CATENGESP


GRAPHIC EXAMPLES

(29/03/2007)

Aquest article no està traduït al català; es mostra la seva versió en anglès

Part of a series of English language articles published, for foreign visitors, in the cultural supplement of El País in 2004, 'Graphic Examples' talks about graphic design in Barcelona.


In the early to mid 'Thirties – the heyday of the Second Republic, as popular with the people as it was loathed by the top two per cent – Barcelona was teeming with people, such as Josep Renau, Pere Català Pic and the legendary Carles Fontseré, who would now be called graphic designers but who at that time answered to the homelier title of 'poster-makers'. Their avant-garde advertising posters, with their bold designs and state-of-the-art photomontage techniques, were achieving European-wide recognition, but then – as is well-known - the top two per cent decided it couldn't bear to live in a republic any longer and gave a nod to the military, who dutifully plunged Spain into a notoriously brutal civil war. The poster-makers rallied to the republican cause, creating some of the finest graphic propaganda of the twentieth century (a well-known example is Fontseré's 'Llibertat!', in which a black and red farmworker challenges the sky with an outsize scythe). Their efforts notwithstanding, the republic was eventually defeated, and, together with hundreds of thousands of other refugees, the mainstays of Barcelona's graphics boom went into exile. Francisco Franco, Spain's new dictator, was not a man known for his love of the decorative arts, and the more sinister aspects of his regime were accompanied by a general visual drabness, even in Barcelona (as was recognised by some foreign visitors: 'How dismal and woe-begone Barcelona looked' wrote Henry Miller in 1959). It wasn't until the 1960s that things began to change on the design front, thanks in part to the work of lone entrepreneurs such as Antoni Morillas, who began by tarting up the labels on pharmaceutical packages and ended up founding Morillas & Associates, by far the largest graphic design company in the whole of Spain. It should be said, however, that Morillas's extraordinary career is not typical of that of most of Barcelona's contemporary graphic designers, whose work tends to be an idiosyncratic blend of the commercial and the creative, and who seem to prefer working from the designer equivalent of a garret rather than turning themselves into multinational enterprises. A perfect example of this is Peret, a world-class graphic designer who is also a fine illustrator and sculptor. At one stage, Peret owned a vast studio with a sizeable team of assistants on his payroll, but went back to working on his own: being a big-time boss, he claimed, stifled his creativity. This kind of integrity, closer to what you might expect from a notionally uncompromising artist rather than someone who lives off paid commissions, is a noticeable characteristic of the Barcelona design world. Take Claret Serrahima, for example, another highly talented designer who has also decided to go it alone, even though that has meant leaving behind a design and packaging company, partly founded by himself, which has a turnover of millions of euros. Javier Mariscal, it is true, made a whole bunch of money in the 1990s and set up what amounted to a small industry in his Barcelona studio, but has retained, nonetheless, a simple, direct approach to his work. His friends Salvador Saura and Ramon Torrente were so determined to do their own thing, they mortgaged their houses in order to produce a series of stunning hand-bound books, complete with aluminium covers, exploding confetti, foam footprints and dozens of other visual surprises. Pioneers in their field, Saura and Torrente, like so many other Barcelona designers, started off with a wish and a prayer twenty odd years ago and are now at the peak of their careers, with all the creative freedom that their persistent individualism has allowed them. Theirs is the generation which has once again put Barcelona on the graphic design map, from which it was so violently ousted back in 1939. What is more, this time round no one is about to be sent into exile, so that graphic design in Barcelona, far from enjoying just a brief moment of glory, as it did before, now stands a reasonable chance of transforming itself into that happiest of paradoxes: a tradition with a future.


- Textos i contingut: Matthew Tree - Disseny i programació: Nac -