studio visit in Paris
interview by DONATIEN GRAU and OLIVIER ZAHM
photography by OLIVIER ZAHM
all artworks copyright Miquel Barceló
Miquel Barceló, born in Mallorca, is one of the world’s foremost painters. His work feels as free and inspirational today as it was in the ’80s, when he became one of the leading figures of the postmodern return to painting.
Miquel Barceló escaped fame, money, and success; he escaped New York and Paris. He lived for years in Mali, spent as much time as possible in prehistoric caves like Chauvet, and never stopped his journey — although he keeps a massive studio in the center of Paris.
His work challenges all recent art categories and definitions. It’s a constant search for what could be a primordial gesture, what could be shared with blind people, or the lost link between the human and the animal.
OLIVIER ZAHM — It seems that your relation to time is specific to you — an ancestral, almost archaic element mixed with the latest thing.
MIQUEL BARCELÓ – Way back when, Goya used to say: “Tiempo tambien pinta” — “Time, too, is a painter.” He said it because, as an old man, he viewed the paintings of his youth in another way. But it’s also true that time changes paintings as it deteriorates them. Pigments change. Pompeii red, for example, is due to an iron oxide whose temperature was raised suddenly by thousands of degrees, as in a ceramic. It’s baked painting. And, miraculously, it’s much more beautiful like that than it was before. Tiempo tambien pinta means, “Time affects painting.”
OLIVIER ZAHM — Time is an altogether different matter in painting than in photography.
MIQUEL BARCELÓ — The difference is easiest to see in portraits. When I was in St. Petersburg, I saw thousands of portraits. Painted people are never dead. The maidens and women painted by Goya are still very alluring. Painting brings things to life, whereas photography, as I’m not the first to discover, underscores their mortality. When you see photographs, you say to yourself that they’re all dead, but when you go to a portrait gallery at the Louvre, you never think they’re dead. Those are people in those pictures. I think painting was invented to bring out faces; it’s a sleight of hand that brings flesh suddenly into existence. The Egyptians,...