Artist Joan Bennàssar.

18-04-2017Julian Aguirre

"It is the image of a sea bending to the will of the stroke of an oar. Conquering the sea involved an immense effort: finding the right sails to move from one place to another," explains the artist Joan Bennàssar, who was born in Pollensa in 1950. His book The Rhythm of Oars Breaking into the Sea will be distributed on Sunday with the Majorca Daily Bulletin, as part of ongoing celebrations for the Day of the Book. This work, with text by Antoni M. Planas, is the final part of the trilogy about the Mediterranean, which he started in 2007 with "Mallorca eròtica" and continued five years later with El vi que bec té gust de mar (The wine I drink tastes of the sea).

"The first instalment was about sex, a subject with which I felt comfortable because, artistically, the union of two bodies seems to me to be so beautiful. The second showed the history of wine in Majorca and what was society and agriculture. After these two, I realised that one centred on culture was missing. But I found that the history of the Mediterranean was so complex that if it was not about history, what we have produced would not be understood.

"The Rhythm of Oars Breaking into the Sea is the history of peoples who cross over; it is something of the origin of who we are. The Mediterranean is a sea that was once the seed of life and culture. However, after the discovery of America, it became clear that riches in fact lay elsewhere. Subsequently, with the opening of the Suez Canal, it reverted, because of its strategic position, to having a fundamental importance; just as it had in yesteryear."

In the present day, the artist points out that "we are once more at a decisive moment" because of "the growing importance that free time has in our lives - the sun and the beach". Furthermore, Bennàssar stresses that he strives to make his books constructive. "I consider that how we live today is the product of my time. I don't want to hold anyone responsible for what is currently happening - I am not the only one to blame - but I am part of the story. Therefore, I try to produce books that are constructive and I want this one to be as well. I believe that it is, because it is a tribute to hope."

The book is therefore the result of a natural development from the previous editions which comprise the trilogy. "In some way I want to find a way out of the abnormality. Here we are Jews, Arabs, Phoenicians, Catalans - mixed peoples, and now more so than ever. All this brings us a richness, and we are sufficiently smart to know to open ourselves to other worlds. I am like this and I am proud to be so."

This new work has involved the author "in delving into different pictorial worlds, in ceasing to be myself at given times in order to speak about other things and, at same time, in seeing what I think about all this". "This is not a book in which I am the sketcher of facts - I don't want to do that - but one which confirms me as an essentially Mediterranean painter."

In June, an extended version of the book, of some 300 pages, is scheduled to be published and will coincide with various events featuring the painter and sculptor.

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