Interview: Joan Cornellà Is Back In Bangkok With 'Happy Endings'
A smiling decapitated head. An amputee wearing a shirt that says "free hugs". Guns at the end of selfie sticks and a whole bunch of dark fetus jokes. Joan Cornella's works paint the most WTF-scenarios imaginable in conflictingly cute comic-book aesthetics, and us sickos in Bangkok just can't seem to get enough. Which is why the Spanish artist is back with another solo exhibition in just a little over a year. Curated by Farmgroup, the latest showcase will feature works made specifically for the local audience and fan base, as well as venture into a new territory of sculptures. We interview Joan about his "Happy Endings" (exhibition), opening to the public at Woof Pack this Thursday, November 8, 2018.
Welcome back. What was your impression of your own exhibition here in Bangkok last time?
That was my first time in Thailand and the first exhibition here so I didn’t have any clue of how would it be. To my surprise, many people came and the attention received was huge. I could compare it to other places in Asia like Hong Kong or Shanghai—for some reason my work is better received here than in western countries.
So what brings you back to Bangkok? Tell us about the exhibition.
Recently I’ve been working on smaller formats, which is something that I used to do in the beginning, so it’s like going back to my roots. The exhibition will consist of more than 70 artworks—the biggest exhibition I have done so far—and I painted 40 of these works here in Bangkok so they’re kind of connected, indirectly, to the place. I didn't use to do this as I prefer my work to be globally understood, but I think it can be interesting for the exhibition. It has been also a challenge. Besides that, the themes or topics I worked with are basically the same ones: love and happiness.
Your art contains a lot of unexpected, dark and humorous twists that take your audiences by surprise. How are planning to surprise or even shock audiences even further?
I don’t have a plan or a method to work in that sense. It depends on many things. For the comic strips I need to work plot twists as everything falls to the narrative. However, for one panel pictures I have to work even harder because I have to sum it all up in one image. This is what I’ve been doing lately, and I’m having fun working without scripts for a while.
How long did it take to put together this exhibition?
I know the people of Farmgroup since last year, and they invited me to come to Hotel Art Fair on July, so it was easy to arrange an exhibition with them. It was just kind of a natural consequence.
How did you end up at this venue, Woof Pack and what do you think of it?
Farmgroup suggested the venue. They both worked together before and they know each other, so it’s great. The venue has different rooms, which means I can show more works than last year and people can also take more time to visit and view them.
In your observation, is your Thai fan base or the Thai art scene different than others?
I can’t tell. I guess I need to spend more time here to talk about that. The main differences I see are the same I see in Thai people in general. They like to take a lot of selfies at the exhibition, which is something that I rarely see in Europe. Most of my fan base are people in their twenties, so I don’t understand many of their reactions and behaviours because they are older than me. They could be my grandparents.
Your “cute, cartoonish” art actually reveal a lot of troubling social issues. What are some of the most troubling issues to you? Please elaborate.
I think there’s a big problem with political correctness, which I think most of times is a form of authority and self-repression that doesn’t allow us to express ourselves freely. It's the modern form of censorship. That’s why I think my work is related to these issues. I’d also like my work to overcome taboos and bigotry. For instance, some people think my work is racist and I would say the opposite. I would say they don’t know what irony is. I work with racist stereotypes in order to express moral thoughts. I want my work to be open to different interpretations because I don’t like mannequinism. I don’t like people telling others what’s wrong or right. I like to let people think by themselves and be more critical.
What else inspires your art?
I’ve always been interested in comedy. I like a lot of comedians like Louis CK, Monty Python, Bill Hicks, Sarah Silverman and George Carlin. The first time I watched The Monty Python Flying Circus, it blew my mind. British comedy is really great. Ricky Gervais, Peter Serafinowicz or Spike Milligan are some of my favorites. But obviously comics and graphic humour have also influenced me. Charles Addams, for instance, is a master of dark comedy.
Catch Joan Cornellà's second solo exhibition "Happy Endings" in Bangkok on November 8-December 3 at Woof Pack on Saladaeng Soi 1. Hours are 11am-10pm. Admission is 200 baht. For more information, visit fb.com/woofpackbangkok and joancornella.net.