Sixteen-thousand days on the roof

Jordi Fulla

(Igualada, Barcelona, 1967 - 2019)

Sixteen-thousand days on the roof

Jordi Fulla


To all those artists immersed in almost humiliating poverty, who choose despite everything, to continue to chase their mirages, in the midst of a society with little taste, hardly any sense of smell, limited vision and it seems, without any kind of voice…


In order to arrive at what you do not know

you most go by a way which is the way of ignorance

In order to possess what you do not possess

you most go by the way of dispossession.

In order to arrive at what you are not

you most go through the way in which your are not.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know

and what you own is what you do not own

and where you are is where you are not.


T.S. Eliot. From East Coker



Sixteen thousand days ago, the newspaper, La Vanguardia, published a photograph, on its front page, of the earth taken from the Apollo 4 spacecraft. One can see Antarctica on the left and it was the first time man that could observe himself from such a distance. I was surprised to come across this front page no so long ago, as much of my work has been developed from this viewpoint, as it is the form of my dreams and above all, because on the very same day, exactly sixteen thousand days ago, I was born somewhere on that sphere…


From that point, with those real images sent by man from afar, one conceived of a possible future. The future has a name, “the year 2000”, cars with dorsal fins would float without wheels, clothes would be shiny and food would come in the form of handy pills. Childhood went by in a sort of ecstasy of coloured marble, garish plastics toys in incongruous forms, cowboys and guns, as well as games such as table football with high-grade alcohol bottle tops, that came in all shorts of shapes and colours, the characteristics of which making the game more or less defined. Authentic football “teams” with suggestive names like Mascaró, Larios, Soberano, Calisay, Ballantines or Pile43. As children we were authentic experts in liqueurs. We were also educated with construction games such as Tente and Monopoly. It’s hardly surprising that 35 years later we found ourselves immersed in a huge property bubble.   


I believe that spending one’s childhood amidst the space revolution, May’68, the petrol crisis and the long agony of dictatorship undoubtedly leaves its mark, a strange kind of optimism, or maybe not.


Our infancy sows the seeds of our memories and we always return there, because that is what will be left in the end. I can remember the moment when, 6 years old, involuntarily and unconsciously, a possible road he explore was revealed, a way of looking at the world, of thinking about things. I was struck by the dilemma of the background and figure, I became aware, without any form of premeditation, of something similar to the colour fields of American abstraction and it resulted in one of those early frustrations that form a starting point. The teacher asked the children in the class to paint a little chick. I don’t know why they always has this strange obsession of giving us an outlined image that we had color in but without ever going over the line, though this of course must have been a first intent to clip the wings of the little bird that we carry inside. The outlined chick was in the middle of the sheet of a paper and I put some yellow here and some red there. I suppose I was reasonably adept and it was soon filled in, finishing well before any of my companions, so the teacher, aware that there was still a while before the break decided that I could go beyond the outline and paint the background.


I launched myself into the task and before my eyes the world opened up to an objective, that on that occasion was never resolved. I used up all of my green colour pencils and can still feel the pain in my hands as I pressed down on the pencils to achieve the desired intensity of green that spread like an undefined oil stain. I remember that the sharpener let off smoke from the constant friction of the weapon as it rain out of ammunition. I can remember how the damned point kept breaking from the excess pressure and how that colour field progressively took form but with difficulty expanded towards the edges of the paper, without it ever being at all clear at the time whether that new frontier between paper and table would be the end or not. The thing is, scribbling away, pressing down hard, it was soon time for the break and the other children, who by then had painted the chick enclosed within its mysterious line, went out to play and have their mid-morning snack, all but me. The teacher suggested that I stayed to finish it. That day I didn’t have a break hat “infinite” expanse of white paper never filled up, and the volume of space covered in pencil always remained strangely inferior to the whole, without even mentioning time …that mercilessly spend by. That battled ended there, with frustration, but my memory of it is as a sort of introduction to the possibilities of a process. My companions returned from their break as fresh as daisies, I was exhausted. A few years later, schools at that time incorporated another worker into their staff, a psychologist, who diagnosed in my report that I had an extraordinary spatial capacity. That it would be convenient for me to dedicated myself to some kind of activity related to artistic creation…

During that first period, even though I went to a progressive school, we also had to illustrate another type of complex little bird in class. It was a symbolic message about identity that we had to learn. The message wasn’t entirely comprehensible but in the kind of country submitted eternally to a sort of collective catharsis that was the way things went. I continued my studies in a church school, that was also apparently progressive, with the priest no longer wearing cassocks and even flirting with left-wing ideas but who despite everything, still dealt out blows and above all imposed at all hours the morality of guilt and inferiority. 


It infuriates me when I look at this childhood drawing, I would have preferred to appear somewhere else on that sphere, somewhere with more air, more ambition and without the suffocating weight of catholic morality. The process of reconstruction continues even today, despite the evident solidification of the materials since childhood.


The road travelled over these sixteen thousand days reaches the eighties, which I remember as being years full of illusion. There was collective feeling of hope, though looking back they were years that were quite overwhelming, naïve, even kitsch. At the time I was heading towards adulthood, eaten up with the desire to see everything that was going on in the world out there. At the time it was much more difficult to access information than it is now and this perversely, is a privilege that we have lost, I say this because at that time one caught a train, or hitchhiked to Berlin, Paris or London, just to see an exhibition hat you had seen in a magazine that was only available in one newsagent and all of this became a totally enriching adventure. Somebody would suggest that you take a look at a book and with no Google, you just didn’t stop until you found it, and you really lived this process… Barcelona had its usual fallow periods but some people were doing interesting things and thanks to the Miro Foundation and above all the sorely missed Fundació La Caixa of that time, that offered a window on to work through which you could discover everything that happened far from here. There was no MACBA nor barely any policies for public culture and thinks to this we were well informed about what happened, not just here in this country but also beyond it.


Around this time I ended up at Eina. It was a real shock to the system to find myself, at 17 years old, in that strange garden; a little pedagogical oasis, where well-know artists, designers and intellectuals of note sowed their seed, according to the freedom, experience and interests of each teacher and not kowtowing to the directives of a specific pedagogical bureaucracy. That was a huge gift for my development that years later I was able to return (however minimally) when the school invited me to teach there.


After that time at Eina, I began to exhibit frequently and there was a period of consolidation of the work that I had begun to develop in the eighties, an introspection into painting. It was all about exploring the physical magma of paint, partly because of the time and partly for the cultural inheritance of the matter painting by Catalan artists that I had most close to hand. Curiously enough, however, my work barely touched upon the idea of gestural painting, or the composition of space, nor of symbolism…but on a strange form of representing reality through the idea of the sensory perception of a territory: seeing smells, touching sound, etc. Until’92 when I land in Paris, in search of myself and to escape a considerable hangover of my expectations of the art world: and I chose Paris, moved not so much by the need to find a strategic point in the world of art, but more with the idea of fleeing Barcelona and finding a large, less endogamous city, that offered more options for research and cultural activity. There I entered into contact with other cultures and ways of thinking and, in this way, was able to purge myself from top to bottom, comparing my baggage and opening up to new possibilities. This is when my work begins to explore a new set of ideas and little by little, abandons certain mannerisms and prejudices. This revision happens between the years 92 and 97, during which time I had very few exhibitions and made many experiments, in order to find a way that would stimulate me enough to continue. In 1997 I feel as if I am ready to begin my new journey and decide to start from scratch, numbering all the new work, starting with Cat.001.


That longed for year of our childhood, “the year 2000”, turned out to be quite different from the one imagined, with the futuristic image going up in puff of smoke and the loss of a huge number of metaphors. Utopia and illusion being abandoned in favour of security and a deluge of information and knowledge that is hard to digest.


What a slap in the face! We are left with the remote control, that essential tool of human evolution…which thanks to its spectacular success, has led to the development and creation of an overwhelming series of technological devices which mean that today, our existence is totally impoverished. Luckily sooner or later the tide will turn towards a new reformulation of the whole of society. However, it seems to me, that we will have to work hard to escape our fear. We will also have to work hard to reach a point where we can put the role of most technology into perspective, and we could do it, if we just allowed ourselves to look beyond the speed at which we live.

Personally I entered the year 2000 in Paris, submerged in a bathtub, with a bottle of champagne, trying to understand where I wanted to head from hereon in.


At that point the image of the roof takes shape…


My favourite time of year has always been from September to December, it stimulates me to advance projects, ideas, but it is also true that mysteriously each year it slips by ever more rapidly. I prepare myself during spring and above all in the summer, to savour the moment and then suddenly, flop! It’s over.


Now I only seek a sort of slow calm, I want to let things simmer… This is why I paint, why painting is so important. Important as it doesn’t serve any purpose, because one doesn’t have to understand anything. How beautiful this possibility is.


I love this sensation of displacement, of disturbance, going through life without having to give any explanations. I have followed this path all this time and now having hit my forties, looking back I see that all that unnecessary stuff in life is a fraud, a falsity. I have the sensation that most of the time what only really exist when we do nothing, when our thoughts run wild without concreting any visible action.


I’m left with the music that it transmits…

Now I just look, observe and don’t want to be rushed.


Painting is a slow process, that raises doubts about what we really see and I enjoy the suspense of time in which one can use an open and sensitive prism. The fiction of painting for me establishes the most transparent reality. The detained instant…I’m interested in the sensations provoked by painting, the sound of the act itself. Painting things as they dissolve, between having and not having, painting ambiguous atmospheres, in harmony with the cadence of one’s breathing. Allowing paint to impose its own reality despite my endeavours to shape it. It is in this dialectical conspiracy that the image of what is invisible appears, the gaze. And the music that it transmits takes me back to the beginning, to drawing.


In the last few years I have gone back to drawing with a vengeance. I love looking other people’s drawings, because it is there that one finds all the dreams and pursuable options, it is there that one finds the skeleton of life. I went back to drawing during a stay in Japan that moved my very inner core. There I systematically drew every day, in several sketchbooks, because I needed that impasse of thought that drawing offers, in order to digest everything that I encountered and that rattled so many things inside me. It didn’t help to take photographs, as I had done for so many years, I needed to redefine my thoughts in lines, one by one, sweating over each gesture in the sketchbook, mentally redrawing everything that intrigued me. Thanks to those drawings and that process I still retain a vivid image of those things, those moments of thought, fruit of the observation of the little things that make everything possible. Just like when, as a boy, I drew the little chick…


There I found once again this possibility to discover the world, through the touch of the hand of the hand on paper, thanks to this magical natural human circumstance that means that we can take in with our eyes, process in our brain and translate, though the impulses of the arm, through the fingertips, following the suggestive touch of the sheet of paper. What magic, how simple, how easy and how immense all that is.


Since then, on returning from that time abroad, everything changed. I had almost found what I needed, to live in the void, chasing the music that emanates from it, and I decided to sit down on a chair a small desk to rethink, without moving, beginning to draw from dawn to dusk, looking again or the darkness, the dream, the drowsiness.


Complex drawings of trees, branches, time consuming and very slow, with he need that each little line, each twig on a branch, each lead, helped to attain the void. The void as a positive force as a form of cure. To exchange a feeling of flack, for a sense of absence. Using the remnants of myself I was enriched, watching time pass by, its dimension, without any commitments, without any pressure. The work was laborious but sure, precise, personal, painstaking process, with no end in sight, with no clear destination.


I will never know to what extent any of this reaches anybody but surely when something is born out of a need, the dialogue with the spectator unfurls, intensely and full of complicity. I’m not sure why but since then I have often woken up and set up the little table and during days and weeks, in solitude, unfolded those lines of what, despite whatever it may seem, can’t be seen.


I’m here on the roof, watching time pass by, my time and I hold on to it lightly, I try with my work to escape he boredom, that interval of time that never passes by. And this is all I can leave you with, if you can find a use for it.


The important things are always important, or maybe not…    


Jordi Fulla