Physis by Luis Olaso

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JD Malat Gallery is pleased to present Physis, a solo exhibition by Spanish artist Luis Olaso, on display from 9 September until 9 October 2021.

Having exhibited in leading cultural hubs such as Spain, Finland, Japan, Portugal and United States, Olaso is renowned for his expressive canvases depicting abstracted still-lifes. Physis marks Olaso’s very first solo exhibition in the UK and seeks to highlight Olaso’s role as a protagonist in the field of abstract art and underline the expressive possibilities of still-life painting.

Physis comprises eleven new mixed-media paintings, showing a colourful array of diverse and abstracted ‘compositions’ of objects, plants and organic shapes. The exhibition takes its name after ‘physis’, an ancient Greek philosophical and scientific term that denotes the principle of growth or change in nature. As an artist who seeks to let his paintings develop organically from the subconscious mind, Olaso understands Physis not only as a reflection of the natural forms in his work, but also as a beautiful metaphor for the evolutionary process behind his painting.

As Olaso highlights, “I consider all my work as a kind of continuous process of evolution, the elements, colours and shapes mutate spontaneously, and I don't know where they will go in the future.”

The paintings in this exhibition reference Olaso’s fondness for nature and his lived environment; he states his home is filled with plants, resembling a “jungle”. The influence of his home over his work seems most apparent when looking at the more refined forms of glasses and vases in paintings such as Composition with jug and wine glasses (2021) and Composition for three glasses and a bottle (2021). While it is natural to draw parallels between the ensembles of objects in Olaso’s work and the mimetic tradition of still-life painting, Olaso contrastingly seeks to move his painting away from an illustrative function and instead present an abstraction of forms based on his feelings, state of mind, and personal views.

Olaso states that he does not aim to depict objects, but rather sees the plants and objects as ‘protagonists’ in his paintings with an emotional presence. This is given his unique improvisational approach to painting. He divides his process into two parts: action and analysis. Firstly, he paints impulsively, creating shapes, spots, and colour plans. Secondly, he observes what he has created for hours, trying to analyse what does and does not work. In Olaso’s mind, this impulsive energy helps the work become fresher and more visceral, enabling a more effective and direct reach towards his internal feelings. As such, the still-life compositions are not depictions of his environment, but rather vibrant abstractions of his lived experience and his subconscious mind. 

Although Olaso studied Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country, he considers himself primarily self-taught: “I started painting almost as a form of personal therapy, without any professional pretensions.” He also cites Abstract Expressionists as key influences, most notably Willem de Kooning, due to his vibrant colour palette, and Jackson Pollock, in his search for accident and control. Additional influences include the San Francisco Bay Arena movement, especially Nathan Oliveira and Richard Diebenkorn, or Spanish artists that he had seen as a child in museums, such as Manolo Millares or Saura.

With this complex web of influences in mind, Olaso’s painterly process can be understood as a cathartic ritual that aids his quest to find the balance between accident, chaos and order. His unique approach to still-life painting through ‘action’ and ‘analysis’ not only highlights nature and objects as well-springs for expression, but also unveils the exciting process of evolution, or indeed, ‘physis’, inherent in his practice. Bursting with colour and energy, Physis is an engaging debut solo exhibition that presents Olaso’s dynamic self-portrait and illuminates the expressive possibilities of change, development and growth. 


For more information, images and comment, please contact: [email protected] 


Exhibition opening hours; Monday to Friday, 10am – 6pm; Saturday, 12pm – 6pm