One of the characters in my novel, Duende, is an artist called Ignacio Ramirez Rivera, better known as Nayo. The book begins with his birth in Barcelona on April 23rd 1900. In 1918, he moves to Madrid with his lover, José, to study at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, an art school which was the starting point for both Picasso and Dalí (who appears as a character in Duende).
Art was one of the things which brought Nayo and José together as schoolboys, aged 14:
Thursday afternoons were always a blessing. Art was what he loved. The stillness of the classroom, the tranquility of trying to capture live objects on to paper, the beauty of being given permission for that which you are born to do. Although the still life the teacher had constructed was hardly inspirational, Nayo found a way to glean shapes, textures and colours. Even if it’s not right in front of your eyes, you can still find a way to trace the undiscovered correspondences, the true lines and natural curves, the light and the shade, and the moments of contact, the rise and inevitable fall. That afternoon, he became totally absorbed in his task. The rest of the world blurred into the background.
This time, it wasn’t a hand but a breath that interrupted his reverie. A soft, sweet sharp breath followed by a gasp.
‘How can you turn that into this?’ asked José. The fact he was impressed was undisguised.
Nayo felt a shyness overwhelm him but knew that in this moment, appearances were all.
He smiled at José as a modest means of accepting praise. He turned his body round a little further. Their eyes locked and Nayo felt himself swim.
‘If you look hard enough, you always find what you need,’ he said and realised that unknowingly, he’d said something profound.
Nayo’s words have an eerie resonance at the end of the novel but this is the start of his relationship with José, a love affair between two men in the run-up to the Spanish Civil War; a love affair between philosophy and art.