Mantecón, a singular Galician painter belonging to 'The Atlantic generation', an Art movement of the eighties

Francisco Mantecón Rodríguez was born in 1948 in the city of Vigo (Spain), where he passed away in 2001, in his intellectual and artistic prime and owner of a well-deserved prestige in the field of Galician Plastic Art.

Francisco Mantecón
As a painter he showed a very early vocation. Traces and unforgettable anecdotes of this vocation wonder us when we behold the firm lines of his childhood drawings, which could be said to be almost hiperrealistic. It is also told how he would play truant, naively justifying himself afterwards on the grounds of having been carried away by the sunlight reflection on the tree leaves, by the movement of their shadows on the ground, by a shiny mirror or by a clean open space, motifs which would, much later, be used in his paintings.
He grew up in a cultured family. A family who loved books and art, especially music, as his father, like other members of the family, was a music critic. This background provided him with a solid formation and an esthetical character.
Nevertheless, when he finished school, he was orientated towards a higher education in engineering. He rebelled against this decision by going away to Europe, to Belgium specifically, where he lived a non-conformist stage of his life in which he undertook his vocation on his own account.

Temporarily back in Vigo, he took part in all the editions of Plaza de la Princesa Open Air Exhibitions, which were held since 1968 to 1975 organized by the artists themselves and which turned out to be the breeding ground of the avant-garde of Galician Art. Mantecón would hold a recognized position in that vanguard since then and he would always be linked to it afterwards. One of the instances in which he stood out in those exhibitions was when he got an educational grant in the 1971st edition of Plaza de la Princesa .
It was then when his individual exhibitions also started. Apart from taking part in other noteworthy collective exhibitions, in 1970 he had a solo exhibition in Caja de Ahorros de Vigo, where he showed his works again in 1972. He also exhibited in Sala Jofer in Pontevedra, and took part in the Instituto pro-Beiras Exhibition in 1970, in the Art Biennial Exhibition of Pontevedra in 1971, and in the First “Salón Independiente de Arte de Galicia” in 1973, in Vigo. All his works, were at that moment, defined as restrained and personally figurative.

Between 1972 and 1976 he studied in the School of Fine Arts of Barcelona, granted by the Provincial Council of Pontevedra. There, he got into contact with different avant-garde art movements from other countries and evolved towards an expressionist abstraction which, towards the end of that decade, turned into a geometrical abstraction of schematic, monochromatic shapes, to which he would be faithful all his life.

In the mid 70’s he got into graphic design which emphasizes analytic, flat structures with subtle light modulations, black backgrounds and parallel lines. These would always be his identity hallmarks in painting as well as in other plastic expressions -engraving, photography, etc.- which he practiced in a global way.
Exhibitions followed one another since then: His works were exhibited, individually -in art galleries such as Ceibe, in A Coruña, in 1973 and 1976, Atalaya, in Gijón, in 1976 and 1977 and Tótem Grup D´Art in Barcelona in 1977- and in group exhibitions -in Barcelona, Madrid, Oviedo or Santiago.

Vigo Porto Atlantic

In 1977 he comes back to his hometown, Vigo, and settles here for good, working as an Art teacher in a secondary school. In that same year, the Grupo Atlántica comes into existence in Bayona. He was one of the founders, although his style contrasted with the expressionism of the rest of the members’. He had his works shown in all the group’s exhibitions until “Atlántica 83”, apart from being selected for other Galician Art collective exhibitions such as “Imaxes dos 80 desde Galicia” (Images of the 80’s from Galicia (1984), “Tempos de Pintura” (Times for Painting) (1985), the selection of galician artists presented by the Galician Government in ARCO 83 and 84 or the I Exhibition Unión Fenosa in 1989. At the same time, almost once a year, he went on with solo exhibitions in galleries like Lepina or Novecento, in Vigo, Joaquin Mir, in Palma de Mallorca, Trinta, in Santiago etc.

Mantecón always showed a special fondness for paper as a media, and although he never abandoned it, during the 80’s he also used big format canvas, always faithful to his conceptual painting and the monochromic constructivism of geometrical forms which, in the 90’s , in his analytic option, meant a bigger presence of plastic values.

As for graphic design,, he worked in different fields, politics, trade unions, cultural organizations, publishing companies... Namely:
As an artist with left-wing views, he made posters for political organizations and trade unions: The Galician Communist Party, “Esquerda Galega”, CXTG or the Galician Union of Teachers.
It’s also one of his works the graphic images for cultural institutions like Nova Escola Galega, Galix, Adiante Cultural Club or Xuventudes Musicais and the Philarmonic of Vigo.

As for the editorial field, he worked for Galaxia Publishers, designing collections such as “Dombate”, “Complete Works” “Dictionaries” and several covers for other collections; He designed the collections “Cómplice”, “Gaivota” and “Narrativa", among others, fo Edicións do Cumio Publishing; , lGalician Classical Writers” for Sotelo Blanco Publishing; , “A Fraga ” forIr Indo Publishing; , the collection “Ferros” for Xerais Publishing. As well as some cult magazines like A Trabe de Ouro" or The Yearbook of Galician Studies.

Cartel para Terras Gauda

Regarding the world of business, works like the design of wine labels for Fillaboa and Terras Gauda must be highlighted. He also created the corporate image for the latter and the graphic renewal of the “Miau” line for Alfageme Cannery.

In the nineties, in sum, he keeps busy with graphic design so he quits teaching. Good evidence of such a commitment is offered nowadays by Terras Gauda Winery, which holds a poster competition under his name ((International Advertising Poster Design Competition Francisco Mantecón), which artists from all over the world sign up for.
But above all, he never abandoned the painter’s lonely work in his studio. His work maintained, to the very end, a rigorously thought-out pictorial art from which other expressions might have flowed. The painter, Francisco Mantecón, had achieved a language of his own which, paradoxically by its synthesizing singularity, raises the artist from the history of Galician contemporary Art to a universal consideration..