Extracts of texts

Edward Lucie-Smith

(Art historian, critic and writer)

(...) Valls is, in terms of skill, at least as gifted as Dalí. In terms of what he has to say about the world we live in, he is a much more profound and serious artist.

From text “Dino Valls - Psicostasia”, for the catalogue of exhibition

“Psicostasia”, Galleria Il Polittico, Roma, May 2006.

(...) His are works that are made to last. (...)

Yet this is another way of looking at art, and one which can be applied with special stress to the kind of work which Valls produces. His technical process, minutely organised, is the very opposite of spontaneous. In fact, the adjective which springs to mind when one considers it is at first sight surprising: Valls is, in the true sense of the word a conceptual painter. This conceptual element in his work is further stressed when one notes the fact that his figures are essentially inventions, rather than studies made from life.

(...) he is a Spanish representative of a new and intriguing kind of art which is beginning to subvert some of the most cherished assumptions of 20th century Modernism, and which, in addition, radically challenges established notions about what is, and is not, avant-garde. (...) In Valls’ paintings it is the psychological situation itself which is the subject. His figures, not painted from life as I have said, earlier, are essentially vessels, containers for emotional events, which they hold up for our inspection rather as we look at liquid held in a transparent vessel.

(...) His figures now confront us in their own right. What they embody is something which does not have struggle to be modern or contemporary as these terms are usually defined. These are not comforting pictures. They bear no resemblance to a good armchair, which is what Matisse said a successful painting ought to be. They impress because of their skill, and the delicate poetry which informs them. All the same, what is true memorable about them comes from elsewhere: It is the accuracy with which they reflect the uncertain spirit of our times. What makes this impress as much as it does, is not accuracy alone, but the intellectual sophistication with which what the artist has to say is communicated. At a time when we have almost forgotten what good painting can be like, what it can in fact do, here are the products of an artist who is fully conscious of his own powers.

From the essay “Dino Valls’ painting” for monograph Dino Valls: Ex picturis”,,

Mira Editores, Saragossa, 2001.

(...) A Spanish artist who favours erotic subtexts is Dino Valls (b.1959). (His work) demonstrates his extraordinary level of painterly skill and the way in which he makes use of classical archetypes while at the same time contradicting or subverting them. (...)

From Art Tomorrow, Ed. Pierre Terrail, Paris, 2002.

Fernando Castro Flórez

(Professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Art critic and curator)

We could try to understand Dino Valls' aesthetics as a form of meditation on the status of today's subject. His paintings are reflections where anxiety has settled down, along with the painful processes of a split personality. In fact, the darkest beast lies within us. The most beautiful, even "heavenly" bodies are wounded and, through the mirror of reflection, bestow their questions upon us. It is about images in aversion, whereas faces impose the enormous, or even better, a Medusa-like kind of gaze. We are unable to escape from the disturbed or upset sight of the figures that Dino Valls paints, these eyes are focused to something that we are yet to understand, as if they expect something from us that we are unable to provide. Their symbolisms constitute allegories of the subconscious, define pulses superficially, allude to the process of transformation, and recapture the meaning of a thought that exceeds the reticulation of the rational.

(...) experts appreciate his technique and mostly what they describe as 'immaculate brushstrokes', an observation to which the artist responded that it is quite the contrary: "l use my painting to provide darkness, uneasiness, sadness. What I do as an artist is to explore that darkest and unfamiliar part of the human being. My painting is a way to stain the white". What he wishes is to penetrate into a darker realm, to reflect the uneasy (under the Freudian concept of the familiar becoming foreign, in spite of oppression) and finally, to express the subconscious. Oddly enough, this penetrated by anxiety painting is exceptionally beautiful. The conflicts of life are not literally taken, nor do we recur to the rhetoric which characterizes the "culture of protest"; instead our painful condition takes an allegoric aspect, while at the same time a kind of immense power of the symbolic appears, as if art still has the capacity to fulfill an age-old "promise of happiness". Active imagination, to use Jung's terminology, the way it is used by Dino Valls, offers us an impressive and multiple (self) portrait where the present is sinking in tradition but also is launched towards the imaginary, the utopia of what we see comes to friction with the enigmatic presence of gazes that seem to be more vibrant from all of those that we come across continuously. A dissection of the subconscious through nude bodies, skin that might be the most profound, a fantasy that transforms and traps (us) in an entanglement between the mythological and the dreamy. Dino Valls is so right reassuring that: "a work of art weighs the volume of subconscious it displaces".

From the essay “The weight of the Unconscious: An approach to Dino Valls' transformative

symbolism”, for the catalogue of the retrospective exhibition “Dino Valls: A Journey through

Spanish Magic Realism”, Frissiras Museum, Athens, November 2011.

Catherine Coleman

(Curator of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid)

(...) The predominant element in Dino Valls's painting, as we shall try to prove in this essay, is the manipulation of the concept of time, be it either historical (real time) or fictitious time which contributes to the unique character of his work. (...)

Valls's art is fabricated in the interior of the studio, it is conceptual and not inspired in real life experience or plein air: it is not the result of direct observation. His art is the product of his memory and imagination. (...)

Dino Valls does not portray the unique and instantaneous moment of the exterior world. On the contrary, he presents it idealized and stable in order to compare it with the constantly changing interior world; the interiors and imagined scenes, the attrezzo of his works serve as the background for the interior, spiritual dimension. There is a slow evolution from the scenario filled with motifs towards a starkness, a deprivation of secondary elements. We shall see how the artist manipulates these scenarios as containers that reflect the interior psychic state. (...)

The compositions and portraits elaborated by Valls are completely conceptual and are in no way based on photography, a very common practice today. (...)

The artist, a doctor in medicine, applies from the outset a scientific anatomical study in order to carry out a detailed scrutiny of the human body. (...)

In conclusion, Valls continues to analyze modern and postmodern content through figuration, employing traditional techniques of Flemish and Italian oil painting which are painstakingly researched and then personalized, not a common practice among today’s painters. He usually draws small preparatory sketches before transferring his idea to paint on wood or canvas. He uses layers of tempera before he applies the transparent oil paint that intensifies the tempera colors underneath. His aim is to maintain the light that is reflected by the lower layers. To paraphrase the artist, his artistic mission, both technical and conceptual, is to share and contribute darkness. His paintings do not explain, but make an appeal to the unknown and darkest side of human nature. "Obscurum per obscurius, ignotum per ignotius." (An old alchemist saying).

From the essay “Evolution and Change...”for monograph Dino Valls: Ex picturis”,

Mira Editores, Saragossa, 2001.

Christina Sotiropoulou

(Chief Curator of Frissiras Museum, Athens)

The unsuspected viewer standing for the first time in front of Dino Valls' work is going to experience an unprecedented feeling which not only exceeds the limits of mere aesthetic pleasure, something more or less expected from a work of art, but also manages to completely reestablish the way reality had been understood until then.

In essence, Dino Valls' painting constitutes a different way of seeing, a new interpretation of things and situations usually considered as self-proven or given. The viewer is under the impression that the painting surface in front of him evolves to a parallel universe in which he is engulfed, overruling the dimension of time and space which used to seem familiar. Nevertheless, nothing is how it seems in Dino Valls' world and our senses are turned from a means of better conceiving and comprehending the world around us into instruments of reinvention.

(...)Full of metaphysical power and expressive exactitude, his painting has managed to modernize concepts and characteristics that seemed displaced from the visual vocabulary of contemporary painting trends attempting to completely abolish figurative painting and every link to the past. Thus, in the context of postmodernism and the wider climate it has established as far as contemporary painting is concerned, Dino Valls makes a suggestion which stands out for its intellectual power and technical expertise. He manages to reinvent realism by demolishing completely the very sense of reality and by revealing the subjectivity of its fragments. Time is no longer linear and narrative becomes personal and encoded. (...)

From the text “Dino Valls and the Anatomy of Metaphysical”, for the catalogue of the

retrospective exhibition “Dino Valls: A Journey through Spanish Magic Realism”,

Frissiras Museum, Athens, November 2011.

Carlo Fabrizio Carli

(Art critic and curator)

One of the most essential aspects of artistic work is to astonish, to catch the viewer’s attention by stupefying him. Sometimes, this fact is overlooked by the external observer as well as by the artist. And that is true even if the artist dispenses with the perspective of a composite automatism, or he achieves some work after the initial project, which also may be often modified. And this happens because the aesthetic fact is eminently a magic act, perhaps a shamanic and mysterious one. Nevertheless, it is unusual nowadays to find such a fundamental fascination, to feel this first pleasure of the painting.
Certainly, we do not run the risk with the work of the Spanish painter Dino Valls (...). Valls is an artist who leaves nobody indifferent. His work is fascinating or perhaps, it is rejected; it is disturbing or maybe it hurts. But it is impossible to get used to his paintings.
(...) Valls is definitely a surprisingly virtuous artist who has been devoted for 20 years to study carefully the technique, the iconography and the iconology of 600 years of western art. He is a painter who obsessively insists on reaching perfection: a perfect technique and a perfect sharpness of images. His favourite technique is the sophisticated egg tempera on panel, with oil colour glazes, but not the only one.
(...) Valls is not a realistic painter, but the very opposite. His Art is imaginative, mental, metamorphic, and often visionary; it always works apart from the direct comparison to nature, drawing upon the History of Art. It is also suggesting the hypothesis of a conceptual value (...)

Suscitare meraviglia, catturare l'attenzione mediante lo stupore, è, da sempre, proprietà essenziale del fare arte. E questo, tanto per quanto riguarda l'osservatore esterno che lo stesso artista, quest'ultimo posto spesso di fronte - anche a prescindere da prospettive di automatismo compositivo - ad esiti che trascendono e/o modificano l'iniziale progetto dell'opera, in quanto l'atto estetico è eminentemente magico, perfino sciamanico, e misterioso. Occorre tuttavia ammettere che attualmente non riesce certo frequente imbattersi in tale elementare fascinazione, in questo originario piacere della pittura.
Non è davvero il rischio che si corre con il pittore spagnolo Dino Valls (...). Valls non è certo artista da lasciare indifferenti: affascina e poi magari respinge; inquieta e forse ferisce. Ma è impossibile che i suoi quadri suscitino un sentimento di assuefazione.
(...) Valls, va detto subito, è pittore provvisto di un virtuosismo sorprendente; che, durante un ventennio, si è applicato a studiare meticolosamente le tecniche, l’iconografia e l’iconologia di 600 anni di arte occidentale; un pittore ossessivamente intento al conseguimento della perfezione, sia nella tecnica (quella preferita -ma non l’esclusiva- è la sofisticata tempera all’uovo su tavola, con velature di pittura ad olio), che nella risoluzione dell’immagine.
(...) Valls non è affatto un pittore realista, semmai proprio il contrario. Arte, la sua, immaginativa e mentale, metamorfica, non di rado visionaria, sempre distaccata dal riscontro diretto con la natura, e tutta nutrita della storia dell’arte. È stato anche possibile ipotizzarne una valenza concettuale (...)

From the text “Dino Valls - Barathrum”, for the catalogue of the exhibition “Barathrum”,

Galleria Il Polittico, Roma, February 2004.

[English translation: Esmeralda Barriendos (odiseatraducciones.com)]

Alberto Abate


(...) The paintings of Dino Valls combine an extremely refined technique with a cultural and intellectual complexity that subjects the viewer to the ceremony of the abyss’s vertiginous charm.
(...) The characters represented in the profound paintings of Valls are the naked bodies of young girls and boys, women, men and old people who are subjected to an inexplicable game. Like prenatal victims, they are put into an enigmatic unknown tyranny by this play. The dramatic intensity of these sacrificial bodies announces and condemns the tragedy of the human destiny.
(...) The painting of Dino Valls represents not just this corruptible flesh but he also paints prodigiously the skin, the dermis that is a mystical, dark and luminous wrapping at the same time, which gives the man to the substance of his own fate’s sacrifice.

(...) La pittura di Valls associa ad una tecnica raffinatissima una complessità intellettuale e culturale, che inducono e sottomettono lo spettatore al fascino vertiginoso della visione di un abisso.
(...) Gli attori che vivono dentro l’abissalità della pittura di Valls sono i corpi nudi di fanciulli e fanciulle, uomini, donne e vecchi, sottoposti ad un gioco inesplicabile che li consegna, come vittime prenatali, ad una tirannia enigmatica e sconosciuta. L’intensità drammatica di questi corpi sacrificali, annuncia e denuncia la tragedia del destino umano.
(...) Valls dipinge non solo questa carne corruttibile ma ne dipinge anche la pelle, il derma, in maniera prodigiosa, essa è insieme l’involucro misterico, luminoso e oscuro che consegna l’uomo all’essenza sacrificale del proprio destino.

From the article “Arte, il corpo choc della pittura di Valls”, in Avanti,

Roma, 28 enero 2004.

[English translation: Esmeralda Barriendos]

Antón Castro


(...) In this particular case, new figuration mean a disturbing and beautiful painting, full of conceptuality and unease. Dino Valls is the master of his drawings, the transcended craftwork in oil painting art, and spectator by trade. He travels from the clarity and the consciousness to the inner qualifying darkness that defines us. He uncovers physical states, anguish, double visions that burst in from the mirror’s bottom and he warns us against fragility, cloudiness, women of wounded sights, and creatures against the unbearable melancholy of dreaming. All of them are hidden deep under the garments of beauty, behind the skin of desire. He is an extraordinary and unnoticed artist, strictly respectful with the paint materials and with himself. He transcends reality and takes us to the edge of the abyss, on the threshold of pain.

From the text “Arte, dolor y anatomía” for the brochure of the exhibition

“Dino Valls: Retrospectiva 1990-2000”, Palacio de Sástago, Saragossa, January 2001.

[English translation: Esmeralda Barriendos]

Juan Bufill


(...) At first sight, these paintings are notable for their excellent technical quality, for the achieved realistic representation similar to that given in the XVII with oil painting glazes on a luminous base of tempera. But what is striking is the disturbing, morbid and sometimes eerie atmosphere of some paintings characterized by naked bodies and faces (...).

After this first glance, the work of Dino Valls proves consistency, modernity and no aestheticism. Regarding the contents, it is not a realistic work, neither a neoclassic one: It is a conceptual and symbolist artwork.

These paintings allow a critique against the classicism. The naked human beings who are shown on the canvas, which are subjected to cold examinations, remind us that the obsession for classical order and measured beauty is used to transform the subject into the object.

nd of sadism can clearly be seen in these pictures: sadism in the measurement, violence in sight, and violence of the piercing instrument. They are paintings that reveal a dark relationship between the classical beauty and the martyrdom (...).

From the article “Lo clásico y lo siniestro”, in La Vanguardia, Barcelona, October, 20 2000.

[English translation: Esmeralda Barriendos]

Mario Antolín Paz


(...) Dino Valls is an exceptional draughtsman and an in-depth connoisseur of the painter’s craft. He accomplishes a cultured artwork, endowed with a distinctive personality, troubled and disturbing, realistic and magical, perverse and innocent, poetic and cruel, that places him amongst the greatest artists of our time. His artwork radically separates him from those artists who practise a photographic realism lacking imagination and creative potential (...)

Text from Diccionario de pintores y escultores españoles del s.XX, Madrid, 1999.

[English translation: Esmeralda Barriendos]

Alicia Guixá


Art is the only medium which allows man to fuse his logical and magical thoughts redeeming him from the profound dichotomy that exists between both. Curiosity incites us to go beyond logic and to look further than what is recognisable. Perhaps this could be a point of inflexion of thought that leads us to the unreality in Dino Valls’s art.
One of the privileges to be enjoyed in the dedication to art is that which refers to a special form of possession. Although the desire of understanding one another is never realised completely, to recreate an image whose possession begins and ends strictly in the creation itself is an especially artistic prerogative which besides being much more satisfactory, accompanies another aspect, of no less importance: the concept of endopathy, according to which to paint a figure you have to transform yourself into it. And just as all paintings are self- portraits, only mirrors hung on walls and this brings about the relationship of participation and effect between the work of art, painter and spectator. On the other hand the relationship between the one who looks and what he looks at is based on the power of projection in the subconscious of the spectator and provokes the appearance of archetypes and finishes by establishing an active communication between the work of art and the spectator.
The eye discovers the painting and the latter reveals what we know only intuitively: irrationality. And it is in our endeavour to rationalise it that we create conflict which derives from our collective cultural subconscious and which scientific research is still trying to unmask.
In the same way as dreams have the appearance of reality so as to make themselves identifiable with the conscious, Dino Valls’s painting conceives its plastic ideas from the unreal inner-self of the artist. Neither realism as naturalism nor a superficial personal approach to the real world concerns him. It is not the exterior and its objective reality that attracts him but the contrary. It is all about the search in one’s inner-self, about delving where underlying daily experience is stored. In his painting the artist reveals those deep conflicts and spectator accepts them as part of his internal struggle, for they belong to the same human essence.

Text “Some notes on Dino Valls’ painting”, for the catalogue of the exhibition in

Galería Heller, Madrid, December 1993; and for article in Prestige Magazine-

Espiral de las Artes, no 44, Madrid, December 1999.

Gabriel Villalba


Mystic reality. The hidden reason: The relationships this painter establishes, beyond aesthetics, are connected with the deep contemplation of the most spiritual, almost religious, which can lead us to the ecstasy of knowing the “highest”. All of this painter's works spin around the transformation of what was previously called reality into an iconography or catalog of images which get their ultimate significance not from their own meaning but from the fact of being a complement to the other figures or things represented.
(...) And above all, Dino Valls is not a realist. His head, his hands work with a different material, with different pigments and components which lead him into fiction, into his own invented world which simulates a nonexistent reality. (...)
There is anguish where there is love. There is erotism where we find death. Where we disregard the obvious, there is life. You will find a painter where there is thought.

From text “Dino Valls: Mystic reality. The hidden reason”, for the catalogue of the exhibition

“Four from Madrid”, Oglethorpe U. Museum, Atlanta, September 1994.

Manuel Merchán


(...) The painting of Dino Valls is open to all kind of speculations because of his technical coldness; because he wants to reflect in his work all that it is not possible to explain or to seize through the mind. And that is the paradox; the conjunction of the conscious and the unconscious, of the subjective and the objective, the easy opposite the difficult and the circumstantial against the eternal.
At that point, the viewer’s sight projects on the canvas all his pleasure and worries, achieving a symbioses so absolute that we don’t know anymore who is who, what is what... (...)

From the article “La memoria histórica en Dino Valls” en Antiqvaria, no. 83, Madrid, April 1991.

[English translation: Esmeralda Barriendos]

Javier Rubio Nomblot:


(...) Dino Valls is a great painter. His artwork itself is a tribute to the art and the spirituality which were his raison d’être in any past times, more inclined to transcendence. (...)
The eyes of his figures look terrible not just because they communicate an emotion, -as well as piccassian eyes do -, but as a result of their content of blood and tears. And behind them, there is the nervous system, around the bones. Because Dino Valls has learnt, understood and assimilated everything with leonardian thoroughness. (...)

From the article “El humanismo de Dino Valls” in El Punto de las Artes, Madrid, April, 19 1991.

[English translation: Esmeralda Barriendos]