Saturday, April 1

Mortadelo and Filemon

When I moved to Barcelona in 1988, the city was a very out-of-the-way-place. An alternative, unknown quantity, and for me quite exotic in its authenticity. I came from Toronto, an anodyne and pale landscape, and no real important painting going on. I felt like the good painting was going on elsewhere.  Anywhere else than in Canada.

I knew instinctively even before coming to Barcelona that there wasn't a lot going on as far as visual art. Well, there were things going on but they definitely weren't that interesting as far as painting, or seeing paintings, or finding good galleries was concerned. I had moved from one bad painting town to another. A lack of solidarity between artists and few collectors meant everyone starved and fought for the small slice of something that was there. I wasn't part of that, which was fine for me. I was more interested in the sailor bars, junkies, and locals. That was inspiring, if not disturbing. I developed my work and isolated myself from my surroundings. One of the things that grabbed my eye was the comic book "Mortadelo and Filemon", quintessentially Spanish, and for me very captivating visually to look at. 

I wandered around my neighborhood, looking at stuff. It wasn't the “Mortadello y Filemon” comic parse that I liked, but the colorful zany covers, which were well displayed in the kiosks on the Ramblas.  That was a continuous presence and something very native and pop. The more I looked at it, the more I wanted to paint the frenetic warped surreal scenes and the bright, garish colors. I did end up painting Mortadelo and Filemon. Sometimes just Mortadelo -- 230 × 170 cm size in oil. 
At the time, 1988-96, there were some good painting shows passing through Barcelona. Bits and bobs at the Caixa Forum.  Really some great shows: Howard Hodgkin, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Nauman, the German painters like Keifer and Sigmar Polke and others.  The two paintings in the photo are installation shots from the now defunct GalerĂ­a Carles Poy in 1993, in Barcelona.