An exhibition of new paintings inspired by the vibrant fish markets of Barcelona, Spain and a lifelong relationship with food fish. Harvesting, preparation, cultural significance and the formality of display.
Spanish for Fishmonger
This project has been a journey of discovery of a part of my heritage and a celebration of the people and places instrumental in my development as a human and an artist. I have set technical and artistic challenges for myself, treating each subject as an individual with unique requirements. I wanted to depart from my former style and mannerism but still delight in the process of layering, texture and rich colour. This body of work was originally inspired by the fish markets of Barcelona yet it forced me to backtrack to early influences and significant life lessons. The fish are no longer alive but they are fresh and vibrant and displayed in a formal manner. They hold great significance in many cultures as spiritual and religious symbols.
The woman pointed her manicured finger to a fine, small fish on the ice. As the fishmonger placed the fish on her cutting board the woman recited precise instructions in Catalan. I didn’t understand the words but as I watched, the fishmonger began her dissection. She expertly filleted the fish and cut it into small morsels with a knife the size of a machete. The fish was then packaged in brown paper and handed to the elegant customer. Gracias, as the husband tucked the package into an already full bag brimming with vegetables for tonight’s supper.
The markets of Barcelona offer a feast for the senses. Colours, smells, textures and people are intoxicating. I recently spent some time in Barcelona, Spain and the visit filled my heart with boundless inspiration. Upon my return home I looked at the over 2000 photos from my travels. There were not many from the markets and I realised that I was under a spell, an intoxication of senses. Photos were not necessary, my memories were so vivid and tangible I didn’t need pictures.
I painted some sardines, and they made me happy, then a few mackerel followed by some long, fierce fish. By now I was hooked. More and more ideas came as well as a realization that I have a lifelong relationship with food fish.
FISHING WITH MY DAD
My step-Father was a salmon fisherman for 50 years off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. I started working as his deckhand at 16. Not the most fun job for a teen girl but I quickly mastered the skills and found peace in my heart. The everyday workings of a salmon troller were challenging but also terribly interesting. I was the cook and the fish gutter. My Father would cut open a freshly caught salmon and inspect the contents of the stomach. Whatever the fish was eating, tiny octopus, needlefish was information for him what kind of bait to use. When the fish were running we worked 10-15 hour days. For dinner we often jigged for blue cod (my favorite) or red snapper. During storm days we fished for sweet Dungeness crab or picked oysters from remote beaches of the west coast. I worked with my Dad every summer during my university years. Most of my tuition was paid for by selling fresh salmon roe to Japanese buyers(a deckhands privilege) for cash. My Dads gentle nature and respect for all living things took all the yuck factor out of the job and made it a wonderful learning experience and now an additional inspiration for me, the Artist. The admiration of a beautiful animal and the drive to get the job done seem to be a family trait.
I always was and still am terribly curious about how things work. At the age of seven I took apart the family alarm clock just to see how it worked , never could put it back together but my dear Grandparents thought it was charming. I was born and grew up in Zakopane, Poland. I lived with my Grandparents as a child and most of the time underfoot in my Grandmothers kitchen. It was a busy, loving place with many pots cooking on the coal-fired stove and neighbours dropping in for a coffee and gossip. The house took on extreme frenzy for Christmas. The preparations, baking and cooking started weeks before. In the sixties, during communism, food was scarce but my resourceful Grandmother knew people who knew people.
For Christmas Eve we always eat fish, so she ordered live carp from a guy. The carp were then kept in the bathtub where I watched them for hours, feeding them bits of bread. Of course early on Christmas Eve , the fish were butchered but the lessons continued. Grandma showed me their red gills and explained how they worked and the air bladders were dried and could be popped like balloons. She always saved one scale to keep in her wallet. It was believed to attract wealth. My Dad always said,” we don’t have any money but we are still rich “
Agata Teodorowicz MFA