'Ideas don't produce
And then, these ideas don't help
new ones but not to make them.
(Otherwise it would be like a bouillabaise
with crabs and live fish
writhing in the soup)
The painter, then, builds and destroys
ideas - images, metaphors,
theories, sensations, emotions.
And what remains - that's what we're after
(and yet it is simple, as simple
as love and hunger).'
(M. Barceló, note book, 01-09-1995, in: "Miquel Barceló, 1987-1997", Barcelona 1998, p. 199.)
'What interests me in still life is to work with it as organic material, to feel it as pure material. I want to try different renderings to get to the saturation of baroque still lifes. Sometimes I use the elements as a pretext to create a kind of dance inside the picture; in other words, the still life is just an excuse.' (Conversation with Barceló in 1995, quoted in Miguel Barceló 1987-1997, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, April-June 1998, p.16).
Arroz brut, his broth-like spiced rice dish, which is typical of Mallorca, literally means "dirty rice". Its name stems from its dirty broth-like appearance, caused by its spicy ingredients (saffron, cinnamon and pepper), and the mixture containing chopped rabbit or chicken's liver that is added at the end. Originally it was made with in-season vegetables, meat and local cured meats, like sobrasada or botifarró. There are several different versions, since it can also be made with wild mushrooms. Although the original recipe was said to have been made with hare, you can use chicken, lean pork, or rabbit.
Working in Paris in 1985, Barceló found inspiration in the "Bodegones" or still life genre in the tradition of Spanish painters such as Velázquez and Sanches Cotán who portrayed archetypal scenes of kitchen and cellar interiors. Arros brut from Barceló's series of large-scale canvases depicting kitchens shows Barceló "consuming" this important theme, learning the "recipes" of the old masters, himself becoming a "chef" of painting. In Arros brut, the carefully depicted objects and distorted perspective stimulate a perception of the meal as something that exists as both a representation and at the same time as a sensual reality. Barceló achieves this sense through his physical involvement with the subject. The following description of his approach to the painting of food explains the nature of his close involvement with his subject matter.
The environment of the kitchen is conveyed in such a way that one can almost feel the heat of the steam from the cooking food. Everything depicted in the painting has been rendered so intensely and with such a strong materiality that the texture of the work dominates the subject matter and collectively the still life seems more real than the objects inspiring it. Barceló achieves this through his remarkable exaltation of pure material. For him, the material is food, and food, but another material. Through his accumulation of rich paint he explores all that the subject of the "Bodegones" and the sensuality of his medium evokes.