In the late nineteen-eighties Miquel Barceló traveled throughout the West African Dogon Country. During the course of his nomadic wanderings—amidst the immensity of the land, a harsh sun whose rays projected an intensity that enveloped all things—he was struck by the pottery made by local women. There was a miraculous quality to these ceramics, forged in a land seemingly inhospitable to creation. For Barceló, they evoked the passage of time and the transformation of elements, from water to clay, not unlike ancient Andalusian vessels ravaged by time.
Whether in painting, drawing, ceramics, or bronze sculpture, Barceló has continuously experimented with the materials of his art, surfaces and textures, drawing extensively on the earthly materiality of the Mediterranean world of his youth. At the time of the collapse of Franco’s long reign, as he was beginning to find his artistic voice, he created a series of conceptual works that explored the behavior of matter, the elemental, and the effects of decomposition; these early works featured wooden and glass boxes containing decaying foods and other unorthodox, organic materials. Later, he became interested in the process of undermining the act of painting by burning or scratching the surface of his canvases. His ceramics involve transformation and metamorphosis as well, turning the initial object into something else (as Picasso had experimented in Vallauris), a language of exposed cracks and fissures providing an apt metaphor for the ravages of time.