Catalan abstract artist Antoni Tapies has sadly died at the age of 88. His minimalist work reflected the influences of other abstract artists and movements as well as his own beliefs in leftwing politics, humanitarianism and Zen Buddhism.

Tapies "matter paintings", mixed pigment and varnish with unconventional materials, including marble dust and sand, to create dense, wall-like surfaces that are both blank and teasingly mysterious.

Born in Barcelona Tapies farther was a lawyer and part of the intellectual elite with secular, nationalist sympathies. His mother on the other hand was a devout Catholic and the daughter of a prominent rightwing separatist. All of this had a lasting influence on Tapies beliefs and what he sought to use and express in his art. He often used the image of the cross in his works and created one work from the obituaries section of a Catholic journal.

Art came to prominence when in the early 1940’s he spent two years recovering from a lung infection. During this time he made copies of works by Van Gogh and Picasso, and read Dostoevsky, Ibsen, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, as well as the Japanese Buddhist Okakura Kakuzo.

To make his farther happy he started a law degree in 1944 but continued to study art on the side at the Academia Valls in Barcelona. His work was inspirited by ‘primitive art’ and artists such as Paul Klee his friend at the time Joan Miro and the Surrealists. In 1948 Tapies co-founded the avant-garde Dau al Set group with, among others, the surrealist poet Joan Brossa.

He then received a scholarship to Paris in 1950-51 where he met Pablo Picasso and became interested in the abstract ‘art informel’ movement. His embracing of the abstract style was cemented by his experience of American abstract expressionism, during his first one-man show in New York.

During the 60’s and 70’s he expressed his political views about the Fracnco dictatorship in his art as well as being politically active. In 1966, he was detained and fined for attending a clandestine political meeting, and he was involved in high-profile protests against the death penalty.

He continued to work as Spain returned to democracy. In 1983 he completed a public monument to Picasso in Barcelona, and in 1984 he set up the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, which held both his own works as well as providing a space for exhibitions. Antoni Tapies last public appearance was at the foundation a year and a half ago. Two years ago he was given the hereditary title of Marqués de Tàpies by King Juan Carlos.