When I moved to Barcelona in 1988, the city was a very out-of-the-way-place. An alternative, unknown quantity, very authentic, and for me quite exotic in its authenticity. I came from Toronto, an anodyne and pale landscape, and no real painting going on. I felt like the good painting was going on elsewhere.
I knew instinctively even before coming to Barcelona that there was nothing going on as far as visual art. Well, there were things going on but they definitely weren't very interesting as far as painting, or seeing paintings, or finding good galleries was concerned. A lack of solidarity between artists and few collectors meant everyone starved or fought for the small slice of something that was there. That was fine for me. Sailor bars, junkies, and locals. Real stuff in your face. 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 interesting visually to look at. I wandered around my neighborhood, looking at stuff. It wasn't the comic parse that I liked, but the 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. Well, just Mortadelo -- 230 × 170 cm size in oil.
At the time, 1988-94, there were some good painting shows passing through Barcelona. Bits and bobs at the Caixa Forum. Really some great shows: Howard Hodgkin, Ed Ruscha the German painters like Keifer and Sigmar Polke and others. The two paintings in the photo are installation shots from the show I did at the now defunct Carles Poy Gallery in 1993, in Barcelona.