Miquel Wert Brings Awkward Family Dynamics From the Shadows in Barcelona

Have you ever seen those awkward family photographs that some brilliant editors have periodically culled together and presented in books or websites?

Which one is your favorite? Mom, Dad, and five siblings dressed in identical cowboy/cowgirl outfits in front of a sunset? The family of nudists gathered in the kitchen with dad holding a bowl of bananas strategically? Or perhaps the studio photo of smiling conservative mom in a flowery office blouse posed with two angry punk teen daughters who look like they have given their souls to Satan. There are many voyeuristic hours of entertainment just waiting for you if you start Googling them.

Miquel Wert. Life In Shadows. Contorno Urbano “12 x 1” 2017. Barcelona. (photo © Clara Antón)

In most family photos the interpersonal dynamics are more subtle, but a close reading of posture, body language, and facial expressions all give unconsciously a lot of information about the true nature of the relationships officially on display.

Street Artist Miquel Wert has just painted a nostalgic family portrait for his new Barcelona wall with the 12 + 1 Project, and he points to exactly this kind of revealing moment when interpersonal dynamics are painfully on display. He calls the new work “Life in Shadows”.

Miquel Wert. Life In Shadows. Contorno Urbano “12 x 1” 2017. Barcelona. (photo © Clara Antón)

He says his work pretends to be an open window to a “typical family” intimacy. It looks like a relaxed scene but the male looks defiant, burning two holes through the camera. Is he reacting to something just said by his aunt? Is he angry at the picture taker? Did he just sit on an open mouse-trap? Is he simply counting the minutes until this insufferable dinner visit with his beautiful wife, child, and his gossipy manipulative emasculating mother is over?

If you find this old photograph in a shoe box at a garage sale you might not give it much thought. When it is translated to a large painting in a public space you can see that it makes people a little uncomfortable as they walk by, not quite sure how to address the tension. Not even sure what is bothering them actually.

Miquel Wert. Life In Shadows. Contorno Urbano “12 x 1” 2017. Barcelona. (photo © Clara Antón)

Mr. Wert says that he defines his work as “a research about quotidian life’s theatricality, questioning how we represent the collective subconscious, trying to avoid a purely nostalgic aspect – the image is treated as a scenography, full of anonymous actors who are acting in front of the curtains of an imaginary theatre. Often, these actors are coming from some documents I inherited, or are the result of a difficult selection in several files.”


The Spanish-Swedish painter has been building a body of work since finishing fine art studies in 2000 at Barcelona University, and he has exhibited his works at festivals and in galleries nationally and internationally, in solo and group shows. About this wall he says the name of the mural comes from a classic and forgotten Spanish drama film and it’s also a reminder of the shadows described by Russian writer Maksim Gorki in 1896, when he had his first cinematographic experience.


“Last night I was in the Kingdom of the Shadows”

Miquel Wert. Life In Shadows. Contorno Urbano “12 x 1” 2017. Barcelona. (photo © Clara Antón)

For more on Contorno Urbano and the 12 x 1 Project please click HERE. 

For more on Miquel Wert please visit HERE.