Interpreting passions / by Jeannine Cook

Passions, in my optic, are all those interests and loves and energies that make life sing for each of us. For an artist, sooner or later, passions show up in what one is trying to create. In my case, my love of flowers, trees, birds and nature in general, dictate to a great degree what I will be drawing or painting. My sense of place, be it for coastal Georgia, Africa or Spain, also comes into play in my art-making.

An artist about whose work I have been thinking a lot recently in this context is Miquel Barcelo, the hugely successful Spanish artist who was born in Mallorca in Felanitx in 1957 ( Ironically, he has just been written about in of yesterday, 9th April, where his latest opus magnum at the United Nations Palace in Geneva was inaugurated last November. The sea is a bedrock passion for Miquel Barcelo, and it informs a great deal of his art, it seems. I keep thinking back to his huge work in the Capilla del Santisimo in Palma de Mallorca's Gothic Cathedral. It was finished in 2007, and along with thousands of Mallorcans, I saw it on the day the King and Queen of Spain inaugurated it.

What stays in my mind, over and above the wonderful three-dimensional ceramic friezes down the walls of fishes, sponges and other denizens of the sea, is the highly evocative effect Barcelo achieved with subtle grey-blue simple stained glass windows. I recall reading that he was influenced for this whole ensemble by the memories of how the Mediterranean seabed looked, with the light filtering down, as he dived off the coast of Mallorca. His use of the grey plain windows caught exactly the undersea light so typical of Mallorca. Barcelo's passion for the sea made him wonderfully creative in this vast chapel , where Biblical passages married with his own knowledge and love of the sea, its inhabitants and historical treasures deposited there over time.

Again, apparently, in the United Nations Palace in Geneva, Barcelo has returned to his passion for the sea to find a highly innovative way to interpret the continuous motion of the sea. The vast dome of the Human Rights & Alliance of Civilisations Room now represents brightly coloured sea and surf, serene and yet full of movement depending on the light and space in which it is viewed, a metaphor for the union and dialogue needed to face the 21st century challenges. Only an artist deeply passionate about the sea and all its moods could conceive of such vast works of art as Miquel Barcelo has done. A dramatic example for every artist to emulate, using individual passions as sources of creativity.