MESSA, OR THE EXCEPTION
The exception in the history of art of the 20th century is a degree. I mean to say that to maintain an alternative course to that of the common denominator of your fellow artists is a differential act which must be highlighted. However, this differential or alternative act can possibly cause inexplicable historical-graphical oversights or exiles.
In some way I feel that the case of Francesc Sempere “Messa” fits into this parameter of exception or singularity. Born in 1915, Messa should have formed a natural part of a generation of artists marked by the Civil War, either by being forced into exile or by surviving the empty cultural environment of the post-war years. He, however, joined the artistic circles and circuits later on; in fact, it was only at the beginning of the ’60s, on the basis of his self-taught work, that he made his first public appearances with his plastic art. Here is where the first singularity of his creation comes. Even more, between the ’60s and the ’90s Messa does not stick to one style, but (as in Barcelona and Valencia) effects heterogeneous works, filled with a high sensation of experiment, where influences seem to come from diverse authors and movements, both chronologically and geographically.
In absolute vital maturity, when many artists fall into repetition, into horizontal creation, Francesc Sempere lives art with renewed intensity. With verticality. For example, his environments – or installations – such as that of “Les petits puces de Paris” are the result of constant regeneration, shown by the use he makes of disused objects, especially this extraordinary imagery full of dolls, torn apart and isolated from their playful function. This prolonged experimentation would be the second degree of the exceptionality of his work.
I think that we can still find more singularities: the mixture of figure and experiment, the interdependence of his sculpture-pictorial intention, his leaving a city such as Barcelona to return to his hometown of Albaida. Above all, Messa is one of those authors whose course runs outside of the usual or normal registers. Messa is an exception and due to this it could be that the artistic systems of his time did not know how to interpret him, how to place him within specific registers – this tendency to classify, arrange and prioritise which joins together critics and historians. It is said that the passing of time puts everything into its correct place. It is probable, then, that as a result of this exhibition, the singular work of Messa will be reconsidered under the light of a new critical viewpoint.
Joan M. Minguet Batllori
Art Departament, UAB
Today Messa is eighty years old.
Messa, for those who do not know him, is a great man.
Great in many aspects: a great friend, a great heart, a great thinker, a great defender of human rights, great is his love of his country, great is his voice and, of course, a great artist.
There are few artists such as Messa. Very few can carry out the duality of art/life; because in spite of the obstacles which Messa has encountered in his life, through his delicate hands have passed the screams of his thoughts.
Thoughts. Some are hatchets. Some are poems. But together they give courage to freedom.
Freedom. A big word.
Words and love are what we wish to dedicate to him through this small representation of the huge group of friends and colleagues who admire, value and love this great man.
The “Friends of Messa” Trust
I think that his work is full of sensations, because when you stand in front of one of his paintings or sculptures you can never be indifferent. Something always reaches you which, really, is what the artist always wanted.
Just as with many other townspeople from Albaida, Messa found true values in the world of Art and, because of this, this exhibition is full of nuances and references. Paco has always been a painter prepared to give support to youngsters who came to his house to express their creative concerns and that says a lot in his favour.
In the name of the Corporation which I am proud to Chair, congratulations on a lifetime full of struggle and of art.
Joan Bodí i Quilis
Mayor of Albaida
MESSA, ONE OF US
It is an honour for the Department of Culture of the Town Council of Ontinyent – who I represent at this time – to be able to offer our collaboration in this exhibition-homage, which various organisations, entities and individuals have prepared on the occasion of the eightieth birthday of Messa. This is for two basic reasons. On the one hand, in recognition of the lengthy professional career of one of our most well known and recognised artists.
On the other hand, because it represents an example, though primitive, of the possibilities which inter-municipal co-ordination has in the field of cultural matters.
The necessity of an inter-district circle of co-operation is so vital at this time that it must always be referred to in any of the forums in which I participate.
You might think that this is neither the time, nor the moment, to talk about Messa, but this is precisely who I am referring to.
He, and many other artists, are only known to a small circle of friends because they do not have the opportunity of showing their work to the public.
Let’s see, how many exhibitions has Messa had in the Valley of Albaida? Why isn’t he more well known in his area? What treatment and recognition do we give to our painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, writers etc?
It still seems impossible to me that with the conditions under which culture develops in our area – lack of means, infrastructures and human resources – there are still people who dare, and who are brave enough to continue working, meditating and questioning the world which surrounds them and their own interior world. Messa was one of these people.
It is well known that in the Valley of Albaida there is a group of people concerned about culture.
If anyone has the time, inclination and the patience of Job to do a thorough search, they could surprise us by cataloguing all the good and the best which our region has offered.
Messa would be, without doubt, in a prime position. So far our modest contribution has been to show all our townspeople his view, his aesthetic plans, so that they can share and analyse them. In retrospect we can find some of his questions and his obsessions which made Messa dedicate himself to art.
I can only sincerely thank him for all his dedication and creative effort in explaining to us his world, as he sees it and interprets it.
I also hope that this exhibition leads to a wider knowledge of his work within the region of which he forms part. And, finally, for him to be considered as he has always been: one of us.
Rafael Portero Tortosa
Councillor for Culture, Museums and Publications
Town Council of Ontinyent
Few artists have put so much effort, from their home region, into the risk of creative plastic. This exhibition is the unforgettable testament of a man of never-ending artistic restlessness and humanity. God grant that Francesc Sempere “MESSA” can serve as an example to everyone from small and almost forgotten places, for them to work and fight in order to leave a living testimony and contribution to the history of our land.
José Rafael García-Fuster y González Alegre
Deputy Mayor and Delegate for Culture, Sports and Historical Patrimony
With the artistic name of Messa, the Valencian artist Francesc Sempere (Albaida 1915) offers us a curious collection of abstract constructions, always charged with erotic intentions. His exhibitions were repeatedly prohibited, under the accusation of obscenity. The oil painting illustrating these pages is called “Homenaje a Zabaleta” and is inspired by a verse which he heard in Quesada, the villge of Zabaleta:
At three in the morning,
cwith the moon on high,
there are more women fucking
than pans on the fire.
Camilo José Cela Encyclopaedia of Erotica – 1977
My dear friend,
I have just bought instalment No. 53 of the “Encyclopaedia of Erotica” and there is a picture of yours in it called “Homenaje a Zabaleta”. Not long ago, last Easter, I spent a few days in Quesada and went to the gallery “Amigos de Zabaleta” which has recently been opened there. I think that someone like you, who has specifically dedicated a creation to Zabaleta, should have an exhibit in this gallery, precisely this picture if at all possible. As you know, the museum does not have economic means, but it does have art works of its friends, artists as important as Miró, Tàpies, Guinovart, García Ochoa, Manolo Cuixart and many others, who have each donated one of their art works specially dedicated to Zabaleta, in his homage and remembrance. If you could do something similar, as you know my brother, Basilio, manager of the museum, you can contact him directly. As I have said, I would like it very much if this work of yours in the Encyclopaedia of Erotica could be on show there.
With my congratulations, I send you my best regards.
Cesáreo Rodríguez Aguilera
Barcelona 11th May 1977