Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors - Gagosian Gallery 

It is always an absolute pleasure to view paintings by Pablo Picasso, and those in the latest exhibition of his work, ‘Minotaurs and Matadors’ is no exception. 

The exhibition displays pieces of art conveying Picasso’s love of bullfighting and his affinity with the mythical figure of the ferocious minotaur. Born in Málaga in 1981, Picasso was rooted in the traditions of Spain, and was a lifelong fanatic of bullfighting. Horses, bulls and matadors were often featured in his work, from as early as childhood, as seen in ‘Le Petit Picador’, a painting that dates back to when the artist was just 7 years old.

Inside the gallery, the walls of the first room are draped with heavy, green curtains, blocking out the light from outside, leaving the viewer trapped and focused on Picasso’s private world. Every single wall is filled with pictures while tables and podiums have been placed around the floor, which are covered in sketches and statues of perfectly sculpted minotaurs, while they rescue and conquer women, either desperately pawing at them while they sleep, or passionately making love if they are awake. These virile minotaurs are symbolic of a machoism that Picasso strongly identified with, particularly in his treatment towards women and romantic conquests. 

Halfway between the first room and the second room, there is a small section, sheltered again by the same thick green curtains, here you can sit down and watch a projection on the wall of Picasso painting on one side of a glass sheet, within minutes he creates this simple little picture that has achildlike quality, and yet a perfect example of his unique artistic talent and style that he is renowned for. The rest of the projection is a short film about Picasso and his love for bullfighting and how he combined this love with his artwork. 

This exhibition emits a brutal, animalistic vibe through the half-man/half-beast creature that Picasso and others often used to depict himself.  It represents raw physical strength, violence and sexual desire.  In many of the paintings, the beastly minotaur is seen inflicting its vicious sexual presence on everything and everyone. The minotaur is often surrounded by naked women and men who are either lusting over, or fighting the beast, while the creature struts around them, parading his power and force. 

One of the most striking pieces on show is a painting of a woman sleeping on a bed of purples and greens.  The stunning composition of colours and boldness and thickness of the paint is captivating and serene and provides a tranquil contrast to the more fierce scenes depicted in the other paintings in the exhibition. 

This exhibition has a primal, brutish feel, and yet it is also charming and enticing, exuding an instinctive magnetism that keeps drawing you in; a magnetism that is reflective of the charismatic artist behind the works of art, making it incredibly difficult to leave and ensuring longlasting imprints on the mind once you do. 

Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors is on at Gagosian until 25th August 2017.  More information may be found here.