Thousands of Brushstrokes: Antonio Santín’s New Rug Paintings

02.20.24 | By
Thousands of Brushstrokes: Antonio Santín’s New Rug Paintings

This month in New York, artist Antonio Santín presents shockingly hyperreal oil paintings that depict life-size undulating ornate rugs. On view at Marc Straus Gallery, each painting is a surprising illusion of a carpet in 3D space, but up close, they’re even more impressive. Painstakingly applied with a modified syringe, thousands of tiny brushstrokes demand sustained inspection and a new fascination for both textile and paint.

2nd floor of Marc Straus Gallery with 3 paintings

Installation view, Antonio Santín, MARC STRAUS Gallery, New York

Painting of rug with geometric pattern

I’m Only Happy When It Rains, 2023

Detail of rug painting with fringe on left

I’m Only Happy When It Rains, 2023 (detail)

Angled view of rug painting with texture

I’m Only Happy When It Rains, 2023 (detail)

The largest paintings here span over seven feet across and depict geometric and floral patterned rugs in space. Thousands of paint dots mimic the warp and weave of intricate patterns while longer extrusions of paint perfectly impersonate knots and fringes on each side. Taking up to 9 months to complete, the final stage of the process is an application of black glaze that introduces areas of shadow.

Painting of rug with central star pattern

Bonanza, 2022

Detail of mandala-like pattern in rug painting

Bonanza, 2022 (detail)

detail of painted fringe

Bonanza, 2022 (detail)

corner of rug painting revealing blue canvas

Bonanza, 2022 (detail)

Born in Madrid, Antonio Santín’s work is inspired by classic painting traditions like chiaroscuro and trompe l’oeil while introducing an inventive new application process. Each painting is also a play between illusion and real physical depth: though the folds of the rugs are an illusion, the paint itself is sculptural. Santín has described his work as “micro sculptural reliefs” – a texture that is only magnified by the black glaze.

Painting of rug with colorful floral pattern

Poligamia, 2023

Left detail of rug painting with black glaze shadows

Poligamia, 2023 (detail)

Image of bird within painting of rug

Poligamia, 2023 (detail)

Right detail of rug painting with black glaze shadows

Poligamia, 2023 (detail)

Santín’s choice to render these rugs as scrunched 3D landscapes also provides satisfying distortions of the original patterns. In one of my favorite works, “I’m Only Happy When It Rains,” rows of octagons bend and crop from their original grid. In “Supernova” (below) a folded central geometric star provides enough information to imagine the full unfolded design – all adding to sense that these paintings are even bigger than their physical dimensions.

Painting of rug with central star pattern

Supernova, 2023

Painting of rug in gold and white

Echo Chamber, 2023

Santín’s paintings invite you to slow down and look closer, to be inspired and reenergized by meticulous process, and to delight in the unbelievable potential and reinvention of paint on canvas.

What: Antonio Santín: Recent Works
Marc Straus Gallery, 299 Grand St, New York, NY
When: January 13 – March 3, 2024

All photos courtesy of the Artist and MARC STRAUS Gallery.
Detail photographs by David Behringer.

David Behringer visits over 200 galleries every month to uncover and share the most exciting contemporary art in New York today. Subscribe to his exclusive weekly newsletter at and learn about his private gallery tours. And be sure to check out his YouTube.