Whatever happens with Mallorca tourism in the months to come, the COVID-19 pandemic has already made life somewhat interesting for several Deià artists.
My friends David Templeton, Arturo Rhodes, Leti Bermejo and artist/musician Brendan McCann share their stories of how life under lockdown affected their life and work.
In one sense, I feel rich. My friends with beautiful villas who can’t get to Deià are asking me what it’s like and I’m saying the vibe is what it was when I first came to the village in 1978: laidback and relaxed.
It’s so peaceful, still and quiet. The other night I heard the church bell chime and it was like hearing an Om. The resonance went through me for about 15 seconds.
The wildlife is incredible. I’ve had birds fly into my home I’ve never seen before. The dolphins are coming closer to the beach at Cala Deià than ever. That side of things is a gift.
Workwise, I’ve been doing a series of small collages. This is partly for practical reasons. I hurt my ribs and had to rest in bed for a bit, which is when I started doing the collages. I simply couldn’t do the big, gestural paintings on my easel.
I’ve always been a fan of collage. What I’m most interested in are those artists who combine images with words and fragments. Following their lead allows me to indulge in my love of calligraphy and abstract painting.
This series of collages uses areas of old circus posters I thought were very painterly, calligraphy books and fragments of letters. They’re very simple and spare.
They’ll be available as a large lithographic prints limited to 150-200 of each.
Now I’m on the mend, I’m getting my studio organised and lining up a few pictures.
My outlook is mostly positive although, without tourists popping by the house, this year is going to be a challenge. Pa amb oli Band concerts are cancelled for the foreseeable future.
Still, we’re able to get out and about more. I can walk down by the Cala which I wasn’t able to do for weeks. Like I said, I feel rich.
Do you want the story or the truth? Both. OK.
The story would be about how people have been talking about enjoying their lockdowns, doing the things they’ve never had time for, developing relationships more deeply. All that. Most of the stories are just propaganda.
Intellectually, lockdown was very disturbing for me. Nothing seemed to be relevant anymore. I was locked in my own house like I was in jail and I had to pay the rent for my own jail.
But, on the very last day before the lockdown started, I thought if I haven’t got any art materials I’ll be screwed so I went and bought some.
I decided to paint a special picture about what I thought about the whole situation. But I didn’t have any ideas, couldn’t express how I felt. I was really at sea.
Then, right at the beginning of lockdown, I had the idea for the work that become Blossom In A Desperate Garden. It started when I found a rusty old coffee can chucked in the garbage. I liked the colours. I traced the shapes of the rust on the can and painted them in black on the canvas. It was like nothing I’d ever done before – not figurative or abstract.
As lockdown progressed, I started painting blossoms onto the black shapes. Symbolising spring and things getting better.
After this, I found ideas flowed nicely. I probably work better if I’m a bit down. If I’m up, I don’t have the patience to do it. Work on pictures calms me, like a tranquiliser. So, as far as artwork went, lockdown was really good. I had an exceptional amount of time to work on pictures and I could go slowly and carefully.
Looking ahead? do you want the story or the truth? Both again. OK.
The story is: everything is constantly changing. One adapts and one carries on.
The truth is that the actual economic drama is beginning but hasn’t really hit yet. There’s a shortage of cash and clients. What I live from is incredibly unpredictable at the best of times. It unnerves me but I like it like that.
Find out more about Arturo’s work here or call him on +34 607327818
If you want the village to stay arty, support the Deià artists.
Apart from the sense of the entire world coming to a standstill, lockdown was a very calm time. In that sense, it wasn’t so different from most of my days, except there was less traffic and airplane noise. It was bliss to hear the birds taking over again.
It was interesting to note how I began to go round the bend though. I’m sure the experience was similar for most people. The fact that we weren’t allowed to go anywhere and, in Spain, the constant fear of being stopped by the cops and given a hefty fine was a downer.
Workwise, I kept a daily drawing diary – the COVID-19 Diary. This was mostly to stay disciplined but also because friends thought it might help some people to know their problems were ‘universal-ish’.
But, to be honest, isolation didn’t affect my work because this is how I usually am. One of the benefits of the situation for an introvert like myself was there was no pressure to attend events I didn’t want to go to. I saw a meme that said ‘Introverts: check in on your extrovert friends…they’re not OK. They have no idea how this works.’ Sums it up for me.
The caveat is that I felt so totally unmotivated I had to force myself into the studio.
I don’t know if it was unconscious anxiety about the invisible ‘viral’ enemy or simply the whole planet being on lockdown that meant I couldn’t function.
But I found myself reading voraciously, gardening, mending clothes and broken chairs, knitting a very complicated sweater, inventing recipes, baking cakes and making small sculptures all with joy. Instead of painting.
Now, despite having the freedom to wander, the lure of the studio gets stronger every day. I think I’m beginning to feel normal.
I’m illustrating a children’s book for the Idries Shah Foundation (ISF) – a project dear to my heart as it will eventually be sent to school children in Afghanistan. Several people have asked for paintings. Someone else wants an album cover. A friend has a story he needs illustrating.
To find out more about Leti’s work, email email@example.com
I was in Australia just as the pandemic was kicking off but hadn’t yet been formally declared. My family and I had talked about me staying, but I decided to return. On arrival I could feel a nervousness in the air which showed itself in people panic-buying and driving like maniacs.
The first couple of weeks of lockdown were strange. I started talking to myself a little too much, which was when I realised I needed to call people and stay in touch.
Mostly, I’ve been working on my musical skills. In the last couple of years, I decided it was better to focus on music rather than painting. Just before lockdown began, I bought myself a Spanish guitar.
My passion for classical guitar has grown over the last couple of years. April is the time of year I’d normally start performing. As I haven’t had to do my normal job of playing pop songs for tourists, I’ve been able to focus on studying and practicing. I’ve been writing music and have started a song called ‘The New Normal’. I find writing songs is helpful, especially when there’s so much uncertainty and confusion.
I don’t know when I’ll go back to performing. The job of a musician is to bring in people but at present, venues have strict limitations on the number of clients. Also, if there are no tourists, where are the people going to come from?
There have been times in the past few years when, like all of us, I’ve thought the whole tourism bubble could burst. We’ve all wondered how long it could go on, I’m sure. Now it’s happened, at least temporarily.
On a personal level, there has been a positive side to this experience. It’s confirmed a hunch that I shouldn’t rely solely on tourism and to begin to look elsewhere, perhaps take myself more seriously as a performing artist. The thing is, you get on the little hamster wheel of having to pay the rent.
Now I’ve been given a little nudge. This makes me feel quite nervous but also excited. Sometimes it’s good to take a step into the unknown.
But, you know, being in Deià is just incredible right now. Most people are knocked out by the place in ‘normal’ circumstances. Now, it reminds me of what the village was like during my childhood 40 years ago. The Cala is clean and clear. Birds are singing like I’ve never heard them.
If you could snap your fingers and be back here now, you’d be knocked out. It’s really something else.
Call Brendan on +34 679817535 or email Guitarmc1@yahoo.com to find out more about his work.
Written by David Holzer, a Mallorca-based author, journalist and blogger.