It has often been said that there is a link between colours and emotions, but in fact there are also practical reasons for colours to be chosen, especially by artists, as Miquel Barceló explained at the opening of his new exhibition at Malaga's Picasso Museum this week.
As an example, Barceló referred to Picasso's so-called Blue Period, featuring squalid characters and sad scenes, but pointed out that the use of this colour had not been emotional at all: on the contrary, it was a very pragmatic decision. Picasso bought that intensive Prussian blue from a German factory because it was the cheapest on the market.
Nevertheless, Barceló's research then discovered a darker side to this story. The same chemical process involved in producing that shade of blue was also used to make the gas with which the Nazis murdered millions of Jews in the concentration camps. This discovery obviously had an effect on this artist's creative world, as the works now on display at the MPM revolve around themes of life and death, the passing of time, the saving yet also demonic power of art.
This new exhibition is as powerful as it is eclectic, as colourful as it is enigmatic, an evocation of this artist's ability to devour space so it seems as if the creation being viewed is completely alone with nothing around it.
It consists of around 100 works, including ceramics, oil paintings, drawings and watercolours. This is a journey from maritime iconography to the desert, from the bullring to nocturnal landscapes, and the thread which links them all is the idea of mutation. Or, to be more specific, Frank Kafka's famous story The Metamorphosis. And despite these conceptual threads, Miquel Barceló says his exhibition is "very amicable", and it consists of works he has produced during the past six years, including some during last year's lockdown which are now on display for the first time.
Barceló is the best-known Spanish contemporary artist on the international art scene, and is popular with critics and the public alike. His career began to take off with the Sao Paulo biennial (1981) and Documenta 7 in Kassel (1982) and in 2003 he won the Príncipe de Asturias Arts Award. Five years later, he created a sculptural installation for the dome of the Human Rights Room at the UN in Geneva. His popularity and institutional prestige has taken his works to the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Reina Sofía in Madrid, and for many people in his native Spain his name is instantly recognisable.
His work, especially with ceramics, has been compared with that of Picasso himself, with both artists displaying the same quest for experimentation and search for something new.
"I do have a relationship with Picasso that I have rarely had with other artists," he admits, and says he has only ever had the urge to get to know the places where three artists have worked: Pollock in New York, Tintoretto in Venice and Picasso in Paris. "My work is nearly always more than it seems, and so is the material it is made with," says Barceló, who has previously said that what he creates with clay is like "a caricature of painting," a type of "joke" he plays upon himself and his own work.
The Miquel Barceló: Metamorfosis exhibition will be at the MPM until September.