'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' (Barceló, quoted in Miquel Barceló 1987 1997, exh. cat., Barcelona, 1998, p. 16).
Painted in 1987, Barceló's Improvisacio III presents the viewer with a few scattered objects against an open, light and undefined background, and yet its surface is a paradoxical riot of texture and detail. Barceló has manipulated the paint and the mixed media to give this work a sensual fullness, making it ripe with the redolent sense of the reality of the objects shown. The foodstuffs depicted are thrust into the foreground, into our world, by their contrast with the simple backdrop, making their appearance all the more intense. Barceló has created a painting in which he tries to give a sense not only of appearance or of solidity, but also of touch and taste and smell. This is heightened by his use of mixed media in the actual construction of his paintings, which can comprise anything from sand and cigarettes to organic materials. These not only increase the textural feel of the works, but also blur the line between the real and the pictorial worlds. The sense that Improvisacio III is a mere representation is disrupted by the presence of real objects and materials within the very surface of the piece, meaning that the picture is filled with the detritus of the real world.
Barceló's paintings had, until this point, always had an interesting link to tradition. Thus the genre of the still life is itself an issue within the painting as the artist contemplates a new manner of showing us the world. A couple of years before Improvisacio III was painted, Barceló had said, 'In doing still lifes, I'm not trying to break with tradition, but simply to put myself within it and to be coherent. I don't have a destructive spirit; I'm just stirring things up' (Barceló, quoted in ibid., p. 16). This is still clearly the case in Improvisacio III, as is shown in the objects' faint reflections, a reference to the virtuosity of yore, and even the very classical bowl to the right. However, the composition, with the almost empty background, is part of a development in his painting that was slowly replacing more cluttered compositions, as Barceló tried to make the experience of viewing his work more direct. This was to become an increasing internal pressure in his work, ultimately leading to his first journey to Africa the following year. Improvisacio III already shows Barceló both completely immersed in and trying to escape his own artistic atavism. We already see that Barceló was depicting objects scattered through a desert void, evoking the fragmentary remembrances of our own subconscious, taking only the barest bones of artistic tradition and rethinking them to his own intense ends.