–which translates loosely as ‘chopped’ or ‘sliced’ in Catalan – is a palpable materialisation of Miquel Barcelo’s reinterpretation of the still life, a genre deeply embedded within the history of art. Of acute and continual interest to the artist throughout his esteemed career, Barcelo’s fascination with still life and the influence it provided to the artist’s evolving visual platform can be traced back to his first encounters with the work of the European masters during his studies. During a prolonged trip to Europe in 1982, Barcelo’s artistic development was further inspired by the work of the Italian masters Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Tintoretto as well as the Vanitas
produced by 17th
century Spanish artists such as Juan Sanchez Cotan, as Barcelo himself stated: ‘I have often thought that Caravaggio’s theatricality was an effective means of throwing a message-image at the viewer. I have often thought of that for my own paintings… In Venice… I became attached to [Tintoretto’s] strange perspectives and to his oblique lighting creating cinematographic colour contrasts.’ (Miquel Barcelo in: Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miquel Barcelo, Paintings from 1983 to 1985
, 1986, pp. 13-14).
The influence of Caravaggio and Tintoretto can indeed be seen in the current lot, which appears to depict a string of garlic cloves. The striking fall of the shadows against the contours of the ellipses is reminiscent of Caravaggio’s own highly dramatic use of light and dark, whilst the intriguing perspective that suspends the herb in its own spatial plane of abstraction, speaks to Tintoretto’s occasionally dizzying experiments with spatiality. The remarkable earthiness and tactility of the paint surface seems to further play with the viewer’s perspectival awareness, morphing the ordinary into the extraordinary and elevating a still life subject to one worthy of metaphysical contemplation.