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Tomás Baleztena: Meet the Madrid artist behind the powerfully dark ‘Lockdown Series’

For many people 2020 is most definitely a year to forget. But for Tomás Baleztena it is arguably his best year yet.

Tomás Baleztena: Meet the Madrid artist behind the powerfully dark ‘Lockdown Series’
Photo by Cristina Macaya / Baleztena.com

In a chaotic studio space in Madrid’s hip Chueca district, this anglo-Spanish redheaded painter (his father is Basque while his mother came from London) can be found daubing oil paint onto huge canvases while he sings at the top of his voice to Brit pop classics from the 1990s.

But his exuberant character and decadent dandy style of dressing – think paint splattered tweed suits or stripy blazers always with a bright coloured handkerchief peeping from the label pocket – belie a dark and twisted soul, at least if his latest series of paintings are anything to go by.

His current exhibition presents the “Lockdown Series”, a collection of paintings produced during Spain’s State of Emergency when for three months Madrileños were confined to their homes, unable to go outdoors even to exercise.

Two works from the series; “Falling into the abyss” and “Sorrow” both oil on board.

The paintings are grotesque, horrifying, bleak and brilliantly powerful. Comparisons have been drawn between Baleztena’s latest works and Goya’s Black Paintings. Was the similarity in style deliberate?

“It wasn’t deliberate at all, just a coincidence,” the 44-year-old artist insists. “I can see the similarities but it just so happened that during my bleakest period I expressed the psychological horror in much the same way that he did during his. I actually think we have very similar personalities.”

The collection of work has been broadly praised by critics and several paintings have already been snapped up by collectors.

A portrait of Pedro Sanchez entitled “The Pyschopath” and the evoctaively entitled “This is what happens when you eat bats”.

 

So looking back at lockdown, was it the best thing that could’ve happened to him? At least in terms of his career?

“It was a unique experience,” Baleztena explains. “Lockdown was not something I chose and I don’t want to go through it again but in the artistic sense it’s been very productive and produced some sort of inspiration that I just wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t confined.

“My brain was like a cauldron of ideas ranging from psychological angst of being locked in to the fears of the virus itself and the impact it had on politics and economics. And that inspired me to paint.”

“It’s like the war for our generation. Our liberty was taken away and we didn’t know really what was going on plus it was frightening, much like people in the blitz going into a tube station and not knowing if they would be bombed. It’s a bit of a mind test,” he explains in perfect English with just a hint of a Spanish accent.

“Death” and “Fear” from the Lockdown series by Tomás Baleztena

“The paintings are pretty dark and terrifying, Yes, I wasn’t inspired to paint beauty,” he said with a sardonic chuckle. “And it continues to be very dark especially when we consider the future and the economic hurt coming Spain’s way.

“Not forgetting the uncertainty of the illness itself some people go through it without even knowing it while others just die in horrible ways, It’s very confusing and quite uncomfortable but very inspiring in an artistic way.”

For Baleztena, who studied fine art in London before moving backing to Madrid where he now lives with his wife, fashion designer Amy Molyneaux and their two young children, the year 2020 has been the most prolific to date.

“Honestly I didn’t find anything positive about this whole coronavirus crisis apart from the fact that it inspired me to paint a lot. I’ve already produced more than 200 paintings this year.”

“Obviously I don’t want a pandemic going on just to provide me with inspiration but I’ve tried to turn a negative into a positive.”

 

 

You can visit Tomás Baleztena´s studio gallery at Calle Hernan Cortes, 14 find out more at his website and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FACE MASKS

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spain's Health Minister has announced that in the coming days masks will no longer be mandatory on planes, buses, trains, taxis and other means of public transport.

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday confirmed that face masks would no longer be compulsory on public transport, a measure which has been in place in Spain for almost three years. 

“I will raise the proposal of eliminating the mandatory use of masks on public transport”, she said, adding that next week she will convene with the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System to “put this measure into effect”.  

Darias did not specify exactly when this would happen, although government agreements are usually approved the following day in the Official State Gazette (BOE), so the official end to the mask rule looks set to be on February 8th.

The minister did clarify however that masks would still be mandatory in health settings such as health centres and hospitals “as health experts advise”. 

Last week, Darias reported the possibility of eliminating the mandatory mask rule in pharmacies, but this is currently being “weighed up” by health experts.  

Manuel Franco, an expert in Public Health and a member of the Spanish Society of Public Health and Sanitary Administration (Sespas) explained that “the World Health Organisation (WHO) is already considering the decision to lift the public health emergency warning for Covid-19” and adds that “if this goes ahead, it would make no sense to maintain the mask rule”.  

The use of masks ceased to be mandatory outdoors almost a year ago, on February 10th, 2022.

Then, two months later on April 20th, the government announced they wouldn’t be required indoors either, except in health centres and on public transport. 

The latest bulletin of Sentinel Surveillance of Acute Respiratory Infection in Primary Care (ARIs) and in Hospitals (SARI), announced a drop in infections and hospitalisations and said that the rates for Covid-19 remain stable.

The decision to end the mask rule in February comes after health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health said that masks should no longer be required on public transport

On Wednesday, January 25th the director of the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Health (CCAES), Fernando Simón, assured that the end of the mask rule on transport would be announced “shortly” either “next week or the following”.  

Then, on Thursday morning, government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, stated that the decision to remove the mask on public transport would be taken “immediately, when possible”, but pointed out that the government was looking at the situation in China first. 

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