"Recovering Miguel Marina"
By Jaime Cuenca
Periódico Bilbao Aldizkaria, Artes Plásticas, p. 13
Few of you, very few, will recognize the work of Miguel Marina, a representative sample of which is being shown now at the Colegio de Abogados. He returns to his native Bilbao after a long journey of exile following the Spanish Civil War. Incredible as it may seem, these refugees continue to surprise us by their irreparable absences. After the Civil War, Miguel Marina emigrated to Venezuela and after many adventures settled in California. It is there that he dedicated himself fully to his art and created an unusual body of work that is essentially pre-modern in its sensibility.
In Miguel Marina’s paintings, the Renaissance never happened. His figures are elongated and hieratic with enormous hands and eyes that seem to come directly from a Romanesque chapel or from a Byzantine panel. They have an archaic spirituality that takes pleasure in pious traditional scenes, such as the Annunciation or the Passion. Marina revisits those moments of dogma, however, with an astonishingly poetic imagination.
He paints with the delirious clairvoyance of Chagall and also with his profound understanding of the narrative value of symbols. Marina’s reds and blues, reminiscent of a cathedral’s stained glass windows, portray an extremely personal world, one that towards the end of his life was filled with memories and daydreams of his lost Basque land. Porrones (bottles with long spouts for drinking wine), men with txapelas (berets), chalupas (small boats) and dishes of bacalao (salted cod) are combined with flattened landscapes and night scenes with angels hovering over them. It is this incredible atmosphere that prevents his religious feeling or the nostalgia for his country from turning to kitsch. On the contrary, what is seen here is the creative power of art capable of channeling the individual memories of one human being into something universal. Today, we discover Miguel Marina and we can’t help but feel in his elongated figures, the cold wind of exile.