José Manuel Ballester is the artist behind these unusually incomplete works of art. The series, appropriately titled “Hidden Spaces” is a collection of classical paintings with the subjects removed. It’s basically a collection of backgrounds. José wants the viewer to re-interpret the stories they think they already know. A whole new world opens up, as the bare backdrop hints at the mysterious events depicted on the paintings.
A bloody cross, an empty table, blood soaked ground – elements that make anyone wonder what happened in those paintings. The absence of people simply paves the way for the viewer’s imagination to create its own little story to complete the story. It is perhaps a bit unsettling to gaze at an empty painting that you know should contain people but it is the very absence of these people that gives another kind of depth to the paintings, revealing the never-before-seen spaces behind them
In an interview with Bored Panda, Ballester admits to wanting the viewers to have a fresh perspective on these classical works of art. He said: “At first sight the whole series can inspire some humour, but after a deeper look it’s not difficult to find transcendence and the multiple possible interpretations, both as new images and as related to their original counterparts. One of the clearest aspects in this series is the way we can understand art from the point of view of each period, which has an unique way of looking and understanding reality shared by artists, who develop their creativity inside those period’s values and connect with ideas and universal precepts extended in time.”
That José managed to digitally erase the people from the paintings is no mean feat. You can’t simply take something without putting something in its place. So every time he did manage to delete the person in the painting, he has to imagine what should be behind the subject in that painting. Is it a wall? A tapestry? An easel? What José did is not a simple cut-and-paste job — an easy thing to forget in the digital age. It takes a photographer’s eye to remove the subjects, a painter’s imagination to put something in their stead, and a load of talent to make the painting still utterly recognizable.
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