Miquel Barceló (Spanish, born 1957) Illa 1995

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Lot 24AR W
Miquel Barceló
(Spanish, born 1957)

£ 320,000 - 380,000
US$ 390,000 - 470,000
Miquel Barceló (Spanish, born 1957)

signed, titled and dated 1995 on the reverse
mixed media on canvas

235 by 276 cm.
92 1/2 by 108 11/16 in.


  • This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

    Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich
    Private Collection, Barcelona
    Mayoral Galeria d'Art, Barcelona
    Private Collection, Spain
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2008

    Illa, 1995, a monumental mixed media on canvas by Miquel Barceló, is a work of art which cries out to be explored and investigated. Its surface is varied, patches of thickly woven canvas emerging here and there from beneath a mass of the media, the edges of the work struggling to escape the strictures of its stretcher. Most intriguing of all is the artist's use of animal bones, which suggest something buried beneath, something hidden and only vaguely defined. Its sheer scale alone renders it an impressive panorama, but there is more to this painting than meets the eye. Illa, from 1995 is a work which reveals much about both the artist who created it and the various worlds that he inhabits.

    Barceló is probably today's most lauded Spanish contemporary artist, known throughout the world for his innovative practice and the subject of much national pride in Spain itself. Indeed, his native country, in particular the island of Mallorca where he was born and raised, has certainly had a profound effect on the artist's life and work. His existence in recent years, however, has been peripatetic, Barceló constantly on the move in search of visual inspiration. This, after all, is not the kind of artist who sticks to what he knows, or constantly repeats or references his past work. Instead, Barceló is always attempting to develop, to change, to surprise both himself and his audience: "I like the change from paint to clay to portrait because repetition makes me melancholic, and melancholy is static in my case... Something has collapsed and nothing happens. When in this feeling, this cycle, I learn a new thing and sometimes a new technique too to break this." (The artist, quoted on bombmagazine.org, 18 October 2013).

    One of the greatest influences on Barceló's paintings has been the continent of Africa, or more precisely the region around Mali, where he has kept a studio for over two decades. Barceló's first encounter with this part of West Africa took place in 1988, when he ended up there following a journey by jeep across Algeria, and since then he has returned on an almost annual basis. Similarities between the African landscape and that of his native Mallorca have been widely noted, in particular their dry, arid nature, so in many ways the artist's strong attraction to Mali makes perfect sense. The work that he has produced in and around his studio there is diverse and disparate, ranging from small works on paper to acrylics on canvas to ceramic sculptures.

    Meanwhile, Barceló has also produced a series of larger scale artworks, not created in Africa but inspired by his experiences there. Illa, 1995, is one of the most arresting examples from this important body of work.

    Ever wary of the historically problematic relationship between Europe and Africa, Barceló has always approached the region with an attitude very different to those of the great colonialists or explorers of previous generations. While in Mali, Barceló avoids the cities, preferring instead to spend his time in the more remote rural areas. During his visits, the artist lives amongst the locals, adopting their way of life, surviving without any of the gadgetry or technology which many of us in the West now see as necessities rather than luxuries. In doing so, Barceló is able to connect with the people and the place, and record it in a truly honest way.

    His use of media is also important to the success of these works; Barceló literally harnesses the landscape into his artistic practice, using dust, pebbles, roots, and even burrowing termites in the creative process. As such, his Malian paintings and drawings come from the landscape; Africa is in the work, and Africa is the work. In the case of the present work, however, Barceló has gone further, using African materials, most noticeably animal bones, to construct an image of the island of Mallorca. Here we see two of the most vital factors in the development of the artist's aesthetic combined in one magnificently monumental work. As such, Illa, 1995, presents us with a map of the artist's life.

    The list of artists admired by Barceló is long and varied. It is no surprise to hear that Picasso was an early influence, and Velázquez is also mentioned, as is Antoni Tàpies. The importance of Tàpies is perhaps the most evident of the three in Illa; like his predecessor, Barceló is fascinated with surface and texture, creating here a work which is temptingly tactile, rough and gritty. As part of the first generation of Spanish artists to grow up free of the repressive Franco regime, Barceló was able to be more outward looking than many of his predecessors, citing Dubuffet, Rauschenberg and Fontana as early inspirations in his nascent style. Dubuffet's influence is clear in the present work, both artists using found objects and the detritus of everyday life to create works which aim not just to represent the landscape, but also to incorporate it, to physically recreate it. The sculptural qualities of this huge work are instantly striking, its exposed peaks and shadowy valleys a scenic landscape in themselves. And like Fontana, Barceló has broken the two-dimensional nature of the canvas, pulling it away from the stretcher in the top corner to expose the void behind.

    Barceló, it is clear, is drawn to other artists who have been prepared to experiment, to push the boundaries of painting and to play with media and technique. However, as Illa, 1995, so ably demonstrates, there are aspects of Barceló's work that cannot be traced back to these many historical European and American influences. For in his constant, unflinching search for the new, the artist has looked outside and beyond the existing canon, searching instead among the dry and dusty, yet lively and inspiring landscapes of Africa and Mallorca. In Illa, 1995, Miquel Barceló has created a work which is strong and grandiose, firmly rooted in nature and ancient tradition, and which at the same time embodies an unanticipated, electrifying modernity.
Miquel Barceló (Spanish, born 1957) Illa 1995
Miquel Barceló (Spanish, born 1957) Illa 1995
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