Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Miquel Barceló
B. 1957
signed, titled and dated 6.VI.04 on the reverse
mixed media on canvas
175 by 190 cm. 69 by 74 3/4 in.
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Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003

Catalogue Note

Miquel Barceló transforms the canvas into its own landscape; layers of paint function like geological strata. The natural world – one of Barceló’s key sources of influence – opens up new possibilities for texture and material. From the arid landscapes of Africa to the rock-strewn coast of Mallorca, Barceló draws on his extensive travels when he approaches the canvas. Following a pivotal trip to Africa in the 80s, Barceló went on to spend much of his career translating the Saharan landscape into works of art. Douentza, titled after the town in Mali, reinforces Africa as the most important source of inspiration for Barceló.

Born on the island of Mallorca in 1957, Barceló has spent much of his life and career on the move. A nomadic artist from the outset, his body of work constantly transforms as he experiences new biomes across the world. From an early age, Barceló was particularly impressed by the Art Brut movement; invented by Jean Dubuffet, Art Brut – translating to ‘raw art’ – combatted academic tradition in favour of art as pure emotion and expression through material. The influence of Art Brut on Barceló’s practice is potent, the imaginative world of organic materials is one of the foundations of the artist’s creativity. There is a sense of the primordial when one experiences Barceló’s work in person. Patrick Mauriès notes that “he truly seems to need to tear something out of raw material, and inversely, to leave behind him the muscular imprint of the human body” (Patrick Mauriès, Barceló, London 2003, p. 9). Barceló’s earthly approach to painting has lead him to become one of the most influential Spanish painters of the late 20th century.

Douentza exemplifies Barceló’s unique approach to texture. Often utilising natural materials and foods such as rice, almonds and chickpeas in his work, Barceló embeds organic elements into the paint to create striking irregularities on the surface. The results are richly textured canvases that recall the earthly materiality of Catalan painters such as Antoni Tàpies and Joan Miró.

Miquel Barceló’s art falls in line with what the Viennese art historians call the ‘haptic’, relating to a heightened sense of touch, which is indeed palpable in the artist's complex texture and sculptural layering of paint. Barceló’s raw approach to painting seems to combat the highly conceptual nature of contemporary art. His body of work not only harks back to the origins of painting, but to a pre-historic time when nature was untouched by man. Douentza touches on all of Barceló’s most important themes: surface, geography and memory.

Contemporary Art Day Auction