Joan Sala Fàbrega
Josep Ballve, 10, Sant Joan les Fonts, Catalonia, 17857, Spain
About the Artist/Site
Mason and stonecutter Sala had a small collection of vintage automobiles, and when his village scheduled a fair in conjunction with its French sister city, they included a photograph of him washing his cars in the publicity for the fair. When he saw that photograph, he decided to carve a sculpture of himself in that pose: “Being a mason, I knew stone,” he said, so he just started sculpting without having had any previous training. His neighbors’ response to his work was so positive that from that moment on, he says, he has been sculpting. In addition to the stone sculptures that he hacks out from the local basalt or from imported marble, placing them around his home or in the garden across the street, after a trip to Barcelona where he saw Antoni Gaudí’s Parc Guell he also began to fabricate works on a base of concrete, ornamenting them with ceramic tile or glass trencadís. Although certain sections of this trencadís work are primarily figurative and decorative, other areas are more narrative, with phrases, dates, and identifying labels laid into the walls with broken tiles and pieces of glass.
Necessarily somewhat stylized in response to the requirements of the material, in general Sala’s work with tile is of higher quality—conceptually as well as technically—than his carved stone sculptures. The broken tile pieces are laid evenly, with great attention to maintaining equidistant placement, but they are also cleverly used to visually reinforce such forms as clothing folds or waves in hair styles. Too, the trencadís covers some of the awkwardness manifested in those sculptures that were carved in a subtractive manner out of stone. Now retired, he works every day to realize images he has drawn from magazines or books, and revels in his new identity as not just a mason, but as a sculptor. “There are those who call me the Michelangelo of the Garrotxa [i] [and others who call me] a Gaudí of the Garrotxa,” he says with pride, and he has immortalized these words by inlaying them in trencadís on the high towers of the Sagrada Familia that rise up the eastern side of his home, and by placing himself facing Gaudí looking up at his own sculpted version of the famous Barcelona temple.
~Jo Farb Hernández
[i] Equivalent to a county demarcation, La Garrotxa encompasses the area around Sala’s village, with its seat in the nearby town of Olot.
Map & Site Information
Josep Ballve, 10
Sant Joan les Fonts, Catalonia, 17857 es
Latitude/Longitude: 42.21149 / 2.51485
Maçanet de Cabrenys, Girona