The temperature has dropped here in Barcelona, the unbearable midday heat suddenly became tolerable. It wakes you up, charges the batteries and I feel energised after two months of pure vitamin D. Now we are flying to Berlin, I write this on the plane which was a surprisingly smooth operation. It’s the first time ever I’ve not had my bag pulled aside and asked loads of questions… why do you have half a tool box in your bag sir? “Oh sorry I’m an artist and I need to keep my work on the go.” “We don’t give a rats arse what you are. You might be a terrorist and your Stanley knife and Allen keys might take this whole plane down” but this time, nada. I even got my paintings in the hand luggage as well as my skateboard. The perks of not flying with Ryanair.
My last days in Spain were spent organising for Berlin (nostril checks, flat hunt rejection) saying goodbye to new friends and making arrangements with new connections. I will miss the sun bleached streets, the relaxed attitude and the freedom that comes with it. I might have become a little bit too relaxed however… introducing Alessandro and Camila, two very friendly creators who were coincidentally staying downstairs in my block of flats. We decided to try and arrange an exhibition here in Barcelona. With all the shit that’s going on right now it’s not going to be easy, people are less open to having renegade artists frolicking around their spaces and inviting the masses in. However times are still tough and cases are rising. Businesses need new exposure. I am a creature of hope and believe we can make this work. Anyway, back to the last night. We are speaking about exhibition stuff and Caravaggio’s over some wine when suddenly we’re approached by a seemingly drunken man. He’s holding a half pint in his hand and asks us with no respect or humour for a cigarette about five times. We reject him. In my book you need to ask, not demand. He swaggers down the street mumbling puta and all other naughty sweaty words… as he turns the corner my heart sinks… not in the pockets… bag, nope… the bastards stole my fucking phone. Alessandro and I bolt down the small Born street and try to catch up with him. I’m a fast runner and we catch up easily… we’re shouting at him, squaring up, baring teeth like baboons. On the streets you need to show your dominance or you’ve not got a chance. The guy pulls the phone out his pocket and waved it at us shouting perdona perdona… I snatch it off him… the urge to punch his teeth in is very high but it is not worth it… there were many people watching and it was my last night there. The last thing I needed was a criminal record and a night in the cells. We’d won already. Next time I won’t be so stupid for leaving it on the table. The sun had made my lazy. I won’t forget that lesson anytime soon. Pumped with adrenaline we go back to the table and centre of attention, order some more wine and discuss our plans.
I didn’t realise how much performance art had flourished here in Spain before I visited MACBA and actually went inside instead of skating outside the front. I love the idea of performance art because it’s so different from painting, it can be collective where painting tends to be individualistic, it is a direct and spontaneous to the environment, immersive and challenging to the audience. Quite like skateboarding actually… hmm maybe I should’ve stayed outside. The scene in the 90s seemed to have a lot of humour and political tone, shameless self embodiment and scores of different approaches to the rapidly changing world. Los Rinos, a trío from Barcelona were hilarious and gave me a lot to think about in terms of the public and the performance, and how diverse an art practice can be. They were graffiti artists and actors, political commentators and hedonistic jokers. It felt real. If I can tame my potent fear of the spotlight, I would like to perform some ideas I’ve been thinking about. I’m open, ready to evolve and try new methods of expression.
Berlin will be a completely new place with new words and systems but essentially comparable to any other western capitalist city. The history haunts it, you can feel the vacancy on every high rise soviet flat or nazi war bunker. It’s known that when you leave a city empty for a while, the plants start to push their way through the cracks in the concrete and forge new life, animals take over and nature laughs. The same can be said for Berlin and it’s art scene. With 500 galleries my eyes will be gorging on new and challenging art. It is something I have been craving for a very very long time. I’ve always felt an affinity with the German expressionists and later Baselitz and Kiefer, Kippenberger and Oehlen’s early work. They were trailblazers and melancholic mourners, they saw subject matter as essential and turned away from abstraction. The first Baselitz I saw in real life was at the national gallery in Edinburgh, I loved his brushwork and scale of his work. In Berlin we saw another, this was monumental, one of his more recent works… about 30ft high and 15 wide. I can only dream of making work on that scale, soon I tell myself. Get settled, find a job, meet the right people and get myself a good studio space somewhere. It’s quite strange not being in art school, where everything is available at the click of the fingers, I really have to put myself out there to have anything made. It’s exciting, in a way I prefer the hustle. I want to improve my printmaking skills these upcoming months, it is something which I didn’t pursue much in art school but after witnessing Tàpies in Barcelona I am certain I must try to make images like this. His calcograph prints were astonishing, they had a depth like looking into a heat mirage on a rocky landscape. They would play with your eye and give you no answer on whether we are looking at something tangible and gritty or just a wisp of a cloud. It was his approach to science which made his process so important, there is much I can still learn from him and will make a point to keep looking at his work. I want to also see what’s being made right now, perhaps the east can offer me some new insight, a different perspective on Europe would be good for me, I got a taste in Macedonia, Spain has given me lots to think about also but the Balkans are something quite different. Time is on my side and I’m sure I will get to know many angles.
Tonight we will stay at my cousins place, who has kindly taken us in. I am very grateful for the huge support from family and friends who’ve made everything I’ve done so far possible. We are going to try and go to a gig after a quick flat viewing. My last experience of a “gig” in Berlin was a strange sitting down experimental night in an “upside down” bar, where all the chairs and tables are on the ceiling… the covid measures shouldn’t be too strange to me then…