Pep Girbent

Are you certain you’re seeing what you think you are?

Pep Girbent (Sóller, 1966) has always loved baffling the public, contriving, causing puzzlement and doubt. Minimising the importance of things and playing at the limits of art, whilst at the same time being his own harshest critic.

“When I paint I feel a suspension of time. I love the pleasure of working manually. The images smell, they oxidate, they drip, they creak. The paint always does what it wants to, sometimes it surprises me and other times it annoys me, but that sensual side is what makes it what it is. When I finish a work, I have an inner struggle. It isn’t whether to finish it or not, it’s whether to consider it resolved or not. When I do finish it, I feel relief”.

Without any artistic background in his family, Pep Girbent considers himself a free radical, who started to distinguish himself in art from a very young age. “I won an international comic prize organised by one of the best publishing houses in Spain, Toutain Editor, and I started to work with them and with Norma Editor”, he remembers. Over the years he began to feel increasingly drawn to painting and the visual arts, enrolling in a school in Palma “in order to carry on learning. As soon as I finished, I went to Madrid to do an exhibition, my heart on my sleeve and with all the courage of ignorance. I sold all my landscapes”, he says.

After the first exhibitions, “I realised I was creating a type of painting that attracted a sector of the visual arts and galleries that were very commercial. I had something of a crisis because I wanted to find out how I could get into the galleries I was really interested in. That was when I started up with Galería Horrach Moya. When Juan Antonio Horrach took over, he turned it into a contemporary art gallery, and we both evolved in parallel”, he explains.

In the early days, Girbent always had the support of his father. “He went everywhere with me. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but now I think a lot about his trust, about how even if I did the most absurd thing in the world, he never said a word and always stayed by my side. Which is why I carry on creating here, in his home”, he confesses.

Girbent works on the top floor of the family home in Sóller. “It’s the place where I have spent most of the hours of my life. I have the feeling of being sheltered. The people who come here are those I want to come. The work isn’t exhibited. I am fascinated by the idea of painting up here and my works being seen in New York, Miami or Hong Kong”, he says.

For Girbent, it was Andy Warhol who changed the concept of the artist. With Warhol, there was a shift from the prototype of the romantic artist to the modern, more complete, more sibylline one, who has many masks and who plays with the public, proposing different levels, not only seeking the spectacularity of the work but reformulating questions, and warning you by saying, ‘Are you certain you’re seeing exactly what you think you are?’”...

Montse Torras, Pep’s friend, defines him as “a conceptual artist who paints very well and not the other way round”. He confirms this, because part of his discourse is focussed “against the central paradigms of the 20th century, which are very much inspired by the model of Picasso the painter”.

Girbent feels that his image “is disappointing in terms of the image one has of an artist. I go home at 2.30 pm and I don’t want to think about it any more until the following day. I don’t fit in with the image of the artist for whom life and work are one and the same. I have lots of interests, like playing football, literature or films”, he confesses.

“The public should know that when they come to one of my exhibitions, they could encounter anything”. His imagination is sibylline, like that of Borges, one of his models. An example of this is the time he invented a Chinese painter, Liu Wein, for the 2018 Nit de l’Art (Night of Art). “The curators suggested it to me and I agreed. It was a huge success. All the galleries wanted to exhibit his works, but of course – he didn’t exist. I invented an artist’s profile for myself that went against the trends of his country, China – someone who had a phobia about social media, about flying, who didn’t want to give interviews…”, he reveals. “The subjects that interest me are the original, the copy, authorship, imposture, painting in the age of the Internet”...

And Girbent has also actually invented exhibitions on his CV. “They reflect my interests. They’re like another artwork”.

One good example of this is what happened with [...]


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