Categories Artists, Contemporary Art, General, Miquel Barcelo

Miquel Barceló: the Hope of the Present and the Future

Miquel Barceló

Miquel Barceló (Felanitx, Mallorca, January 8, 1957) is one of the most quoted living Spanish artists today. It is not something that strange: it has been forty years realizing an art that surprises the public … for good.

It characterizes his unstoppable need to experiment, to learn and to try new ways to create that art that is his, that art that seems to model with the hands, in a completely organic way. He does not have a fixed place in which to reside, in which to leave his study. Walk where you are required, transporting your art to hidden places. Its influence is great and varied, although we could say that its major influence is the nature, especially that linked to its native land, Mallorca. Through his work we see the birth and death of the sea, the light of the coast and its caves.

His first contact with art was already bathed by that light, by the sea, by all that Mallorca can bring to a young man whose soul clearly oscillates towards the artistic vocation. At the time, there he met Joan Miró, maybe his first influence in the art world. Soon he met others: Paul Klee, Dubuffe, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Lucio Fontana. Exponents of expressionism and art brut, with whom he made a first contact in the France of the 70, and who entered through his sight to his hands, staining with his essence a little Mallorcan art. They were not the only ones, in plain sight. The influences of Barceló ascend to old stages, to the Great Masters like Velázquez, Rembrandt, Tintoretto. In short, he made a quick trip, soaking up paintings and styles from many different epochs, until he was lost between conceptual art and Spanish Baroque painting, with touches of Italian claroscurism and action painting, without forgetting, of course, art povera, Italian and American Abstract Expressionism.

As we said at first, above all this innumerable influences, nature stands out. Miquel Barceló knows the organic forms, and knows at the time the influence of nature on the elements of an artist. It was not until more than once that we were able to see how he carried out actions involving his work directly with nature, either by mixing his works with organic materials that could lead to natural degradation, or by allowing his works to be exposed to the natural means of oxidation and erosion, without maintaining due care in its conservation. Your need for experimentation, your skill and weakness with it.

In his exhibition Cadaverina 15, in 1976, he exhibited 225 boxes with organic and inorganic products that were decomposed, so that we could appreciate that evolution that generates death and its closeness in works of art, in artistic performances.

Miquel Barceló
Cadaverine 15

With respect to the places of the globe that can be appreciated in Barceló, predominate the Mediterranean and Africa. Barceló has often visited the African continent, establishing itself in countries like Mali in order to learn as much of its culture as possible, something that is later reflected in his work: nature is tinged with African colors, with its orography and its flora decorating in this way the brushstrokes and works of Barceló, becoming denser and darker, more reddish. In these brush strokes, one can appreciate the volume obtained by thickening it, full of not only pigments of the place but of mud and other natural substances, thus returning in a certain way at the beginning, to the Renaissance, where experimentation was the basis of any artist. Another part of his work is very located in the maritime theme, inheritance of his native land. We find among its blue and white marine works, and some other sea bottom. He uses them as an infinite, malleable, and moldable scenario.

For him it was a compliment and an honor to be able to participate in the scientific committee that carried out the reproduction of the cave Chauvet, in the Ardèche, where 400 paintings of animals that had been found in the original grotto were traced. He was attracted mainly because he could not understand the art of these caves: “Discovering this cave was a major shock. He made me understand the history of art in a different way. Chauvet is a part of art that we are not able to understand.”

Miquel Barceló
One of the many works of Miquel Barceló inspired by the Chauvet cave

One of its best-known facets is that of his interventions on architectural elements, such as the one he made in 1986, the first of its kind, in the dome of the lobby of the Mercat de las Flors theater in the city. This work presents a series of outstanding techniques, intermingling glazes, overlays and abundance of materials, which in their final point obtain the false impression of transparency.

Miquel Barceló
Dome of the theater Mercat de les Flors

But undoubtedly, his best known work on an architectural element is the decoration of the Chapel of the Most Holy of the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca. It opened to the public in 2007, and in it worked not only on the stone itself, also intervened in the stained glass windows and furniture. Among all this we find a ceramic mural of about 300m2 in which appears Christ with the miracle of bread and fish, accompanied by the presence of marine fauna, amphorae and Roman ruins, thus referencing classical antiquity.

Miquel Barceló
Capilla del Santísimo, cathedral of Palma de Mallorca

And although the Chapel of the Most Holy is his best-known work, the most appreciated is probably the top of the Hall of Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilizations at the UN headquarters in Geneva. On its surface of 1400 sq.m we find more than 35 tons of painting as a sort of stalactites, made with strong binder and pigments brought from all parts of the world in accordance with the meaning and purpose of the room in which they are located. He wanted to “take the extreme to paint against gravity”, turning this dome into a modern Sistine Chapel.

Miquel Barceló
Dome of the Human Rights Room and the Alliance of Civilizations at the UN headquarters in Geneva

We talked before his works of the 70s and 80s. There are also behind the 90s works, where pictorial art embraced sculpture and generated children of both with curious characteristics, such as L’atelier aux sculptures, or some portraits made also during these years in which the sculptural air that they present practically is born only being carried away by what the support itself (paper, canvas, etc.) suggests at every moment. This path led him, logically, to finish working also the sculptural genre. Currently, his modeling bronze works are quite quoted.

Miquel Barceló
L’atelier aux sculptures

Within his multifaceted art, we also find the illustration of books, accompanied by a general norm of reflection on his own art, but he has also made books of the artist and some of his own photographs, and has even illustrated with embossing and lithographs a text in Braille by Evgen Bavcar, The Dismantled Stores or the Unknown World of Perceptions. In the literary world, however, the more than three hundred watercolors he has made to illustrate the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, which were exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Miquel Barceló
Divine Comedy illustrated by Miquel Barceló

In the 90’s he continues to investigate new techniques, which he had not yet proven throughout his fruitful career. He took knowledge of pottery in the mid-90s in Mali, learning from the forms of the place, which gives him a superb artistic value. He then continued his research with theatrical scenery, performing for the National Theater of the Opera Comique in Paris the stage set for the opera El retablo de Maese Pedro by Manuel de Falla: he created the set, costumes, and puppets.

At this point, no one argues that the Mallorcan is the living Spanish artist most quoted internationally, for his projection and artistic ability. It touches virtually all areas of creation, both pictorial and sculptural, in murals, graphic art, ceramics, staging,…

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