Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo's Scintillating Celebration of Flowers

By Martin Macdonald

The characters in the arthouse cinema of Pedro Almodóvar are passionate, eccentric, and exude strength and vulnerability in equal measures. Bold colour schemes, fashion and design, as well as fine and decorative art are a common thread in hi
s filmography. All this added to the fact that the acclaimed Spanish film director is himself a keen art collector, and has in the past few years taken up still life photography, makes it is unsurprising that Almodóvar is now willing to further explore the world of contemporary art. 

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, Postal Japonesa - 1 (Japanese Postcard - 1), 2019
Oil on digital print on canvas. 200 x 160cm

Almodóvar’s de facto artistic partnership with established Spanish painter Jorge Galindo, renowned for his critically acclaimed kitsch-bordering gestural abstraction, has its genesis in Almodóvar’s latest semi-autobiographical film Pain and Glory. In 2018 Almodóvar, who had previously purchased a work by Galindo and showcased it in his 2011 film The Skin I Live In, commissioned the Madrileño artist to make a small picture for the new film. Galindo’s fresh watercolour is a portrait of the child Salvador Mallo sitting on a stool as he reads a book next to a pot of red flowers.

In the movie, Asier Flores plays young Salvador (loosely based around Pedro as a child) and the brilliant Antonio Banderas plays a Pedro-like ageing film director. César Vicente in the role of
Eduardo is the helpful yet illiterate handyman tasked with sprucing up the humble Mallo family dwelling at the request of Salvador’s mother, Jacinta, impeccably played by Penelope Cruz. Eduardo does the manual labour in exchange for reading and writing lessons from young Salvador, generating a friendship of sorts between man and boy. In one of the scenes inside the whitewashed cavernous house decorated with plants and red geraniums, Eduardo makes a portrait of Salvador. Unbeknownst to him, his artistic endeavour ignites the boy's innermost desires, thoughts considered ‘impure’ in Francoist Spain of the 1950s. In this context, Almodóvar uses red flowers as a metaphor for passion, one of the main motifs in his films. 

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, Vaso con Crisantemo (Glass with Crysanthemum), 2019
Oil on digital print on canvas. 200 x 160cm

Following the artwork's creation and several conversations between painter and filmmaker, the pair embarked on a collaborative project culminating in Flores (Flowers), their second exhibition together. The show, held from 22 November 2019 - 26 January 2020 at Tabacalera, a former tobacco factory showcasing cutting edge art in the up-and-coming multicultural Madrid neighbourhood of Lavapies, features over 40 mostly large-scale paintings by the duo. 

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, Installation view, Flowers exhibition, Tabacalera, Madrid, 2019

For this exhibition, the pair has blown up Almodovar’s photographs of flowers and vases to huge dimensions. Galindo says: “The Baroque period secularised flowers, they lost their religious connotations, became ‘impure flowers’, recovered their sumptuousness and their sexuality as the plant’s sexual organs… Pedro and I have painted impure flowers over his photographs, which we have mercilessly manipulated and transformed into paintings, an act of manipulation of the medium of photography, which reminds me of our curator Rafael Doctor’s first exhibition 25 years ago titled Impure.

Almodóvar and Galindo have applied colourful oils onto the surface of the filmmaker's decorative photographic prints, transforming them into engaging works of fine art. As Almodóvar states: 'The exhibition is possible thanks to Jorge Galindo. It was his idea for us to print my photos and use them as a base for the paintings. He also ‘invented’ me as a painter, for which I am immensely thankful.'

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, La Consagración de la Primavera (The Consecration of Spring), 2019.
Oil on digital print on canvas. 600 x 1100cm

Upon entering Tabacalera one is confronted with a monumental work, La Consagración de la Primavera (The Consecration of Spring), a 6 x 11metre piece brimming with gestural brushwork and splashes of colour, echoing De Kooning’s abstract expressionism and Pollock’s action painting. There is a bulbous green vase with a few somewhat abstract flowers in the centre of the canvas. The work explodes with colour and marks that seem to have a life of their own – shades of green, pink, orange, blue, purple, black – and texture on a white background. The painting feels ever so free, bursting with passion and unstoppable energy.

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, a painting from the Flores de Periferia (Periphery Flowers) series, 2019.
Oil on digital print on canvas and layered posters.

The piece sets the tone for the entire exhibition, where 40 or so other paintings, though not quite monumental in size, also tend to be large-format and full of bold colours and texture. Taking over a central exhibition space, the series Flores de Periferia (Periphery Flowers) is different to the flat canvases in most of the show as the pieces are constructed on top of ruffled stacks of posters, similar to the edges of a flamenco dress.

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, El Zócalo 2 (Skirting Board 2), 2019.
Oil on digital print on paper and canvas and layered posters

There are also a few videos featuring Galindo and Almodóvar working together on the paintings. Galindo states: 'Just as important as the theme, is the reaction provoked during the action of painting. Pedro and I have painted walking over each other, always with music, dancing on top of the canvases. It was Pedro’s first time painting and it has always been my aim to keep the impression that is my first time painting at the start of each new piece. It's with this excitement that we have constructed our paintings, and that is why it has been so easy and the result so magical. I’ve learned a lot painting with Pedro, watching him paint.'

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, Lo Opuesto a la Meditación (The Opposite of Meditation), 2019.
Oil on digital print on paper and canvas.

Although some critics might say that Almodóvar has jumped onto the celebrity-artist bandwagon and criticise the pairing of filmmaker and artist for perhaps creating overly decorative pieces, the duo's new work is actually a breath of fresh air, full of passion and mischievous fun. It is also true that not all of the works are of equal quality but this could be said of any artist or exhibition. Perhaps Almodóvar and Galindo’s ‘impurity’ is not a real issue after all as they have injected their joyful lust for life into what could have otherwise been quite tedious nature morte.

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, Installation view, Flowers exhibition, Tabacalera, Madrid, 2019

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, Ramo Salvaje - 1 (Wild Bunch - 1), 2019
Oil on digital print on canvas. 350 x 300cm

Pedro Almodóvar and Jorge Galindo, Granadas (Pomegranates), 2019
Oil on digital print on canvas. 200 x 160cm

Note: All quotes in this article are from the exhibition press release/catalogue and have been translated from Spanish to English.