The Ortega House - Museum of Applied Arts
The Casa Ortega project intends to bear witness to the presence in Matera of the great Spanish artist Josè Ortega and to encourage the rediscovery of the artisan tradition. The building, once a Longobard fortress placed in a dominant and highly suggestive environmental position, houses twenty polychrome bas-reliefs that the Iberian painter created in 1975 in the Città dei Sassi, using the most popular and emblematic local craft technique: papier-mâché . The twenty bas-reliefs make up two narrative series: " They passed ", in which the Spanish civil war is retraced, and " Death and birth of the innocents ", a denunciation of the brutality of Franco's dictatorship. Ortega executed these panels in collaboration with the Matera master craftsmen using the ancient papier-mâché technique in an innovative way and it is precisely these pictorial productions that constitute the leitmotif of the project which aims to highlight the importance of the link between noble art and ancient crafts .
To create the cycles "Passarono" and "Death and Birth of the Innocents" Ortega experiments with the possibility of giving "three-dimensionality" to his painting through the use of papier-mâché. Together with the Matera papier-mâché masters, the artist creates terracotta bas-reliefs from which he makes plaster casts in which the paper mixture is shaped. The works thus modeled are fixed on a wooden scaffolding and finally painted. Colors are the fundamental protagonists of Ortega's art, bright colours, rendered with sharp brushstrokes, which give an aura of sacredness to a traditional, poor and recyclable material. The chromatic choices take on a fundamental semantic value: white and yellow, colors of life and spring flowering; the red of passion and tragedy, of the flag and blood; the black of the forces of death and military uniforms; the violet of martyrdom; the blue of the fist and the revolt. The artist translates the teachings of other illustrious predecessors into a unique and unmistakable style: the dark atmospheres of El Greco, some themes of Goya, the anatomical deformations of Picasso, the masses of color and the lines of Mirò. The bas-reliefs tell of the conflicts, evil and dictatorship which, in every country and in every age, crush man, whose redemption takes place thanks to passion and struggle, in an uninterrupted succession of cycles of death and birth.