A project by the acclaimed Czech artist Hynek Martinec has been launched in the south of Spain.
As a child Hynek Martinec used to visit the National Gallery in Prague where he was particularly drawn to a painting entitled Praying Christ (1595-97) by El Greco. When the National Gallery recently invited Martinec to make an exhibition and in doing so to respond to the outstanding Baroque collections of the museum, he chose the El Greco portrait as the starting point. Martinec described revisiting the collection as ‘like meeting old friends’. Martinec says: ‘When I had finished the painting I wanted to experiment with bringing it to Spain, where El Greco made his painting of Christ at the end of the sixteenth century. I was also interested in the idea of showing my painting in nature instead of in a gallery space.’ El Greco had been active in Toledo so Martinec began to search for a suitable location, eventually identifying an area close of the village of Puenterosa. He was particularly interested in this area because he felt that religion was very much ‘alive’ here and still an important part of daily life. He enlisted the help of local people to identify a suitable location, not in a town or village but in the landscape, where he might site the painting.
Martinec says: ‘My idea was to return to the original function of art as inherent part of religion. The painting is now in the open countryside, not protected by a building or any permanent structure.’ This represents an invitation. Martinec hopes people will come to see the work and will explore their relationship to art, religion and history. For the artist it also represents a respectful and ongoing dialogue with history.
The painting will be in situ for at least one year – perhaps for more – and Martinec is prepared for the painting to be vandalized or even stolen. His idea is that whatever happens will be a reflection of the ways art and religion function in society now.
El Greco is Watching is part of a larger project. In 2016 Martinec sited a painting of a Buddha in a remote wilderness location in Iceland, where it remains. It is his ambition to create a number of similar works exploring the ways in which different religions - for example Hinduism or Judaism - function outside of places of worship such as churches or temples, and the relationship between art and nature.
In April 2018 Martinec will present a major exhibition at the National Gallery, Prague, including documentation of El Greco Is Watching.
Launched: Pena de Arias Montano, Andalucia, 10 October 2017