Jordi Marlet, Blue, 2022, Acrylic on wood panel, 8”x6”
Looking at art on Instagram is wading into a morass. As with an art fair, an evenness descends on all the work– the gems, the plain rocks, the turds– all becomes homogenized into a dead sea of colored pixels. That’s why discovering a truly original painter online is miraculous. I stumbled upon the paintings of Jordi Marlet this way. They rang and sang out to me. Now, I look at a wall of his actual diminutive, humble paintings in my home every day. They are poems. They are worlds. They are objects, full of wonder.
I’m an artist who packs a thousand images into each of my paintings. My studio overflows with old tomes, yellowed maps, antique diagrams, kitschy 1950’s wallpaper, player piano scrolls–scraps of paper everywhere. My own painting/collage work is nurtured by Bosch and Breughel, by compartmentalized Sienese paintings, and by Mughal miniatures. I need to get lost in the worlds I create, then find my way, then get lost again. With my maximalist DNA, I often seek a visual and spiritual counterbalance, gravitating to painters with polar opposite temperaments–artists like Giorgio Morandi or Albert York– who allow fields of subtle color and lush brushwork to simply exist. Like Morandi or York, Jordi Marlet pares down to bare essentials and generates forms and figures with deceptive simplicity. He charges the space between things with presence. (My gosh, he’s colored in the space between that donkey’s legs!) How can one explain the truth and the lack of ego that’s evident in work like this? It comes from a lifetime of observation of the landscape, the human figure, architecture. Yet all that knowledge is distilled and submerged into ten square inches of trust, humility, love.
Jordi Marlet,The Blue Donkey, 2018, acrylic on wood 8”x6”
I know little about Marlet. In the Google era, we have access to too much information and mystery gets easily erased. Too many people form opinions of art based on words or on an artist’s identity before having a visual experience. From a blurry photo on his website, I’d guess Marlet is around my age– 56. I know that he lives in the small town of Sant Esteve de Palautordera, 30 miles north of Barcelona. He is a postman. He studied philosophy and journalism. He has no gallery representation. Only a handful of people follow his work online. From the works I purchased, I can see that they’re painted on scraps of wood, shingles, found surfaces, with dents, divots, and irregular edges, worn by their previous use. I get the sense that, like James Castle, he makes paintings in odd moments, with whatever surface is at hand, maybe at a kitchen table… and that he enjoys himself. There is no pretension, no striving to fit into any art world. He just makes little paintings. Along with the wafer-like panels he sent from Spain, Marlet included rubber bands, which he suggested the paintings should dangle from, on the wall.
Marlet paintings, hanging from rubber bands
Let’s look at Blue (8”x6”). Marlet told me he “met that bear in Denver, traveling across the U.S. by train. Nicest souvenirs.” I have no idea if this blue bear towering over toy-like cars was a figurine he picked up at a tourist spot, if it was a giant inflatable prop by a car dealership, or if it was a figment of his imagination. I wonder if he smiled to himself as he painted it, or if this was his memory, his factual depiction of a scene? Marlet’s skies, trees, and grounds are richly textured, atmospheric, but never overwrought. These paintings appear to be exactly what they are meant to be.
Jordi Marlet, The Player, 2019, Acrylic on wood, 8”x6”
Look at a few more. Who/what is this squat person gesturing to us on a soccer field in The Player? Look again–there’s a large bite taken out of his abdomen. The belt buckle echoes the nail holes, the gashed corner of the panel, an actual bite – remnants of when this wooden sheet was part of a crate or a wall. The figure(ine)’s dead doll-like eyes are the same cool cerulean as the sky. Could that be a nod to Van Gogh’s portraits? I’m glad that I’m left with these questions.
Jordi Marlet, My Father, Approximately 2007, Oil on canvas, 10”x8”
Jordi Marlet, My Brother, Approximately 2007, Oil on canvas, 10”x10”
Jordi Marlet, Going, 2022, Acrylic on wood, 8″x6″
Is Marlet an “outsider” artist? What does that even mean? If he took art classes, does that answer the question? I’ve seen some early works, so I know he can paint convincing interiors with proper linear perspective and accurately proportioned humans. This makes the visual decisions he’s making all the more wondrous. The compositions are surprising, off-kilter, funny, brilliant. There, a pond’s edge ends just behind a leaning dead tree– pushing rightward, a black dog walks off the frame–half a dog. A woman in riding gear astride a yellow tiger… but they’re within our world of weather and gravity, not in a charmed Chagall-like fairy tale. Marlet guides our eye into distance with elemental scale shifts, delicate rhymes of buildings and hedges. Look at this bucolic scene: one nearby brown steer stares at us, two smaller cows munch grass behind/above– their noses just cropped by the steer’s horns. Then, a dozen black cow dots in the distance… simple math. Marlet awkwardly clumps farm animals together or stacks them in space (again, I don’t know if he’s aware of Morandi’s bottles). He gives us the essence of horse or cow or goat, never a cartoon. Found, felt, never stylized. Perhaps he has reference polaroids and magazine clippings pinned to his wall as visual reference. Perhaps he wanders with an easel through the olive groves of Spain, sitting and painting for a spell in the tall grass, absorbing the light and air. Perhaps he’s a grown man, arranging plastic tchotchkes on his living room floor? I don’t want to know.
Josh Dorman, Golden Fables, 36”x48”, Ink, acrylic, antique paper on panel, 2022
Josh Dorman is an artist who recontextualizes antique images within fantastical drawn and painted worlds. Dorman sources collages, engravings and diagrams culled from textbooks, manuals and documents that were published prior to the widespread use of photography. @joshdormanart www.ryanleegallery.com