The Rhythmic Strokes of Aythamy Armas

Aythamy Armas in his studio.

Spanish abstract painter Aythamy Armas merges modern minimalism with an abstract approach to art. His artworks — made from black, white and gray hues — are a selected fusion of different techniques layered over each other. Creating one-of-a-kind paintings that allow for continuous exploration and leave the interpretation up to each viewer. To the rhythmic sound of his paint brush, Aythamy Armas creates a monochrome world that’s endlessly versatile. We spoke with the Spanish artist in his Barcelona-based atelier and asked him about his process, his love for black and white and how he translated his world onto a rug.

Aythamy Armas in his studio in Barcelona.

When you paint, what do you think about?

I understand the painting like a landscape. In the sense that it’s made of different layers, through mixing different techniques. The line of the stroke in solid black — like aerosol or pastel — comes first as the front layer. The charcoal or the conté is more grey or soft and goes behind as a second layer, and so on.

It’s very very spatial.

When I paint on a big scale, I always understand the painting as a landscape. But when I do small ones, I pay attention to the composition. While the rug is a big canvas, I decided to work on it like I would with a small size painting.

One thing is deciding on what you want on the rug, and another is the technical aspect of putting a painting on a rug. It’s not literal.

It’s not. When we started to talk about the rug, one of the most important things was to think about how to translate the painting into the rug. I don’t know the techniques that are used to make a rug, but I do know that about painting. The possibilities that the charcoal, the pastel, or the oil can give you. But to translate that into a rug, was the first and most important problem to resolve.

Especially as there are a lot of layers and transparencies in your work

That’s why in this painting the key was to pay attention to the composition, to the air between the strokes and the lines. I had to be selective about the different techniques that I wanted to include; aerosol, charcoal, pastel. From there we started to talk about how we could apply these different techniques into the rug. The first sample looked like a normal painting of mine, but the layering in the pairings was impossible to translate into the rug. We understood we needed another kind of creativity. The end goal is always to respect the characteristics of each technique. The rug has its own characteristics now, different from the painting. It’s not a perfect translation of it. It’s an evolution.

Armas at work.

The painter’s newest work on a different type of canvas.

Have you always painted in black and white?

Five or six years ago, when I started to work in abstraction, I selected fabric, canvas and charcoal as my essential materials. Step by step, I started to add different techniques, aerosol, pastel, conté, charcoal. In black, you can use many different materials and techniques. But if you decide to start to paint in color, it’s impossible to create exactly the same hue with different materials and techniques. But I love color, so sometimes I paint in color. It’s a challenge to build a painting with only one technique. I also think black and white is so elegant and it’s atemporal.

That’s true.

Black and white, is clean, traditional. It doesn’t give any information about anything else more than the lines or the stroke, more than the investigation about the materials. Colors give you a more emotional sense. Another important thing to me is the title. I don’t put any title that can give you a representative idea, like “The afternoon in the mountain” sort of thing.

What would you hope that someone experience when they see this painting?

Sometimes people tell me, “Hey, I see a face there”, or “It’s like a storm”. Or, “it’s like the volcano in the Canary Islands.” If you see that, okay, perfect. People often see more than I do in the painting. I love it when people write to me on Instagram “hey, I love the painting because it gives me this sensation.”

What other artists do you relate to?

Well, there are some clear preferences. Like Twombly, or Rothko, who I love. More than an aesthetic reference, it’s the kind of sensation you have when you are in front of their paintings. That’s what I’m trying to achieve.

What do you focus on when you paint?

When I’m waiting I pay a lot of attention to the rhythm of the line. That’s one of the most important things. The sounds — I don’t know if you can tell — when I paint. The sound is always the same. It’s one with the movement of the body. Painting is like playing a guitar or a piano, the moving of the body is directing.

Details at Aythamy Armas’ studio.

A corner of the Barcelona-based artist’s studio.

Details at Armas’ studio.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on my dream project. I always dreamt of doing something with the ballet or a theater. I had the chance to work with a big name in dance, who’s going to choreograph a new ballet for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. I’m doing all the scenography and furniture. The project isn’t only about the designer doing things and the dancer doing their things. I was there when they created the choreography, so I understand how the body can react with the chairs, with the table and how they can dance with it. It’s the perfect cycle of how things can work with my universe. You have this dialogue between objects and the human body. It’s amazing to work like this.

What are the key ingredients to a great interior?

The only thing I know is that I don’t know. It’s an experiment, it’s about things that you come up with. Sometimes when you enter a space, you feel the sensation that everything is in the right place. It could be very simple lines and minimalist, but I also love the very busy living spaces where there are memories in the different objects. It’s really about the feeling of the space and and trusting your vision and your body when you feel the space around you.

What does home mean to you?

I’m sitting beside a fireplace here, and in French we have this word foyer which comes from the word fu (fire). It means home, and we really understand that as a family you gather around the fireplace. Here in Villa Louis Carré, every room has a fireplace. For me, the walls, floors and ceilings are very rigid, but you have this life and this movement inside and the dialog between the two is what’s called a home.

Photography by Nacho Alegre