‘Goya’s Cave’: a philosophical immersion in Spanish art


What do Goya’s Black Paintings and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave have in common? Alfonso S. Suárez, film and television director and producer, has found (or, better yet, created) a connection, which he shows in Goya’s Cave, a huge immersive art installation presenting Goya’s haunting atmosphere in the light of Plato’s philosophy.

Using lights and projectors, Suárez shows the Black Paintings in large formats5 or 6 metres high. This makes every stroke look awe-inspiring.

With permission from the Prado Museum, Suárez is planning to set up his installation in galleries around the world, in an effort to showcase Spanish culture through art. ‘This is not Spanish art just because I am from Spain. Here I am showing the work of our most important painter, and I am doing so like no-one else before me,’ he explains.

Artificial cave

In Suárez’s installation, the Black Paintings are reinterpreted in a play of lights and shadows inviting the viewer to get involved. All this takes place in a cave built by the artist himself, but how?

There are four moving projectors on the floor, showing Goya’s murals on the walls. They are robotised so that the images move from wall to wall, covering the gallery’s columns and ceiling as well.

Visitors cast their shadows on the walls, which overlap with the paintings, themselves shadows of Goya’s imagination. ‘The viewer is both passive and active as a subject looking at the paintings and captured in them. Moreover, they can interact with the paintings by moving about. Their shadows can touch The Dog. They can get caught in Fight With Cudgels… Can you imagine? It is a unique experience!,’ Suárez remarks.

Originally, the Black Paintings were painted as murals on the walls of Goya’s house on Madrid outskirts. The series contains 14 paintings, produced between 1819 and 1823. The slow process of transferring the murals onto canvas began in 1874. Today, they can be seen at the Prado Museum.

From ‘Keres’ to ‘Goya’s Cave’

Five years ago, Alfonso S. Suárez introduced his video creation Keres at the Niemeyer Centre in Avilés. It showed a dying man and his sensations as life left his body. Both the man and the viewer could see how time won the battle. ‘Keres became a piece of video art, shown in a variety of festivals and modern art museums. It led me to engage in real video creation,’ the artist recalls.

Now, with his long residence in USA, Alfonso S. Suárez is making arrangements to have Goya’s Cave set up in a big museum, offering a slice of Spanish art to American viewers in the form of one of our most famous series of paintings.