UNDER GLASS WITH MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA
WALT MORTON: Your current work is primarily realist still life images of marine life in glass containers. Artists have been doing art of sea creatures since antiquity (there’s a mosaic of a fish in the Vatican museum from the year 200.) And painting dead animals, especially game and food was popular with the Northern Renaissance (Flemish and Dutch) painters. Do you feel connected or informed by these historical painters? Or are you doing something different? Why did you start doing this content originally?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: The truth is that everything that you can think of has attracted painters attention at some time, what changes is the point of view. A fish can have a religious or astrological meaning in a particular context and an entirely different one in a Flemish still live, for example. In my case, I was attracted by the fact of expressing the mystery of the biology, the mystery of the life, through the plasticity of the organic. I began taking photos in the Faculty of Biology (university biology department) and I found the subject very appealing so I decided to go deeper into the issue.
WALT MORTON: You are a painter of realist still-life images. Do you feel that label is accurate? Are you a realist? In some works like OCTOPUS 2, while there are carefully rendered areas, there are also soft painterly “lost” areas. You clearly don’t feel the need to show every detail like Willem Claeszoon Heda did in “Still Life with Pie, Silver Ewer and Crab (1658.)” So where do you draw that line between showing detail and showing too much?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: I think that any label is reductionist because every artist is different, but it is evident that I use a realistic language to express myself. About these lost areas, I will tell you that for me, in an image, the black is silence, it’s mystery, the unknown, unconscious, and I think that this is an essential component in the concept of these works. I have been a violinist, and I know very well that the silences are part of the music.
WALT MORTON: Putting the sea-life under glass, into these containers removes the usual game/food association and makes them into specimens. This is reinforced when you put them all together, as a cabinet of curiosities (Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer) as in your work THE MERMAID. What do you want the viewer to think about and/or feel when they look at your work?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: I think that the idea of a scientific and rational study of the specimens is present in these paintings, but at the same time we feel that something is missing from the organisms, the mystery of the life, something that is beyond our understanding. The creatures are preserved like when they were still alive but they aren’t, the spark of life cannot be enclosed in the jar of our rationality. The photo of a mermaid represents a different kind of thinking, the magical thinking that is needed for our balance. The known balances the mystery of the unknown. Of course, every viewer is different and will have a different perception of the work. In fact I think that any view may be right, because when we are dealing with symbols there is not only one correct interpretation. I think that sometimes the artist doesn’t have complete control over his work but he is a vehicle for his unconscious and even for the collective unconscious.
WALT MORTON: Where do you get your reference? Do you make these jars and specimens, and do you paint them from life or photographic reference?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: So far, I have worked from photos that I have taken in the Faculty of Biology of Valencia, or in my house, putting the specimens into the jars. The problem working from life is the deterioration of the organisms. Photographs allow you to see a fixed reference moment; then you can modify the composition, the light and the color in order to achieve the right atmosphere for the concept of the painting. However, I am now beginning a new painting from life, with specimens that I have preserved in formalin, in addition to other objects. It’s another way that I want to explore these subjects. I know that for some painters working from life or the natural is almost a moral issue, but for me the most important thing is the final result, my goal is to realize my intention.
WALT MORTON: One of the most striking things about your sea-life paintings is the compositional complexity of the object, jammed in the jar, as in SHARK. The compositions, especially in their starkness, also feel more modern than old still life. What are your thoughts on composition?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: The composition, the lighting and the color range are essential to transmit the concept of the work, and usually, the concept is for me, seeking more a particular energy than a rational idea. So, I base my work in my feelings, but this does not ignore improvisation, because I spend a lot of time exploring these feelings in order to achieve an image that satisfies me. However, sometimes some unavoidable factors play an essential role in the composition, like the size of the shark, for example. When I was bending the animal in order to put it into the jar I felt like I was almost humiliating it, and it was a little hard for me. There are some things that the painting you are working on imposes and you cannot control. Perhaps there is a reason for it.
WALT MORTON: Your oil paintings have the look and feel of premium quality oil paintings finished with care and great color and texture. That indicates a background of craft and training to achieve surfaces like this. Can you talk about how you learned oil painting and your development as a painter? What lessons were critical to improve and move forward?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: I can say that I have been painting, or drawing, for as long as I can remember. The technique is something one progressively acquires through the lessons that we receive from a master, the study of the work of other painters, the experimentation, some occasional discovery and, of course, the experience. It was very important for me to meet a master, Francisco Ugeda, in a crucial moment. The learning time with him was quite short, but he transmitted some concepts to me that served as catalyst for developing what was blocked in my mind. Often, people go to workshops expecting the teacher to reveal a special method of work, formulas or secrets, and this is a great mistake. The most important thing is to learn the concepts that allow you to build your personal technique, in accordance with what you want to express. In fact, my technique can be very different depending of the subject of the painting, but the basic concepts are always the same.
WALT MORTON: In 2017, what are your favorite technical tools and methods and materials? Is there anything in the tool bag crucial to your work? What are you dependent upon?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: I am not a fanatic of the materials, the tools are only tools.
WALT MORTON: Some of your best effects come from a confidence in painting transparency, glass, and reflective highlights. What can you say about the difficulty of that — or achieving some of the other lighting and textural effects in your painting?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: I think that there is a fundamental concept in painting, and that is that the final appearance of the painting depends on the process used in its realization. This seems obvious, but sometimes this is not so clear. In order to achieve certain effects you must follow a particular strategy from the first coat. In this manner, all appears in a natural way. Some people talk about photographic aspect when the brushstrokes are not evident, or the forms are not more or less destroyed, but they forgot that there are many pictorial codes apart from the brushstroke, like the glazes, variable degrees of transparency, volumes, painting rubbed, optical effects of color, the ability to make the painting interesting at different viewing distances, etc. All of this creates the energy of the work, when you see the live painting.
WALT MORTON: Do you fit into a local or national group of Spanish painters? There are famous realists like Antonio López García, Golucho, etc. What is the painting environment like for you? Supportive? Isolated?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: In Spain we have a large number of figurative painters of different generations and with great quality. I think that one of the features of the realism in Spain is its heterogeneity. I feel closer to some of them for reasons of friendship, age or the way of understanding art, but I have contact with a lot of them. From time to time, we meet in Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia.
WALT MORTON: You are now showing with Arcadia Contemporary Gallery to a global audience. I am wondering how people are reacting to the sea-life paintings, and is it different in America, Spain, China, etc? Do you have a typical collector?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: The truth is that usually I don’t know who buys my works in a Gallery, but I think that there are three types of collector. The first buys a painting to coexist with it in home simply because they like it. The second type looks for works that interest them intellectually or spiritually, apart from the aesthetic, of course. The third type buys names, as an investment or for a collection. These are not “pure” types, a lot of collectors are a combination of them. I think that in the first type we can find more cultural differences depending on the country, but the second type of collector is more global, and depends on each one's preference.
WALT MORTON: Will you stay with this aquatic subject matter a few more years — or is there something else on the horizon?
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA: If you look at what I have been painting the last ten years, you can see how my issues have been changing, so I suppose that it will be the same in the future. I already have new ideas in mind and I hope to make them a reality soon. After all, if we evolve, why not our art?
Miguel Angel Moya's works can be seen in a group exhibition at ARCADIA CONTEMPORARY | April 4 - 23, 2017 at 9428 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232
MIGUEL ANGEL MOYA was born in Valencia in 1970. He began his Fine Arts degree at the Facultad Politécnica de Valencia in the late 80s, giving up two years later, disappointed by the method of teaching at the Faculty. Around the same time he met the realistic painter Francisco Ugeda, in whose workshop he learned the technical fundamentals of painting. In 1992 he has his first exhibition in Denia, Spain. Moya also studied the Violin receiving an advanced degree in the discipline. He combined painting with his work as a musician for years, but left the violin in 2002 to fully focus on his career as a painter. Since then, Moya has exhibited his work across Europe, United States and China. In 2008 he has his first solo exhibition in Madrid (Santiago Echeberría Gallery) in 2011 he had a solo exhibition in New York.
In 2014, Line and Stylish Art Magazine chose him between the seven most outstanding figurative artist born after 1970 in Spain. His painting is characterized by a realistic language that does not bow to matter or gesture. In his work we can find influences from the baroque European masters to contemporary artists. After an initial period marked by musical themes, his interests in Jungian psychology and alchemy gave rise to a series of works with a symbolic charge, sometimes obvious and others more subtle, as in his series of Indoor Scenes. At the end of 2013, his subject matter was still lifes with biological content, where marine creatures appear in a mysterious atmosphere, sometimes as scientific collections. In 2015 Miguel Angel began showing with Arcadia Contemporary.