Carvajal-Larios Polyptych, oil on panel, 100 x 360 cm, 39¼ x 141¾ in, 2021-2022
In the last days of 2020, Javier Carvajal and Mónica Larios contact me and suggest that I make a painting of their six children. As collective portraits are difficult to pass on to the next generation, they present me with a challenge that I find interesting: the painting must work as a unit while it is in their hands, but it must be possible to divide it into independent pieces in the future, so that each child receives their portrait when the time comes.
I am given total freedom to decide how to portray them, as long as I meet another requirement which Javier particularly insists on: Mónica must be depicted in the overall picture in a not-necessarily-explicit way, but recognizable by everyone involved.
I accept the commission and get down to work with enthusiasm. The first problem is to bring together six children whose ages are as disparate as their height, complexion and character. Since the work can be divided, I opt for a large format, taking only into account that the planned locations are no longer than 4 linear meters (157 ½ linear inches) at the time of the commission (this would subsequently change).
The composition comes together in a 100 x 360 cm polyptych (39 ¼ x 141 ¾ in), made up of 6 pieces of 70 x 60 cm (27 ½ x 23 ¾ in) -each with the main image of each sibling- and 6 pieces of 30 x 60 cm (11 ¾ x 23 ¾ in), which, attached to the main ones, can be brought together in a coherent space that respects the scale relationship between all of them. The initial pattern is modified in the case of one of the sisters, Sol, whose portrait will eventually be made up of three pieces instead of two: I found it necessary, almost finishing the work, to raise her up a bit. The youngest, Pepe, is on the chair that his grandfather designed for the Spanish pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, which solves the inconvenience of his short stature and restless character. Like his sister, Blanca, Pepe only occupies the main panel, while the older ones: Javier, Lucas, and Paz are represented standing over two of them.
After ruling out different possibilities, I finally opt for an entirely symbolic solution: a gold ribbon runs through the polyptych from left to right. Gold is imperishable, as is the love that a mother feels for her children; the ribbon intends on becoming a metaphor of the umbilical cord that linked Mónica with the children, first in her womb and now in the painting. At the same time, the ribbon serves as a key to the assembly of the polyptych itself for times to come, and a reminder that what is united, although will inevitably be separated one day, will be able to reunite thanks to that nexus.