Art buffs out there would issue a cri de coeur for daring to suggest that the work of late painter, Antonio Blanco, did not come any closer to the work of Salvador Dali.
Yet, this is precisely what is ought to be said. Having looked at Blanco’s mostly water colours transitions, charismatic collages, and some that I would rather call erotic sketches and erotic newspaper cut-out collages, Blanco can only be described as the ‘Dali of Bali’. In the sense that both were of Spanish heritage, and because Blanco wore berets too. And there it starts and ends, for the two men’s artworks take different routes.
This is not to demean Blanco’s work and artistic flair. He clearly had his own unique technique that clearly made an impact on the thousands of art lovers who continue to buy his paintings, as evidenced by many who visit Blanco’ museum in Ubud part of Bali Island of Indonesia. I did not, though, find Blanco’s techniques, and his artwork alluring, as artworks do. And I cannot bring myself to find commonality in Blanco’s work to Dali’s surreal or optical illusions – which as far as I am concerned, remain some of the masterpieces of all times.
Take for example Blanco’s ‘meaning of life’ portrait – a sketch of obscure lines that only marks out a naked woman, and the only clearer and detailed part in the painting is the female genitalia. Below the painting, Blanco, informs the visitors to his museum that the painting was motivated by a friend who wrote him asking what is the meaning of life. The painting was apparently an answer to that question, along with the words: “A fresh mango on one hand and my left hand placed on firm buttocks of an 18 year old.”
Among the many nude model portraits are ‘Eve with an Apple’, and the ‘Girl with a Bottle.’ Blanco portraits seem to be either about breasts, the female genitalia or both, in vivid sketches to appreciate, unless the female genitalia are partially obscured, in which you get full on breasts. Even collages are about thrusting, pleasures and … you get the direction.
The most obscenities and grotesque portraits and artistic contraptions, are covered in the erotic room of the museum. So please if you do make your way there, do not forget to open those contraptions – they are shatters – and read the citations below the artworks.
No, Blanco is not the Dali of Bali for Blanco’s portraits are a far cry for Dali’s ‘In Voluptas Mors’, the ‘Two Adolescent’, The Study of A Female Nude’, or even the simple untitled sketch of a female nude on a palette. Dali’s paintings have depth, captivating, engaging and so many layers to scrutinise, look at and appreciate. Blanco simply draw your eyes to the female anatomy in the sketches, in their full glorious details. Thus the criticism has nothing to do with nudity, it rather the absence of depth in the artwork.
Yes, there are those who appreciate such simple sketches. I do not. Neither do I appreciate the fact he was a tad self-centred, self-absorbed man who saw himself as THE maestro (perhaps better than Dali). There is a painting, his early sketch when still studying, with these words (and am paraphrasing): ‘I did this portrait when I was studying art in New York. Just look at how good I was, even then, in the way the light and strokes….’ I didn’t find the painting worth that any praise.
His artwork, which he did himself, on the painting’s frames, is amazing. He used metal and wood, and even soap and cigarette. As one critic described them saying the “artworks are shocking behaviour and bombast.”
But I would still not call him the ‘Dali of Bali.’ I will credit him for bringing Ubud, and Bali, to the international stage as one of Asia’s literally and artistic centre. The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in October. It was a literally haven for writers, with new books and writers to mingle with. So too was the Ubudu Art Festival that took place in June was, as always, worth the visit by artists.
*The Blanco Renaissance Museum is a museum located in Ubud on Bali island of Indonesia. The visit to Indonesia was thanks to the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism.