Entrevista a Antonio Bernal, artista imaginero cordobés.

   Antonio, who is an exponent of religious art, an artist with the gift of creating mysticism in his works of art, receives us in his workshop in the Plaza de las Doblas (future Plaza o Jardines de Fray Ricardo), which is very close to the Cristo de los Faroles. His workshop is full of his works of art which, with their subtle expressions, convey emotions and where passion, pain and pardon merge with traces of incense, aromas of wood and a warm polychromy.

   He is a professional, who graduated in the School of Art and Crafts and has dedicated more than 30 Aprils to creating works of art and is now one of the greatest Spanish Creators/Painters of Religious Images.

What are the differences, if there are any, between being a Sculptor and a Creator of Religious Images?

  Of course there are differences, to be a Creator of Religious images, you have to be a sculptor first, having finished an extensive training is important as well as having a solid foundation and knowledge, which allows you to do drawing, modelling, create proportions and volumes. It is undoubtedly part of the path that must be taken to later be able to decide whether to continue with civil or religious sculpture, the difference is in the latter where you have to learn to develop very different characteristics, some are iconographic, as well as a way of interpreting that feeling, which has to be transferred onto each image and you have to give them that special, unique mystique.

What were the first works that you did?

  The first works come from the 90s, after the exposition of the Hermandad de la Merced, in which we participated with Paco Romero, a partner and lifelong brother; we gradually got into religious imagery and that was always with the impetus of Friar Ricardo de Cordoba. Some of the first works to be named are: The Nazareno de Adamuz, the Virgen de Badajoz, a beautiful Soledad by Don Benito, then later in Cordoba they began to trust me more and they entrusted me with the work of El Misterio de Jesus de las Penas, then Montilla with La Paz, Prendimiento, Resucitado, La Sangre, a lot of mysteries and works in Spain and America.

What can you tell us about the style of religious image works and how do you assess the current style?

   The Baroque, as the predominant style, gave us a lot, this impressive work by the great masters makes you study the different facial expressions, the anatomy, interpret that mystic factor, which shows you this is how you must be able to include and provoke that unique sensitivity, in the image that you make with the halo of divinity that each one requires. The inspiration of religious art with a marked Baroque tendency, which we have been studying and enjoying for three centuries, the hyper realism that we come from and the realism we find ourselves in and that I feel; that is the current path of religious imagery and where we are retracing our art, which creates the mystic. My work today is realistic and is clearly based on nature. The grief of beauty conquered.

As part of the Cordoba brotherhood movement, do you think that the work of Fray Ricardo de Cordoba should be recognized?

   He was definitely a revolutionary, a tireless driving force, a good patron and a passionate supporter of art for religious brotherhoods. He was who encouraged the more significant position of Easter throughout Andalusia and more so in Cordoba. Other cities such as Seville, Malaga and Jerez were much more advanced in the matter but the strong impetus in Cordoba is the merit of Fray Ricardo, who should always be given recognition and appreciation for all this religious art that is seen and enjoyed in the city.

At what point, in the work, do you feel personal satisfaction?

   Each work is a long process, to which I have dedicated a detailed and thorough study and later produced it in a drawing. But it’s definitely when working with clay that I most come alive; where creation unfolds in its bravest sense. It’s my concept, my tools, my feelings and my complete satisfaction which beckon me down this path to be a religious sculptor.

If you had to highlight any of the infinite number of works that you have done, which would they be and why?

There are a lot of works to highlight of course, each one is unique in itself and has something special, for me and for each person who feels devotion for it. I would name San Juan de Avila as a special transcendental work that I have done, perhaps it has been one of the biggest challenges that I have had in my career, because of its complexity and its special characteristics. It has been a year of work, finding information and studying a lot, resulting in giving me a lot of pleasure, a combination of all the techniques that I can provide as an artist and of course you can enjoy in the most important place in this city, which is the Cathedral.

How can we recognise one of your works, what is the hallmark, that specific imprint on your work?

Well, of course they can be recognized, I think it is the expression of the image, the look transmitted by each work that is often filled with a sweet pain, a sense of forgiveness where there is no room for hate, the warm subtle colours, on the lower lips as well as in the style of the nose, each work becomes part of my family and of course there is something in the aesthetics, which are shared and recognized.