It’s funny how coincidence so often dictates the trajectory of life. My weekend in Barcelona was booked on a whim, out of a desire to feel the stimulation of a big city. I had no idea when I organised the trip that the Picasso Museum was showing the most incredible exhibition of cubist art at the time I would be going. I likewise knew nothing of the show, nor the style of painting advanced by the Crystal Cubists when I started work on this painting, Palmanova: Colonial Age, which I am delighted to be sharing today. Yet somehow all of the elements of this period seem to have merged in one. The painting, and the trip, while advanced in separate moments, seem to sit perfectly alongside one another as a further phase in my development as an artist.
The project arose out of a restaurant decorating commission in the original Cappuccino Grand Café in Palmanova, Mallorca. A combination of the elegant tall palm trees swaying by the seaside outside, and the preexisting interiors of wood panelling which could not be changed, inspired an Indian colonial scheme, underpinned by rich greens and mustard yellows. This scheme was further advanced when coincidentally I found old artworks containing monkeys and palm trees which perfectly complemented the design, while the name of Farrow & Ball’s shade of yellow, Indian Yellow, likewise came as a signal for the design forming in my mind. But when we decided that the design required a painting for a finishing flourish, this image immediately jumped into my head.
Palmanova: Colonial Age is a painting which is defined by the characteristics of crystal cubism which I admired so much in my last blog. Pictorially, it narrates both the surroundings of the restaurant where it now hangs – the sandy beach, the mountainous horizon, the sea and the palms – and likewise the Indian elements which underpin the interior design. But as I took the theme further, I realised that there were other similarities too between India and Palmanova. For while the “colonial” style of design stems largely from the time when the British Empire colonised and ruled India, Palmanova is an area of Mallorca likewise famous for its strong British population, and the local businesses, largely catering for Brit needs, are evidence of the success of this “colonisation”.
Somewhat tongue in cheek therefore I have applied the colonial theme to this sunny stretch of Spain when creating a cubist painting which for me perfectly complements the seaside location and the elegance of Britain’s great colonial age.
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