'At a temperature of 50°C and with the sandwind one sees everything much clearer, that is to say, one ceases to see anything at all' (Barceló, 1988, quoted in Miquel Barceló 1987 1997, exh.cat., Barcelona, 1998, p.86).
Huitres III, painted in 1989, shows the huge influence that Barceló's first trip to Africa in 1988 had on his work. After this visit to Mali and some surrounding areas, the artist began painting works with a shimmering white background that recalled the landscape of the Sahara. For several years from this point, this white background featured increasingly in his paintings as he created ethereal images of various subjects: buffalo watering, fish or other creatures or even the ground. Like Barceló's other white-based paintings, Huitres III has a strange haunting quality - the white ground seems both dazzling, with other objects appearing mirage-like, and ghostly. Huitres III's strange pallor makes the details appear ephemeral while the encrusted surface reflects a fragility that itself relates to the nature of existence.
The often organic elements embedded in the surface of Barceló's canvases add a materiality that links the picture, the representation, to the real world and more importantly to life itself. In a sense, the texture and image in Huitres III create such an overpowering and expressionistic atmosphere that they are invoking the oysters themselves, invoking their lives, their taste and even their texture. Barceló is interested in life and life cycles, hence in part his interest not only in the scenery, but also in the rhythm and way of life in Africa, where need and function play so much more of a role than in the West. It is in part due to this interest in life and survival that food and feeding are such recurrent themes, and even constituent parts, in his art. Barceló's works are heavily impastoed, often incorporating objects and organic foodstuffs. The pictures themselves come to reflect the desert landscapes that came as such a revelation to him with scattered debris against the dazzling background. However, Huitres III's subject matter places this work at a distance from the African influences that so dominated his work during this period. Oysters are a luxury, a foodstuff usually associated with wealth and aphrodisiacs making this painting an opulent and sensuous testimony to the ephemerality of pleasure itself.