Titi Pedroche, colour and the Coromandel coast
ENRIQUE CASTAÑOS ALÉS
All the paintings of this exhibition, made by Titi Pedroche (Valencia, 1942) during the last two years, show the painter’s close and old relationship with the world of colour and her recent fascination with India, particularly with the city of Madras and the Coromandel coast.
Titi Pedroche’s interest in colour, to which she gives an almost complete predominant role in her compositions, has been, indeed, a constant feature in her painting for a long time, although since the end of the nineties it has been developing into a growing performance of delicacy and exquisiteness, taking care in an extraordinary way of the tactile dimension and the different textures of the painting surface, which, in turn, has also been reaching a bigger composite organization, usually in square or rectangular format areas which resemble a ploughed field watched at a bird’s-eye view.
Among the works from that period, we, particularly, have to mention a 147 x 114 cm canvas from 1998, called Landscape. It is a painting of an absolutely well achieved chromatic harmony, with a predominant presence of red, green and yellow colours, although there is also an area painted in blue, mauve, orange and black. It is a splendid, warm and enchanting symphony, in which the observer recalls the great Venetian painting from the 16th century, particularly Titian and the Veronese, but where the spirit of Paul Klee who travelled to Hammamet and of some painters from the German expressionism from Die Brücke, perhaps Jawlensky more than any other, can also be perceived. I think it is important to stress this reference to Klee, because, besides the symbolic connotations of colour – an aspect which, on the other hand, relates this and other paintings from that period to Kandinsky –, we observe a formal parallelism, an unconscious correspondence with the organizational distribution of some paintings from the Swiss painter. For instance, Small fir, from the Museum of Basel, or Red balloon, from New York Guggenheim Museum. Therefore, the words that Klee himself left written down in his diaries in 1903 can be heard: «Plastic art never begins owing to a poetic idea or atmosphere, but because of the creation of one or many figures, the coincidence of some colours and shades values or the balance of spatial relationships, etc. It is possible, but not compulsory that one of those ideas (poetic content) … may be added».
There is, however, thirdly, a strictly physical relationship among that canvas by Titi Pedroche from 1998, the before mentioned small works by Klee and the paintings of this exhibition, a link which evokes that «purely physical effect» to which Kandinsky described: «The eye is fascinated by the beauty and qualities of colour». In Klee’s small paintings, the canvas can be seen and the plait of the weave can be observed very neatly, which, without any doubt, gives them a wonderful poetic and unusually very «tactile» dimension.
Titi Pedroche, on the other hand, already used oil painting, acrylic and tarlatan on canvas to make her paintings at the end of the nineties, which provided them with a particular texture and integration of all their components. In the present works, the combination of all those elements reaches a strange perfection. The process is very simple. First of all, she paints on canvas, making up the composition and looking for the right colour. Then, on the already painted canvas she puts the tarlatan, which, spread with glue, she presses it against the painting with the help of a cloth, looking for the nuances. According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, tarlatan is «a sheer cotton fabric, similar to muslin, but made up of a stronger thickness consistency than that one and thinner than lawn». It only has to be seen and touched to verify indeed those qualities, namely, the gap between threads and the so peculiar thickness. If the painter does not accomplishes the desired nuances in this first try, she puts again another piece of tarlatan on the previous one, repeating the operation and painting on gauze, until the effect of the desired colour is achieved. We have to bear in mind that the background shades must usually be less intense than those of the tarlatan, because if they were similar the outcome would be excessively plain and uniform, not obtaining that way the desired nuances.
Colours are very vivid and are inspired by the deep impression that Madras and the Coromandel coast left in the painter’s eyes during an unforgettable trip to India. Madras, whose new official name is Chennai, is presently the biggest port on the eastern coast and the fourth largest city as regards population of India, with over five million inhabitants, immediately after Calcutta, Bombay and New Delhi. After the enclave of Goa, Madras is considered to be the oldest city founded by Europeans in India, its origin is to be found in Fort Saint George, built by the East India British Company in that place in 1636, its cotton trade and textile mills are the main cause of its development and prosperity, becoming the first city in importance in India in the 19th century, until finally the development of Calcutta was taking its place. Its artificial harbour, sheltered by a breakwater and built on the sandy Coromandel coast, dates from that century. Considered by most travellers as the quietest, indolent and humane of the Indian crowded cities, in spite of its hustle and dynamism, Madras is the centre of the Tamil culture, with its particular dance, music and folklore, it is also heir of an important artistic and architectural legacy.
That brightness, that pace which life and people’s beliefs of that exceptional natural region of the world set, with its colours full of energy and intensity, with geometric and ornamental designs of vessels, carpets and tapestries which flood shops, street markets and bazaars, that is the visual picture that Titi Pedroche has wished to put on her canvases, where we can sometimes see the outline of faraway mountainous crests, or a zigzag, or a twilight sun resembling an inaccessible and huge planet. The colour of these paintings also want to show us the crystalline purity and the indefinite chromatic variety of the submarine bottoms of the Coromandel coast, with their large fine sand tongues, flooded with sunshine and where the sea is a permanent presence.
Nevertheless, the colours used by Titi Pedroche, as I mentioned before, are, on the one hand, related to the symbology and psychological effect that Kandinsky gives to those ones. The vitality of green, the typically terrestrial quality and the absence of depth of yellow, the pale blue quality of blue, with that deep evolution of the element of quietness, the absolute peace of absolute green, the intense feature of great energy and tenacity of red. On the other hand, we can find here some unquestionable oriental symbolic influences. For instance, in yellow, which for Buddhist Tantra symbolizes the core root and the land element; in blue, which in Tibetan Buddhism represents the colour of transcendental Wisdom, of potentiality, although at the same time of vacuity as well, of that emptiness that the immensity of blue sky seems to represent; in red, a colour that in the Far East evokes on the whole warmth, intensity, action and passion. Pierre Grison comments on it that it is «the colour of splits, the expansive trend», it is a very valuable opinion when observing a painting like Madras VII, divided into stripes by splits like wounds. Similarly, in that region of the world, red is the colour of fire, life, blood, beauty, union and immortality; in green, which is the colour used to depict the face of Vishnu, the preserver of the world, when he is represented as a tortoise.
The exhibition includes as well a selection of the last engravings by Titi Pedroche, made under the same spiritual conditions and aesthetical conception as the canvases. They are made by means of the collagraph technique and the plate or mould, instead of being made of metal, is made of cardboard, it has a substantial texture and it is very elaborate. In some collagraphs, however, the composite design seems to be closer to a kind of cosmic diagram.
Traducción de José María Valverde Zambrana
 HESS, W.: Documents for the understanding of modern art. Buenos Aires, Nueva Visión, 1983, page 114.
 KANDINSKY, V.: From the spiritual in art. Barcelona, Barral – Labor, 1983, page 55.
Texto de presentación del catálogo de la muestra individual de Titi Pedroche celebrada en el
Centro Cultural Provincial de Málaga entre marzo y mayo de 2004