When I moved to NY in 1997, I decided to change my work. Since I had decided to change my life, the change in my painting seemed logical. The move was quite radical and I started from zero in NY. I was quite well set-up in Barcelona and very comfortable there when I left. NY was necessary to start fresh and leave the pop images behind and just concentrate on painting what I loved, which was abstraction. That work culminated in a show in Barcelona at Galeria Victor Saavedra in 2000, where I showed these and other works. Sometimes you do what you think you should do rather than doing what you feel you need to do. Although I love abstraction, I couldn't get it right. I was always feeling like something was missing. And it was. It was the narrative, the irony, the imagery.
This is work from around 1995. I used to go to this junk store around the corner from my studio in the Raval, which was called the Barrio Chino back then, but now they (El Ayuntamiento, i.e. City Hall) have sanitized both name and hood after tearing-down the worst parts of the neighborhood and eliminating a lot of the marginal activities like prostitution, drug dealing and whatever else. That still goes on, but it is nothing like it was. Anyways, I'd go to this junk shop around the corner when I was stuck in the studio and I would find curious stuff, like old photos, figurines, etc. I found this cheesy cast figure of an angel with a movable head that I painted and these are the outcome. The painting with the male figure is Brains from the Thunderbirds, which was another series of paintings I did but fits with this theme.
All these paintings are 170 × 230 cm. I believe one of these paintings was shown at Galleria Tomas Carsten in Barcelona in 1995 -- the angel with the turquoise background. The three works are in private collections in Barcelona.
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.
Bunny portraits are installation shot from the expo at Carles Poy Gallery, Barcelona in 1993.
The two painting below are 230 × 175 cm of the cosmic bunny's series that I did afterwards. I showed the one with the bluish ground at Kiku Mistu Centro del Arte, Barcelona in 1996, and subsequently sold both of them privately. The cosmic bunnies were a culmination of the pop work I developed in Barcelona from 1988 to 97, before I left for NY.
This image is of one of his amazing paintings. And it is a painting, not a piece of sterling board, although you wouldn't know it. A real challenge to our notion of reality as it is perceived, and to our expectations of how things really are and not how they just appear to be.
Rory Mac Beth. Was once a Street Painter who I met in Barcelona in 1988. Phenomenal painter, phenomenally talented. Now he shows all over the place aside from being one of the organizers of Pilot, in London, an archive and showcase of unrepresented artists, and now the dean of fine arts at Liverpool University.
This is the first poster in a series of 3 street posters, A2 size, that I did and were pasted-up in the autumn of '95 in Barcelona. It depicts a woman in leathers (S+M) painting a felation. It says: "Being an Artist is Easy... Intensive 3 week courses....Pastiching....all graduates will show in the most prestigious galleries... collectors to buy your work...learn to paint like Tapies, Picasso....Salon Autonimo of Barcelona, Riereta 10" (which was the actual address of my studio) and there were people actually coming by inquiring about taking the classes. Which astounded me. Part of the motivation for doing this project was a bad experience I had with a gallery that was showing my work and permanently closed the gallery in the middle of my show, with all my work hanging there and a FOR RENT sign on the gallery. He (won't mention names... Galeria Tomas Carstens, oops) didn't fill me in on the change of plans for the gallery and for me it was a complete disaster if not a big slap in the face. So I did these posters as I was quite fed-up with Barcelona art scene. I moved two years later to New York.
This is the 2nd street poster A2 size (40 x 58 cm) 16 x 23" that went up onto the streets of Barcelona in the autumn of '95. It says "You are a Wanker, and you're not alone either --¡yes yes!.....Salon Autonimo of Barcelona". Depicting Dopey (of the 7 Dwarfs) jerking off onto what looks like a Tapies painting. I think the message is pretty clear.
3rd installment which never got printed. It depicts the folkloric "caganet", the crapping man, thecreche figure which traditionally Catalans like to adorn their Christmas Nativity Scenes with. So I made him crapping a painting as if it was a production like. Fecundity is creation. It says "I don't paint my painting anymore. I crap them out -- that way I can produce more art and produce it faster -- Barcelona Autonomous Salon " At that time the media and government institutions were referring to "artists" as young creators. This was a way to deflect the "art" debate by changing its name in an attempt to create an art scene. There was a huge concern in general that local artists weren't getting any attention. Neither by collectors in Barcelona, museums, or internationally. But no one seemed to ask the question if they the artists, whoever they were, that nefarious group of creators, deserved any attention at all, which they probably didn't. Whining and no one caring anyways. The other side of the coin is if the people who were worried about artist activity had any idea of what they were talking about, which they didn't then maybe they'd realize that what creates an art scene is money and not talk. But in the end Barcelona was put on the map because of the Olympics in 1992 and presently, 2019 is overrun by tourists, being destroyed by gentrification and the local forced to more out of the old part of the city, because of exorbitant rents.