Joan Bennàssar about freedom, discipline and women on Mallorca
A dreamy garden, all you hear are the birds happily chirping in the trees. Two familiar looking figures, a women and a men, are squatting on wooden poles. Like Adam and Eve in a garden they would never be banished from. It’s the yard of Joan Bennàssar’s workplace near Pollença. A place that is as remote as inspiring for one of the most renowned contemporary artists on Mallorca and the Balearics. His larger than life-sized sculptures populate parcs and places or live near the sea in Can Picafort, Sóller or Capdepera. I met Joan in his studio where he introduced me to his thoughts and his recent works.
You were born on Mallorca but lived in Barcelona for many years before you returned to your native town. What does the island mean to you?
Mallorca is where I come from and where I belong. Here are my roots, my family and friends. It’s the place where all my inspiration comes from. The culture, the sun and the sea.
The Mediterranean is a very privileged part of the world. It has been a region with infinite potential for many centuries, with rich nations on either side of the sea, and an exchange of highly developed cultures. Sometimes peaceful, sometimes through war and occupation. It was globalization before the word was even invented.
That’s particularly true for Mallorca. The island has always been a place of possibilities, that’s why people from all over the world came here and turned Mallorca into the cosmopolitan place it is today.
That’s an encouraging view in times of increasing hate an nationalism.
Religion and nationalism are the two evils of the world. A source for and a consequence of hate. It is a huge privilege to live in a peaceful era with equal rights and freedom to travel, to explore and to learn from each other. The current fears really worry me. One cannot estimate democratic values highly enough.
I believe in the good will of humankind, freedom, education, social rights and public spirit. And yes, I am a happy man. I’m a believer of life, and I am aware of the huge possibilities we have today. Whether in Pollença or in New York.
Speaking of equality – it’s pretty obvious that your work is more focused on women than man.
As an artist I’m fascinated by the female body, by its plasticity and by its beauty. For me female curves are – beyond desire – simply the most wonderful source of imagination and artistic creativity.
And other than on the peninsula, on Mallorca it was always the women who ruled the families. That’s why they appear strong and self-confident in my works, in particular the female sculptures. Curiously, as I grow older they become taller and more lean lately, like younger women.
And a little while ago I started to work with motives that are inspired by circus figures. The equilibrist, for example, the clown or the puppet player.
Looking around at your workshop, you seem to be not only very creative but productive, too. What does a regular working day of Joan Bennàssar look like?
For me it’s very important to have a strict routine. I’m working from 9am to 9pm every day. Of course, that includes meetings and business appointments which I usually have in the morning. But the afternoons I always spend in my workshop, completely by myself. These are the hours that are most precious to me. Except maybe the times when I am needed as a grandfather, a wonderful experience that is still relatively new to me.
In my studio I am usually working on several different paintings and sculptures simultaneously, but when I resume my work I always know where to continue. In the past I was trying very hard to put everything – the initial idea and all my thoughts and feelings – into one piece of work. That was always a difficult process and it took me a long time before I finished a picture or a sculpture.
Today, I know that I have the freedom to vary and try out, and if one piece isn’t exactly what I intended I just start anew. For me freedom and discipline go together, both are substantial to my way of working.
Apart from work and inspiration for your art, what is your favorite place on the island?
The place I love the most on Mallorca is a small mountain on the Alcudia peninsula called s’Atalaia. It’s only about an hours hike from the Ermita de la Victoria but it feels like the end of the world. The most beautiful time to go there is in the winter, when the air is absolutely clear.
Get a glimpse of Joan Bennàssar’s works in his recent exhibition “After Summertime” at Rialto Living.