Joan Barbarà’s Mediterraneanism
At present, as Europeanism is experiencing its deepest time of uncertainty at a theoretical, social and structural level, it is more timely than ever to discuss Mediterraneanism. However, I do not know if it is timely due to enthusiasm for the future or nostalgia for the past.
Here in Catalonia, at the beginning of the 20th century, a Mediterraneanism was born among us that was driven by politics and theorised by the intellectuals of the time. Literature exuded this Mediterraneanism; painting and sculpture revived classicism and everything evoked the essence of seaweed at the beach.
Turbulent times came later, but an intense substratum of agave, Roman ships and legends of Mount Olympus remained. This is where Joan Barbarà began to feel. Surrounded by Noucentistes, he immersed himself in the desire for manual perfection, the odes and poems of rhapsodists and the light that makes olive trees silver and pine trees green. A long stay in Paris, with a grant from the Cercle Maillol of the French Institute of Barcelona, meant learning all the secrets of chalcography and reaffirming his rejection of the Nordic mists, while missing the cadence of the blue winds and torn moons.
Joan Barbarà subsequently became increasingly rooted to the earth, sometimes due to existential aspects, other times as a result of intense cultural reflection. With Joan Barbarà, Mediterraneanism was nourished by an intellectual perspective at the same time as a perspective on life. We can recall the legendary journey that he and the Hellenist, Alexis Eudald Solà, took to Greece in 1991: Empúries, un viatge de retorn (Empúries, A Journey Back), which led to an elaborate bibliophile edition in the following year. Alexis E. Solà combines legends, songs of the sea and the geography of these sunny, elusive islands. Joan Barbarà draws, with subtle strokes, the islets, the vines and architectural remains of ancient grandeur.
In 1998, they went on a similar journey. However, in the long series of large etchings that emerged from this old and new itinerary, it seems that history (monuments, the footprints of heroes) weakened and a greater role was given to nature, the sweet crests of the mountains in our region, the soft shades of light on the sea and the clouds. Life dominates history, without forgetting or despising it. For this reason, still-life reappeared. Still-life intensified with jugs, glasses of wine, trays of fruit, large fruit trees, a table laid out, windows with lowered blinds lit from behind; it was the experience of a feast, bursting with life, delighting in life. It was Mediterranean.
Joan Barbarà is an example of where history and life converge with a passion.