The paintings, drawings and photographs of José Manuel Ballester (Madrid, 1960) stand out for their unique interpretation of architectural space and light. Ballester begins his career with painting, paying particular attention to the techniques of Italian and Flemish art from the 15th and 18th centuries. In 1990 he starts to blend painting and photography in order to focus on architectural photography. The maturity of his artistic output has also seen him win the Premio Nacional de Grabado (National Etching Award) on three occasions.
In 2002 Ballester participated in an exhibition organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía entitled Big Sur - Neue Spanische Kunst (New Spanish Art) in the Museum für Gengenwart in Berlin. On this occasion he presents the exhibition Habitación 523 (Room 523), held in the Palacio de Velázquez in the Retiro Park in Madrid. The title, taken from one of his pieces, alludes to the recurring representation of interior spaces and architectural components in his work. It explores empty spaces, or spaces in transit, always intuiting human presence and the development of the life of any individual, for instance in their hotel room - spaces that represent one of the core principles in Ballester's work. Furthermore, these rooms hint at the lives of those that have gone, unmade beds that still have the imprint of person that has departed, and those that are about to arrive, spaces in perfect order awaiting the visitor.
Ballester de-contextualises public spaces, a reflection of the allegory of life, such as the empty rooms in museums, spaces that welcome works of art - shadows of real life. Basements are not only desolate hangars, but spaces akin to prehistoric caves, where men sought refuge to invoke the powers of the earth or sky. These empty rooms, often painted in grey, bear witness to the fleeting transition of humans, evoking the platonic cavern inhabited by shadows. Architecture and the city meanwhile are spaces granted to humans by Gods, granted for them to take shelter and protect themselves. In turn, the home has always been the cradle, the final resting place. Ballester makes constant references to the human condition in all of the large-scale pieces in the exhibition via architectural images of public and private spaces that reveal the conditions of life on earth.
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