I’m sitting in the colossal shadow of one of the most incredible manmade (well, halfmade) structures on the planet. I’m in Barcelona, staring up at Gaudi’s infamous Sagrada Familia, and it’s impressive to say the least.
Now usually these ‘tourist landmarks’ are a major letdown, somehow they always look much less spectacular in real life than you expect. Not so here. Despite being clothed in towers of ugly scaffolding, cranes and workmen, surrounded by a swarm of sombrero-wearing tourists (the irony of it looking like some huge termite hill), the great monolith is still a surreal and awesome sight.
Its bells ring, and the melody is even original, pleasant even – a far cry from the usual sombre, oppressive tones of the typical cathedral. Inside it’s a building site – Gaudi’s masterpiece still unfinished (100 years under construction to date), not helped by his untimely death in 1926 when he was hit by a tram whilst standing back to admire his own work (perhaps a lesson for us all)
Last night I stopped by one of the artist’s smaller works, Casa Batllo, a townhouse he designed as a commission for a rich statesmen, now owned by the family behind the famous Chuppa Chups lollipop empire)
Now architecture in general does not float my boat, far from it, I think it is rarely the ‘art’ it claims to be. But I am just blown away by the artistry and sheer originality of Gaudi’s work. The design of this house for example, was like something from a wild post-seafood dream, sublime waves of ‘melted’ structure and hints of alien worlds.
I just stared at it for about half an hour, daydreaming. It seemed the more I looked at it, the more hidden detail of the world it was part of revealed itself. I found it as captivating as hearing a truly original piece of music (Rite Of Spring, Dark Side of The Moon,..) for the first time. It was quite late at night, which helped, the drama of the building enchanced by unusually tasteful floodlighting.
The next day I visited Park Guell. Gaudi turned landscape gardener in 1900 when Count Guell hired him to create a surreal ‘minature city’ on a rural hillside (then) outside Barcelona. The project was aimed at the super-rich on the time, it was a commercial disaster.
Now owned by the city, Park Guell is an enchanting place, and an almost hallucinatory place to wander around – dreamlike fairytale cottages, Moomin valleylike winding paths, and strange bridges with arches like giant dinosaur ribcages. I am rarely ‘influenced’ by other musicians, but I certainly want to create music with the same originality, attention to detail and mind/world-altering quality Gaudi’s legacy of work has.
Of course here in Catalonia, there are two other very famous, and highly unique artists – Dali and Picasso. It is interesting how modern, forward thinking and prolific this period in history was there and for Art in general. The beginnings of electroacoustic music and film for one.
Of course, there was conservatism, most famously at Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring premier in Paris in 1913. It’s strange rhythms and pandiatonic harmony literally shocked the audience into rioting. But now the same piece (after years of being very closely copied in film scores, good example being John Williams “Jaws” score), seems almost quaint, certainly unthreatening, today.
Anyway, enough of my little love affair with Gaudi. I’m certainly feeling inspired now. Isn’t it amazing how us artists can inspire so much from each other? It’s like our collective work (the genuine stuff, which is unconcerned with fashion, conservatism, materialism and the like) has a life of it’s own, and one artist’s Vision can go on to form a small part of another artist’s Vision and so on.. It’s kind of like the genetics of creativity. Aside from any kind of direct inspiration (eg “I like the way this artist does that”), there is also a higher type of inspiration involved, that of aspiring to create truly exceptional work, and no being afraid to take risks, remaining true to one’s own Vision no matter what and so on.
We live in artistically quite conservative (and also perversely materialistic) times. If Gaudi were alive and working today, I’ve no doubt the same happy-snapping tourists who ogle his work would consider it “weird”, as many original work is. Maybe it’s always been like this.
Either way, I’m wary of people who describe anything as “weird” – it implies “this does not fit in with what everyone else says is ‘normal’, and therefore suspicious to me. I have no mind of my own. I am a sheep. I have either been brainwashed by a current sociological trend (eg fashion, conservatism) or I had no brain to speak of in the first place. The idea of thinking or judging (properly) for myself scares me, and being weak minded, I will take the easy option and not do so.”.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh and seriousy. I’ll change the subject..
From the sublime to the ridiculous, I came across this little curiosity.
Allegedly the worlds first submarine, “Ictineo II” (from Icthys (fish) + Naus (ship), was made in 1862 by Narcis Montriol (I don’t think the then 10 year old Gaudi was involved). Anyway its very cool and quite steampunk, so I took a pic.
There only seems to be one slight minor design flaw.. I could be wrong of course, but doesn’t wood erm, float?
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