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Home Culture Isabel Villar, artist: “The day Franco was exhumed I felt immense happiness” | Culture

Isabel Villar, artist: “The day Franco was exhumed I felt immense happiness” | Culture

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Isabel Villar has just turned 90 and has celebrated it with an exhibition of recent work in which her fantastic nature is once again populated by women full of candor and happiness. Alone or in small groups, they frolic in a paradise where animals accompany them in the shadow of waterfalls while they transform into butterflies. In this latest version of Eden, the male imprint is imperceptible, unless someone discovers it camouflaged in wild animals or in the sex of angels.

Cantabrian born in Salamanca and resident in Madrid, the artist arrives at the Fernández-Braso gallery slightly helped by a cane. She traveled by bus from the Arturo Soria area to the Salamanca neighborhood, where the room is located. She arrives full of energy and very happy because along the way she has hooked up with another lady who recognized her because the night before the journalist Carlos del Amor took her out in the Newscast from La 1.

In this same gallery he held his last exhibition, in 2018. It was a kind of anthology in which his painting from the seventies to 2017 was reviewed and of which he has great memories because it was curated by his great friend Alberto Anaut, who died in July. from last year. The catalog of this exhibition is dedicated to Anaut’s memory, which can be visited until May 25.

Ask. When did you paint these paintings? Are there old paintings next to recent ones?

Answer. No. I have painted all of these and many others from 2022 until now. I have an immense facility to work. I am very fast and very hard-working.

P. Did the coronavirus affect you?

R. I didn’t get through the illness, but just in those days when everything was getting worse, I had a hip operation. When President Sánchez announced the confinement of the country, my nieces were able to take me from the hospital in La Paz (Madrid) to convalesce with them at home. Since the death of my husband (the artist Eduardo Sanz, who died in 2013) I live alone. My son Sergio couldn’t take care of me either.

Image from the Isabel Villar exhibition. Claudio Alvarez

P. You were well taken care of, but how did it affect you emotionally?

R. The coronavirus quarantines, far from paralyzing me like some people, forced me to work faster because I felt that time was slipping away from me and I had to take advantage of it. If until then I spent the entire morning working, as soon as I could manage myself well, I also started working in the afternoon. You can’t waste time.

P. Working in such a dedicated way would help him overcome the sadness for the people who were dying in droves those days.

R. One of the things that most outrages me is reading how frivolously President Ayuso refers to those deaths. I usually read EL PAÍS every morning and there are many times that I throw it to the ground because of the horror that comes from seeing news in which she comes out laughing at all of us.

P. What other things cause you this indignation?

R. The massacre that Israel is committing in Palestine. Bombing hospitals is the latest. I can’t see the images of the broken children. Suffering has a limit.

P. What memories do you have of your native Salamanca? When the Civil War you were very little.

R. I was two years old. I come from a middle class family. Conservative and cultured, not extreme right. My father, Miguel Villar, was a forestry engineer and a close friend of Unamuno. My grandfather, Manuel Villar y Macías, is the author of the only existing history of Salamanca. I am the third of five siblings, three girls and two boys. In 1941, my father was transferred to the forest area of ​​Ávila and the winters were so harsh that they brought us to Salamanca. Imagine what those mountains were like, but the truth is that we did not see what was happening to a large part of the population.

The painter Isabel Villar with her husband, Eduardo Sanz, in an undated image provided by the artist.
The painter Isabel Villar with her husband, Eduardo Sanz, in an undated image provided by the artist.

P. At what moment did you decide to become a painter?

R. I hated mathematics and, on the other hand, I have always had a great facility for drawing. At school he bartered with his classmates, who did my math homework. I made them some very careful drawings. They didn’t scold me much either because she was a good-natured girl who filled the blackboards with virgins in May. So when I told my parents to enroll me in San Eloy, the Drawing school in Salamanca, they did and there was no drama.

P. Didn’t they have more conservative plans for you, like marrying a boy from a good family?

R. I don’t believe it. I didn’t give much room for plans like that either because at 18 I was at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts. Among his closest friends were Alfredo Alcaín, Antonio Zarco, Ángel Doreste, Vicente Vela and Eduardo Sanz.

P. Were there few women?

R. Few. The proportion was three women for every 10 men. Many left when they got married.

P. It was not the case with him.

R. Quite the opposite. The boys then invited you to dance or to the movies, but Eduardo invited me to go out and paint landscapes on Sundays. How could I not fall in love with him? We got married in 1963 and went to live in Santander. There I had my only son, Sergio.

P. Among those few women from the Academy were María Moreno and Isabel Quintanilla.

R. There was the group of so-called royalists, led in some way by Antonio López, then Antoñito. He was a leader that I didn’t follow because realism bores me.

P. During motherhood, did you take an artistic break?

R. Quite the opposite. I was more active and creative than ever, but due to economic necessity we got our act together. By mutual agreement, we gave priority to Eduardo’s work, which had already taken off, while I made silver crafts similar to Russian icons that we sold very well.

Isabel Villar, in her studio in Madrid, in 2018, in an image provided by the artist.
Isabel Villar, in her studio in Madrid, in 2018, in an image provided by the artist.PABLO LINES

P. How long was it until Villar the artist as we know her took off?

R. It was suddenly, like an internal sprout that showed me what I wanted to do, what kind of paintings and what stories I wanted to tell.

P. What is perceived in her work is an arcadia in which women move happily through fantastic vegetation dominated by nature. Francisco Calvo Serraller, the great critic of EL PAÍS, highlighted his fantasy, skill in drawing and the sense of humor with which he was inspired by scenes from the ancient world.

R. What I have with my painting, there it is. I don’t like to explain it, but I do recognize myself in a world.

P. As a left-wing woman, there was a time when she was very close to the PSOE and even became an artistic muse of the Transition.

R. I have always been anti-Franco. At the 1968 Venice Biennale, where I accompanied Eduardo, who was exhibiting for the third time in the Spanish pavilion, we participated in a demonstration against the dictatorship. By the way, he brought a piece made up of broken glass and compresses dripping with blood that I don’t know if they understood here.

P. You made the illustration of the 27th Congress of the PSOE, held in December 1976.

R. Yes. It is an acrylic in which you can see Fernando de los Ríos, Pablo Iglesias and Julián Besteiro walking through a bright and lush green forest.

P. Are you still a socialist sympathizer?

R. Yes, of course, although there are some who could be in another party. Pedro Sánchez conquered me the moment he announced that he would exhume Franco from the Valley of the Fallen. I told him, looking at the television: “If you do it, I’ll vote for you.” He did it and for me it was a day of immense happiness. Of course I voted for him.

P. His work has been celebrated by critics and collectors, but has had few official recognitions.

R. Except for the medal from the Salamanca City Council, I have not received any official award.

A work by Isabel Villar, in her exhibition at the Madrid gallery Fernández-Brasso.
A work by Isabel Villar, in her exhibition at the Madrid gallery Fernández-Brasso.Claudio Alvarez

P. How do you explain that? For being a woman and for always going on her own?

R. I have never asked for anything. I am a feminist because I want equality for everyone. They and we are equal, although later it is not so true. Women still have a long way to go to achieve equality. And it is true that I have gone on my own, but my work has been part of important exhibitions to understand art made by women. Like in Undefined territories (in it Museum of Contemporary Art of Elche), the first feminist exhibition in democratic Spain, and then in Feminist genealogies in Spanish art 1960-2010 (Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla y León, Musac, in León).

P. Is it well represented in Spanish museums?

R. I think that the Reina Sofía, for example, has my work, but I don’t think they exhibit it. I have never worked on representation in institutions. I have not promoted myself abroad either because I get dizzy and I don’t like to travel.

P. What is the last thing you have painted?

R. Some of the waterfalls under which naked women bathe.

P. How long did it take you to make that painting?

R. The same time it takes to make a vegetable soup.

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