Carnegie Scholarship: Barcelona

Updated: Aug 25, 2018

I have been granted the Carnegie Scholarship to travel and document things of my interest regarding pace of life, tourism, art and my experiences with all of the above - there is a short blog post explaining this if you feel you’d like to know more. As planned I spent a week in Barcelona, and what a week it was. It was not what I had expected in the least. Those things which I felt would be trying like navigation - were actually extremely simple, however little else was which gave me a good challenge. I should mention that I had been in the city before but never as an adult and never as an artist.

A small inconvenience worth noting was my choice of dates. I discovered too late that most independant spaces would shut during my stay, for all of August in fact. This i believe is due to the temperature, most artists chose to take this as a month of holiday, rest and research. For this reason my interview with Jack Davidson fell through somewhat last minute. I did however have the good fortune of meeting with some of the course co-ordinations at Barcelona Academy of Art.

While the Academy is not a government institution, it does teach a comprehensive course of 19th Century technical drawing, painting and sculpture processes. It has also broadened it’s horizons to include a digital painting course, furthering the technical drawing skills from the first years of study and giving the artist an introduction to skills used for concept art and creature design.

The drawing and painting courses hinge on Bargue’s process which involves drawing from lithographs, up to 250 times, until you have the skills to move forward working from sculptures and repeating the process until your skills have improved enough to draw from life with great accuracy. Overall the drawing part of the course lasts roughly a year and a half. Part of thr course involves working on one drawing of the figure for up to 5 weeks.

I questioned my interest in a term at this establishment, figure drawing has always been incorporated into my work. I feel more time should be spent in the drawing room at Grays as the skills learned there are very transferable. However there has been a shift in work production of late with master craftsmen becoming a dying breed - instead the artist is expected to be a jack of all trades at the expensense of any one perfected skill. This is certainly the effect of accelerationism - this world rerquires an artist to be a business person, a designer and above all else a salesperson. The patience technical drawing takes could be considered a real rebellion against being forced to move to quickly and in so many directions. I may even take their summer course next year, which lasts 2 weeks and teaches some of the basics of their method.

It was from this trip to BAA that I learned about MEAM gallery which specialises in figurative artwork of a realistic nature, it was probably the most useful gallery trip I have had in Barcelona. This gallery specialised in contemporary figurative work, it was really encouraging to see contextual and narrative paintings that boasted realism without falling into the tradition of depicting biblical, roman or greek themes.

I visited many large galleries during ym time in Barcelona, those of Picasso, Miro and Tapies as well as the CCCB and MACBA. I found a new level of interest in artists I have been hearing about my whole life - such as Picasso and Dali (whose work was on display at the Museum of Catalonian Art). Perhaps their work had taken on the Mona Lisa effect in my head - of becoming a celebrity like feature in a gallery, one stormed by tourists due to the fame of the painter. However seeing these pieces in person, early in the day before large tourist groups arrived, allowed be to see them for what they were - skilled and important pieces of work. I found that Dali may be a very interesting painter to study next year as I find my work leaning more and more towards surrealising the figure in space.

Due to gallery closures and an inability to look into art spaces I had to adjust my areas of study during my stay in Barcelona. I ended up looking into Martin Parr and visited the tourist destinations as I was told this is where I’d find lively crowds in August. Watching the tourists solidified some worries I had about pollution in the ocean and the subsequent climate change caused by this. The beach seemed to me like a party at the beginning of the end of the world. Plastic cups, gum, beer cans and bottles, sun cream and pool floats lapped the shores as people lay around in the sun, truly unconcerned.

I both empathised with and was deeply troubled by them. We have been taught that no amount of stimulation is enough, the world is ours for the taking - we have the pleasure of a world our ancestors prayed for - entertainment, travel and fun. To be told to reign that in or give that up is hard to hear, knowing that our parents and parents parents have been allowed to freely damage the planet in peace. I am however more and more aware that it is not my place to lay down an uninhabitable world for those to come, no matter how much I’d Like to lounge, lazy and gorging on Big Macs in a large pink flamingo float with a cocktail.

The colour use in Barcelona was of great use to me, with St Pau's hospital providing me with amazing Art Nouveu palettes of pastels, red and green. The use of pattern was more subtle for the larger part, there was heavy use of repetition in architectural works and interesting pops of seemingly out of place colour to be found when searching hard enough.

I feel the tourist- ization of some areas have lead to a certain kind of “hamming-up” of great and unique traits of the city and that perhaps this divide between locals and tourists is growing only greater with very little integration.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy myself just that the experience was entirely different to that which I had expected. I have certainly gained a lot of research material as well as pushing some of my own personal boundaries. Working in the humidity found in Spain in August made some of the chaos I was searching for all too personal, it took a while to adjust to the slow paces of life but i came to appreciate that moving slow allowed people to get along, be patient with one another and not burn out in the heat. I caused myself a lot of unneeded worry trying to move at a studio pace in a more extreme environment and hope to carry through into Morocco and an ability to go with the tempo of the environment I am in, whatever that may be.

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