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Stories to marvel

Art on the mountain

Dreamer and Rebel

From Barcelona to Berlin into Zillertal. The painter Anton Unai followed the artistic call that came from the mountains and continues to live his vision of poetry, provocation and a better world here.

"Chaotic," grins the nine-year-old Laia cheekily. The girl is sitting at the lunch table of the Kristallhütte, and while her father, distracted by his Kaiserschmarrn, searches for the right words, she adds her own thoughts. The painter Anton Unai nods. His daughter knows him. His character. His style. Art experts define the work of the 46-yearold Spaniard roughly so: "He celebrates a visual poetry of playful ease and rebellious provocation." Anton's own description of his painting is that it is "intuitive, free, expressive, always with a message". It's a gorgeous day. Not a cloud in the sky. Just the Zillertal. We sit at 2,147 metres and let our eyes wander over the magnificent mountain panorama. Anton is here with his daughters Laia and Elina, 11, skiing is a special passion for the trio. "I love it. And it's never too late to take on new challenges", smiles Anton. It wasn't much different with painting.

Holding Up the Mirror. Born in Barcelona, the young man soon relocated to England, where he studied political science. Later he moved his residence to Berlin and became a journalist. The conceptual design of the magazine "art" gradually led him to the decision to become an artist. "I felt I wanted to hold up a mirror to this world in my own way", he recalls. The influence of politics has never left him. But not the kind of politics we encounter in everyday life. "I'm interested in the philosophy behind it", he says. "How people treat others, how we understand cultures, interact with children, that is politics. Everything we love is political." 

"I love the spirituality of the
mountains, the fire of nature, the
stillness, and even the extremes."

Anton Unai

Zillertal Family

Anton Unai came to Zillertal thanks to an invitation. Stefan Eder, head of the Kristallhütte, has been following his passion for twelve years: "We offer artists the opportunity to exhibit their work on the mountain and to breathe new life into this special place again and again." And so Anton learned to see his artistic ideas as a gift: "It's like a family here. I immediately felt at home in Zillertal." Which might also have something to do with the Kaiserschmarrn, which the father and the two daughters have quickly polished off. Elina is waiting for the award ceremony after the ski race, and Anton seems more excited than his kid. Even though, as an artist, he likes to take in the mountain world far away from the slopes. "I love the spirituality up here, the fire of nature, the stillness, and even the extremes."

And this is exactly the philosophical world that you enter into through his pictures. Not thinking, just doing, without a concept, simply following intuition, that is his artistic creed. "It burns in my mind and in my soul", he says. And if he doesn't like the painting, he paints over it. "I am very fast, making between two and three hundred pictures every year. And sometimes it comes out as nonsense, but I always want to take a risk on the canvas, not just stick to stencils."

Believe and Demand. In Berlin, Anton Unai earned his money as a creative advertiser. For a man like him, who had exhibitions in London or Paris, in Vienna or New York, painting is pure devotion. It doesn't matter if a painting sells for 10,000 or Lowercase euros, it should never define the value of his work. Then Anton laughs and says: "I'm not a diva." He's more of a dreamer. And believes that it is always worthwhile to use everything that fate provides in order to work for a better future. "It's about the world we want to leave behind for our children. And we really need to be demanding about it." Then he clips into his skis. Waves. Skis away. And calls to us: "I have to get to the medal ceremony. To see my kid smile. Nothing is more important than that."

Image Christoph Johann and text: Michael Hufnagl
Zillertal magazine Winter 2020/21


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