Jordi Baget: Dialogue with an Adventist painter from Spain
Born in an Adventist family, Jordi Baget manifested early his interest in painting. When he was 12 his parents encouraged him to study art. His excellent grades allowed him to be accepted at the prestigious San Jorge’s School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. In order to master the difficult skill of portraiture, he later attended the Royal Art Circle of Barcelona.
Growing up in a city well known for art, the budding painter visited the art museums and exhibitions of his famous hometown, which had a profound impact on his passion for painting. During his career, Baget’s artistic gifts have been widely recognized. As early as 1982, he was awarded Spain’s National Prize for Painting. His work has been noted in individual and collective exhibitions in various European centers.
Jordi Baget is a member of the Urgell Seventh-day Adventist Church in Barcelona, where he plays the organ for the worship services.
How did you become involved in full-time painting?
Even though my parents encouraged me to draw and paint from a very early age, I do not think they ever expected that this will become my life vocation. Since I liked all the arts, they enrolled me in a school of arts as well as in a school of music. Later they arranged for me to work in a workshop that produced finely crafted wood furniture. That work was hard, but creative. It gave to me a very clear sense of volumes, reliefs, and shapes. But I preferred to paint. At the beginning, and in order to become self-supporting, I had to accept many commercial assignments. I did not like these always, but it set me on course.
As an artist, are you “born” or “made”?
A little of both. But only persistent, hard work, leads to success in any field.
Do you have any preferences for certain themes and subjects?
I feel especially attracted by scenes with many moving figures, such as markets, harbors, beaches with fishermen, urban scenes, and children playing. This is mainly because of the additional difficulties that these scenes pose to the artist from a technical point of view. Obviously, it is easier to paint a peaceful landscape, with no movement. I like both, but I am thrilled by overcoming technical challenges of movement.
But you also paint still-life. . .
True. I have a special preference for still-life subjects. I have learned the most while working on such paintings. In front of a still-life composition one can observe in detail the plays of light and shadows, the artistic value of volumes, textures, and shapes. I think that this kind of deep concentration helped me to better penetrate my subjects.
Where do you usually paint?
Mostly in my workshop, but I used to paint a lot outdoors. When one paints from nature, the light changes constantly. One has to observe well and work fast. Today I prefer to take photos and work at my own pace in the studio, using them for general reference. I can paint from them only because I have worked a lot in the open air.
What about your choice of techniques?
My techniques today are very eclectic and personal. For my figurative works I mainly use oil and acrylic that I prepare myself from basic materials. (I have always avoided the watercolors because they seem to me too difficult!) But for my abstract projects I use besides oil and acrylic colors very different components such as wood, cement, different types of sand and earth, and even some synthetic materials. These allow me to explore different creative concepts on effects and textures, which I adapt to the inspiration of the moment, the subject and my own temperament. At present I am fully committed to this type of quest for new ways of depicting abstract aesthetics.
Looking back to your career, can you identify any specific periods?
I am surprised myself to observe that I have had quite a consistent trajectory. However, around the year 2000 I began exploring new forms of abstract expression. One could say that “the classical Baget” is more figurative, while “the late Baget” is more impressionist, and more abstract, freer.
What gives you greatest satisfaction in your work?
I enjoy most the feeling of freedom in front of the canvas, realizing that I am creating something new. With due respect to the enormous difference, I think that I understand the text of the creation account that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31, NIV). There is no joy like this feeling of fulfilment, of accomplishment, when you complete a work that turns out to be a success.
When I decide to create something, I do not come with a very specific idea. I set myself in front of my canvas, fully open to inspiration. I work and work and work following my intuition. I do not leave a painting until I like it, until I am satisfied.
Are there any paintings that you prefer over others?
Yes, I keep at home two paintings that I think I would never sell: A still life with onions and an urban landscape in Budapest. These two works, thus far, are the ones that brought me more satisfaction than any other. But my relatives, my customers, and most of my friends, prefer other paintings.
Do you wish to share a personal story?
As an artist, I prefer not to repeat in my paintings the same motif because it brings to mind unpleasant connections with the commercial side of art. In one of my most successful exhibitions in Barcelona, a gentleman told me that he wanted to buy one of my paintings, but left without purchasing it. Soon after somebody else came and bought it. The following day, the first customer came to buy the painting, but since it was already sold, he became very disappointed, even angry. “Please,” he pleaded, “paint another one exactly like that for me!” I accepted to paint something similar, but not exactly like the first one. That customer happened to be the popular Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán.
And what frustrates you in your work?
I get a bit sad when I do not achieve what I set out to do in a painting. That is why I do not like to take orders. I have also avoided as much as possible portrait painting. Not only because they seldom are appreciated by the person portrayed, but also because they seem to restrict my freedom.
What do you do when you do not like the outcome of your painting?
I erase the whole project and start again. I am quite patient and resilient. These are important qualities for painters. I seldom give up.
You are also a musician! I’ve seen you playing the organ in church.
Since my childhood I have loved music. I studied piano and composition at the conservatory under great teachers. I do play the organ often in the Barcelona central Adventist church. Although I am just an amateur, I play in the church as my humble service to God. What I like the most is to compose music for choir and piano, using the computer.
How has the fact of being a committed Christian affected your life as an artist?
To be a believer is a great help for an artist. God motivates and inspires us to accomplish a better work. I joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church through baptism when I was 17, and consider it a great privilege to be a Bible-believing Christian. As I look around, I discern God as an extraordinary, enormously creative artist. When I think that He has created us in His image, I am amazed and thankful. I learn from God every day and, although I feel very small in His presence, I share the joy of creating something through the skills He has given me.
What advice would you give to a young person interested in becoming a professional painter?
Work hard. Learn well the techniques. Observe a lot. Study the masterpieces. Do not forget that your best teachers are life and nature. Ask God to lead your life and make you happy in His service.
Roberto Badenas is the Euro-Africa Division Education Director and Dialogue representative. His email address: email@example.com.
Jordi Baget may be contacted through his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. His telephone numbers: (+34) 93 871 29 03 or (+34) 61 774 29 89.