Cultural Bridges: The Gabarron Foundation’s Artistic Endeavour in Hong Kong

Ambit, Cristobal Gabarron, 17 December 2023
Ambit 2, Cristobal Gabarron, 17 December 2023
Ambit (in progress), Cristobal Gabarron, 17 December 2023
Ambit (with dancers), Cristobal Gabarron, 17 December 2023
Ambit (Final), Cristobal Gabarron, 17 December 2023
The Sacrifice of Metaphor 11, Christobal Gabarron, 2023
The Elequence of Silence 19, Christobal Gabarron, 2023
The Elequence of Silence 14, Christobal Gabarron, 2023
The Elequence of Silence 9, Christobal Gabarron, 2023
The Elequence of Silence 7, Christobal Gabarron, 2023
Gabarron, The Humanist
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The Gabarron Foundation

The Gabarron Foundation launched two projects in Hong Kong, Ambit and Gabarron: The Humanist.

Founded in 1992, the Gabarron Foundation was established to provide a philanthropic approach towards filling societal gaps for promoting arts and culture. Juan Gabarron, CEO of the Gabarron Foundation Asia, noted that the foundation’s work in fostering art and appreciating cultural heritage has been among their work’s most critical aspects. “Our motto is making cultural bridges and connecting people,” he says.

The genesis of this generosity is Cristobal Gabarron, a multi-faceted and multi-talented creative. He has explored many fields and worked in different media, becoming an internationally renowned painter and sculptor.

Cristobal Gabarron

Largely self-taught, Cristobal was born in 1945 in the town of Mula and grew up in humble surroundings in post-war Spain. From an early age, he knew he wanted to be an artist and worked hard to develop his talent.

He married young, had five children within seven years, and worked boldly as an artist while supporting his family. Spain was poor and still rebuilding its economy, so societal funding for arts and culture was not a priority. Aspiring for a career in the arts was not easy. Driven to succeed, Cristobal learned how to promote himself and became well-known among collectors.

International recognition of Cristobal’s artistic works emerged as he toured collectors, galleries and museums and attended exhibitions and art biennales abroad.

After many years of hard work and travelling internationally, Cristobal became familiar with the American style of private philanthropy. He decided that he wanted to give back to society. Returning to his roots in his Spanish hometown, he started his philanthropic energies focusing on art and culture with the Foundation and the Gabarron Museum in Mula.

Ambit, a Creative Journey Across Five Continents

Of the many programmes the Foundation sponsors, one exceptional project was brought to Hong Kong as a continuation of their multi-year, multi-location celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the Gabarron Foundation. Ambit, a Creative Journey Across Five Continents, was conceived by Cristobal to unite different facets of art and highlight the identity and culture of a specific habitat and place.

At Ambit’s local launch at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Alice Mong, the Executive Director, welcomed Cristobal, the Gabarron Foundation, and the audience to the spectacular venue on the centre’s rooftop garden for its lucky eighth edition in an atmosphere full of art and creativity.

Ambit, a Creative Journey Across Five Continents was conceived by Cristobal Gabarron to unite different facets of art and to highlight the identity and culture of a specific habitat and place

Cris Gabarron, President of the Gabarron Foundation, explained, “Ambit is a special event that gathers artists from different disciplines together.”

A Happening + Performance + Action Painting

Ambit is envisioned as a “Happening + Performance + Action Painting”. It is a collaborative artwork that includes a live-action painting by Cristobal alongside the readings and presentations of poets, singers, musicians, dancers, performance artists, composers, and sound artists in the presence of an audience.  Comprehensively, every aspect, the artists, the audience, the music, the words spoken and sung, and every action is a consequential part of the creation of the artwork.

During the three-hour happening, a continuous flow of performances by various artists produced sounds, music, sights, gestures, and movements in the spaces in front and around a huge 3 x 9 metre canvas set up for the live-action painting. As these artists created their work, Cristobal took inspiration from their creative actions and made his marks on the canvas.  From a blank slate, and as time passes, Cristobal applies dynamic marks with colour paints and builds upon those until he covers the canvas with inspired memories, ultimately memorialising the event in the finished work.

On the canvas, the idea of a “cultural photo of the planet in a moment in time” is evident by the forms, lines, figures, brushstrokes and meticulously drawn geometric shapes on its surface.

A grouping of black dancing silhouettes reminds one of the dancers who gracefully glided around the venue.

White flakes and splotches are a nudge to a heap of feathers that were tugged out of a pillow by a performance artist, which were then twirled up into the air, into the audience and everywhere else, by gusts of blustery wind, creating an ethereal atmosphere.

A triangular spire in the middle is a homage to Hong Kong’s iconic skyscrapers looming over the rooftop venue.

Blocks of pure colours allude to abrupt jolts of sounds and music that sometimes pierce the quiet of the space.

Dark dripping paint raining on dancing figures hints at the day’s ominous cold and wet monsoon climate. 

Pang Jiun

On the right, painter Pang Jiun applied his own uniquely inspired brushstrokes and colours, providing a visual contrast complementary to Cristobal’s work on the centre and left of the canvas.

The completed painting is the ultimate visual representation and captures the Ambit vision of connection and harmony. Although the final artwork has a story to tell, the concept surrounding its creation is most remarkable, even more so than the finished work.

Gabarron: The Humanist

Cristobal’s works on show at Ora Ora gallery in Tai Kwun in Central are less conceptual and more conventional. In the Gabarron: The Humanist exhibition, five new series of works were created for local audiences.

The Gabarron Foundation’s launch of Ambit and Gabarron: The Humanist projects in Hong Kong has brought the creations and vision of founder Cristobal to the forefront. With a philanthropic focus on promoting arts and culture, the foundation has bridged societal gaps by fostering cultural connections.

Text and photos Cammy Yiu