Painting by Vall Karsunke
Mandrake the Magician
Enric Vall Karsunke (Barcelona, 1967) was raised in a family of artists and was a dress merchant when the dreams began. There were two that repeatedly returned; in one he was running either away or towards something, and in the other he was painting. Perhaps the influence of his upbringing was too strong to escape.
He describes his earliest representations as dark but, in time, they evolved into ones that he hopes will evoke good vibrations in the viewer. “I imagine the reaction of the person who is looking at my painting,” he says. “I would like it to make them feel happier, provoke laughter.” Vall Karsunke paints from the heart; the characters that emerge are innocent yet potent, with a simplicity that slowly allows the underlying complexities to come into focus, like the dreams from which they have emerged.
I first saw his work about three years ago, in a gallery on Montcada. He was painting representations of Mickey Mouse, an expression of his fascination with comic-book characters. Unlike the one-dimensional Disney mouse, Vall Karsunke’s Mickey hinted at something below the surface. The expressions on the faces of his comic book portraits seemed to suggest that they were contemplating the larger questions of life. In part, what makes Vall Karsunke’s work interesting is its personality.
Since he began painting, Vall Karsunke has had work exhibited in numerous collective and individual exhibitions and his paintings have won him awards in art competitions around Catalunya. The artist himself is unpretentious; he speaks with a gentle voice, describing the sense of loss he felt after selling his first painting. Artists, particulary painters, will tell you how they become attached to certain pieces. It is easy to see how the characters Vall Karsunke paints—cooks, lovers, the old-style barbell lifters, cartoon characters and gentlemen—each with their own very evocative charm, would be difficult for him to let go.
He shares a studio space in Gràcia with his wife, Gemma, who works on large floral displays. He considers himself fortunate; at this point in his career, the work he sells allows him to continue painting. There are three categories of painters, he says: those very few who are supported by their art, those whose art pays for itself, and those who support their art. Still early in his career, Vall Karsunke’s work is already paying for itself. He is currently developing a set of sculptures made from discarded piano keys and he has been commissioned to work on a series of paintings of ‘Mandrake The Magician’, based on a classic Thirties American comic-strip character by Lee Falk. His work is available at various galleries throughout Barcelona and is included in a collective exhibition this month (until the 15th) at L’illa Diagonal, as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations.