Catarte – nice idea, but could do better

I was drawn to Catarte‘s opening on 15 October 2010 as much as anything by the fact that it was in the 15th-century Gothic palace in c/ Cadirers in Barrio del Carmen that is home to the Círculo de Bellas Artes de Valencia. I’ve always wanted to go up its magnificent staircase, and now I did.

Artwork for Catarte by Chi-Chang Hsieh

The staircase was the highlight of the evening. Catarte is a collaboration between the bodega Finca Ardal (DO Utiel-Requena) and the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia that was initiated in 2006, though as far as I can see these are the first artistic fruits. Though most of the drawings with a year that I saw were dated 2006, perhaps this had something to do with the subdued colouring.

Anyway, the UPV’s Drawing Department has produced 30something artworks which adorned the small exhibition room, where there were what appeared to be mainly relatives of the artists, some peanuts and a few bottles of Ardal’s pleasing Ocho Cuerdas.  The drawings were all variations on a single theme, a similar hue of purplish red shapes on a white background – nice enough, though a bit discreet and one-dimensional, and perhaps not fully embracing the Dionysian aspect of wine. Given that the artists were meant to using matter from the Finca Ardal winery (wine lees, tendrils and shoots from the vineyard), it was all a bit demure.

Interestingly, there were some bottles with labels made from the art, and these looked really elegant, and with a kind of sepia hue adding patina and even a touch of gravitas. Perhaps this was the idea, to produce drawings that worked most effectively on labels trather than on walls.

There was also a rather nicely produced book, printed on organic paper, with the usual introduction by a couple of dignitaries (the Vicerrectores de Cultura of the UPV and the Universitat de València), who equally inevitably got the name of the bodega wrong (Artal!). Here again, to my eye the drawings looked more beguiling than in the flesh.

In book terms, I’m interested to see this attractive publication with its ISBN (9788493700423) that gives no – ZERO – search engine results. Seems a waste. Still, I’m glad to have it on the shelves, and it will tempt me to buy Finca Ardal wines more regularly so that I can dig out the book. I like them – though I could do without the music on their website – and have written about them elsewhere after a tasting ages ago (I may even try to dig that out and get round to rescuing other things from an invisible archive).

All in all, an interesting initiative that just seems not quite to amount to the sum of its parts.

José Manuel Guillén artwork for Catarte