The Blue Anemone and the Fire

I vividly remember the first time I entered Miguel’s studio in Manhattan. It was summer and the humid air was difficult to breathe. The studio was a large, dark room with high ceilings and three big windows at the back. The entrance was through the kitchen.

My first impression was of the pungent smell of oil and turpentine which permeated everything. I asked myself, “How can someone live with that constant smell?”

At that time Miguel was working on a painting by the window. He worked all day until natural light disappeared and his painting appeared darkened. During the day Miguel would take no calls nor accept any visitors. He could not afford the luxury of wasting a single moment of daylight.

The night I met him I was accompanied by my friend Mado; we arrived at 7 pm sharp. At the time we were both studying at the New York Art Students League. We had heard of the great Spanish artist and were eager to meet him in person.

Miguel was welcoming yet a little dry. He told us that he had spent 10 years in the studio and was now wrapping up the last paintings of a long series of New York work before going to live in a camper in the deserts of Texas and Arizona. He had been preparing for a year. We listened attentively but my eyes were inevitably drawn to the easel at the back of the studio.

Music by Enya was softly playing in the back, providing a light contrast in the darkness of the space. We walked towards the easel that was facing the window. With a quick movement, Miguel turned the easel towards us. That painting would change forever my perception of contemporary art; the background was of a flaming city and in front of it a glass jar with pale flowers and amongst these, a blue anemone flower. It was the most beautiful artwork I had ever seen.

Up to then my idea of realism was to faithfully copy reality to achieve a photographic effect. A boastful display of technical perfection. But what was in front of me clearly transcended physical reality. It was not copying anything. In this painting there was an immense understanding of life. How much beauty could be found in intelligence!

I was left with no doubts as to what art is and of the existence of a spiritual world in which reality as we perceive it is but a small hint of the greater truths.

Through his work and his wisdom Miguel changed my life and that of many others. I was fortunate to learn from Miguel, of sharing an adventurous and rich life together, and of having two beautiful children who are now almost adults.

At this moment in time in which technology permits us to be connected with the entire world, I want to share with you the life and work of Miguel Ángel Argüello.

– Natasha Gray