BESTIARUM VOCABULUM OF MICKEY AND PORKY
12 October 2017, Pepino
I’ve been painting Dumbo, Sponge Bob, Pluto and Porky. These anthropomorphic creatures have very little to do with the wild life - they are more like fursuiter humans. However, I’d like to call myself animalier, which refers to an artist, who specializes in the portrayal of animals.
I’m not a fabulist giving moral lessons - what I’m creating is a contemporary turborealist beastiary. Do androids dream of electric sheep? No idea but the humans prefer the simulacrum of Disneyland animal replicas. There’s more technicolor in Mickey Mouse than in the real rats living in waste containers. Porky doesn’t exist in the same dimension with the ham in my sandwich.
Bestiary is a compendium of beasts. Originating in the ancient world, bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals. The books were more about the symbolic language than natural history. Also Leonardo da Vinci made his own bestiarum vocabulum.
Animal painters came lower down in the hierarchy of genres, only still life was less prestigious subject matter. Painting living creatures was more estimable than representing dead things without movement. Dumbo is neither living nor dead, he’s animated, not an animated corpse like a vodou zombie but like a golem created from inanimate matter. Golem, in Jewish folklore, is a mutable metaphor with unlimited symbolism. My paintings are golems - not made of mud and clay but synthetic acrylic and enamel paints - and I'm the rabbi controlling them.
MOBY DICK DADA PSYCHOPOMPS
25 September 2017, Pepino
It is not down in any map; true places never are.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Operation Anubis is the law enforcement operation against the Catalan independence referendum that is planned for next Sunday. Ancient Egyptian god Anubis was a psychopomp, a deity that escorted souls to the afterlife. The question is that does the Guardia Civil, a military force with police duties, guide Catalonia to the heaven or the hell.
The Spanish government has rented several passenger ships to house thousands of riot control troops. One of the cruise ferries anchored in the port of Barcelona is MS Moby Dada, painted with a colorful livery featuring Looney Toones cartoon characters. I guess the Spanish forces identify themselves with Wile E. Coyote, who repeatedly attempts to catch and subsequently eat Road Runner, but is never successful. At least after the battle they can rest in the casino and the spa of the love boat. I can recommend warmly the sauna. The ship was built in 1980 in Finland and I traveled with her, called then MS Finlandia, to Stockholm when I was six.The ball pit is great too, but I guess it's now filled with multicolor rubber bullets.
Last night several graffiti of hogtied Tweety appeared on the walls around Barcelona. Tweety looks small, cute and powerless domestic canary bird, but in fact he is an aggressive character, who tries anything to foil his foe, even kicking his enemy when he is down.
The love boat has crashed against the everyday.
When I was a kid, I watched the American romantic sitcom Love Boat but maybe it has nothing to do with Moby Dada. Melville's Mody Dick is a more accurate counterpart. The Spanish government is the monomaniacal captain Ahab, obsessed with the whale, who finally drags him to the death.
Dada was a radical anti-capitalist and anti-nationalist avantgarde anti-art movement reacting with nonsense and irrationality to the insane spectacle of the collective homicide of the World War I. We need less nationalist capitalism and more Dada in Catalonia and Spain. True places and real cultures are nothing you can border on a map.
22 September 2017, Pepino
Hornet, pigeon, pterosaur, dragon, Pegasus, Roc, Phoenix, Angels, Laputa, flying saucer, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Cupid's arrow, broomstick, Flying Dutchman, Superman, Powerpuff Girls, Dumbo, Zeppelin, private jet, Red Baron, Laika, paratroopers, Top Gun, gunship, strategic bomber, Scud, Tomahawk, nuclear cruise missile, Mohamed Atta.
I'm painting flying things but I feel like a bird in a cage. I enjoy working at the studio but it's too comfortable. I need more challenge and danger. I need to be valiant like Icarus, though I might burn my wings and brushes.
Maybe I have an Icarus complex, a mania where a person is narcissistic and observed with over-ambition and fantastical imaginary cognition. However, I want to fly higher like artist heroes Leonardo da Vinci and Vladimir Tatlin, who both designed flying machines. I don't need machines but perspective which a great vertical extent offers.
WHEN NAZI PIGS FLY
06 September 2017, Pepino
I’m painting Porky Pig, the animated swine from the classic Looney Tunes cartoons. In my practice painting means reading, too. A lot of reading. If I paint a pig, I must know everything about pigs, I must eat pigs, I must eat like a pig and I must think like a pig.
Riot squad, bash their heads
Kick their ass until they're dead
I want to be a fascist pig
I'd rather be a pig than a fascist.
In the West pigs are seen filthy and they symbolize gluttony. In the Middle East hogs are totally non-kosher and haram. In Buddhism, the animal is located in the center of the wheel of existence and represents ignorance - one of the three illusions that prevent a person to arrive at the fullness of life. Some pigs reach their goals - In Orwell’s Animal Farm it’s Comrade Napoleon who deceives the other animals and becomes a ruthless dictator.
After the Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish Inquisition investigated and punished converted Jews and Muslims thought to be insincere. One of the proofs was not to have any jamón and chorizo in the pantry. Good (and wealthy) Christians ate lots of pork. It’s interesting that something filthy became a symbol of pure faith. Pig can be related even to Satan because of its footprints resemble marks of the Devil. Europeans see demons and infidels everywhere but maybe it’s just a problem of sight - My Arab Muslim friend says it’s because ham har(a)ms your eyes. She has observed that Europeans wear more often glasses than Arabs. Spectacles were invented in the Christian Europe but based on the research of the medieval Arab scholar Ibn al-Haytham.
However, everybody doesn’t see red in pigs. The Chinese appreciate them highly, and not only in a hotpot. Pigs represent good luck and fortune. It’s the last animal of the zodiac cycle, the embodiment of integrity. In the famous Mind Dynasty novel Journey to the West Zhu Baije, an antihero partly human, partly pig, is edacious, lazy and lustful but also tolerant, optimistic and soft-hearted. The adventurer uses a nine-toothed rake to kill demons. Originally he was a commander-in-chief of a heavenly army but for his drunken attempt to seduce Chang-e, goddess of the Moon, he is sentenced to a thousand lives where each life would end in a love tragedy.
The pig represents wealth in China and Chinese communists think that getting rich is glorious (Deng Xiaoping is commonly quoted with this phrase in western media but there is no proof that he actually said it, maybe it was after all Comrade Napoleon). They can’t use pig as an insult which is common among European communists. Revolutionaries use the offence in reference to the police but also as imperialist pigs, capitalist pigs or fascist pigs.
In the book Fascist Pigs Tiago Saraiva, professor of History at Drexel University, shows how pigs became important elements in the institutionalization and expansion of fascist regimes in Europe. The pigs that didn’t efficiently convert German-grown potatoes into pork and lard were eliminated. The capitalist democracy won the war and now we have Enviropig which is the trademark for a genetically modified line of Yorkshire pigs, with the capability to digest plant phosphorus more efficiently than conventional unmodified Nazi pigs.
In the 1976 British film The Eagle Has Landed an Irish secret agent working for the Nazis replies to a German general speaking of Germany's shortly winning the war "Pigs may fly, General, but I doubt it!" Later, when the Irishman sees German soldiers parachuting before an attack, he says to himself, "Mother of God! Flying pigs!”
Th-th-th-that's all folks, stutters Porky.
ART IS MAGIC DELIVERED FROM THE LIE
22 August 2017, Pepino
Finally, the vacation is over. Goodbye, beach! Hello, studio! The return to the studio is always challenging after a long break but this time I still remembered how to paint. It was a good idea to begin a painting before the time off. Now I just continued Pinocchio lying about our economic and political system. It's the same image I painted last year on the wall of Bury Art Museum for my show The ABC of Capitalism - my kids say that I have no imagination when I repeat pictures.
My daughter says that the next painting should be Ladybug, from the French animated series Miraculous: Les aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir. It's maho shojo, which is a subgenre of fantasy anime featuring girls who use magic.
Art is magic delivered from the lie being truth, wrote Adorno.