious orders in the Philippines commissioned him to do many mural and altarpiece paintings, but the artist growing homesick for Europe decided to return there in 1965.
The search for the dream-like in everyday things.
Between Barcelona and Amsterdam through Paris, (1965 – 1971), the work of the artist, who was fascinated by the intimacy of the Dutch homes, showed in this period a search for the dream-like in genre painting.
This yearning to “express the inexpressible”, to find a mystical space that “invites to meditation, silence, and reflection”, would lead to his present painting period: one which allows him to express “silences”, sounds, a state of being”; in which spaces are positive, mystical, well ordered, geometric and unpeopled, in which the transcendent is extracted from the banal.
In search of Catalan Romanic art in New York
With the intention of seeing the Romanic Catalan art, Roca Bon made his first trip to New York City in 1971, where he resided for over a year.
While there he formed a relationship with the gallery owner, Mario Braders, and in addition worked in encaustics and serigraphy. About his museum visits he comments, “Almost nothing interested me, except the atmosphere of the museum of Modern Art”; – it was there he made contact with the abstract expressionism of Appell.
Strongly attracted by the city and its architecture he said, “I was impressed by the bridges, the lights at night and above all I was surprised that people talked much in the street. The population was affected by the Vietnam War”.
His friend the painter, Carlos Mensa, with whom he shared a studio in Barcelona, put him in contact with Kura King, in New York.
“He helped me contact artists and galleries. But Kura King, as many other well known painters I met, have been friends but have not influenced my work. With him I spoke of “the value of painting, but not of painting in itself.”
Years later, the life of Roca Bon and his professional experiences in this city would inspire the movie “Ivorsi”, which was filmed in the Romanic cloisters of New York and in a mountain village of the catalan pyrinees, Llavorsi.
From the icon to mystic geometry
The icon became a springboard bringing him closer to abstract art, and to mystical geometry. Through the technical discipline that its realization demands, icons give wings to the painter in search of new archetypes.
Little by little his canvas moved away from the dream-like, and gave way to a swarm of geometric works, as though a virtual reality board, they assisted the senses towards metaphysical realms.
Forty years dedicated to painting has produced the magic of maturity. Although he confesses, “It is perhaps because I do not know how to do anything else”, no-one can deny that Roca Bon not only knows well his trade but has known how to place it at the service of humanity.”