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Artists of Ibiza

Artists on Ibiza

Vicent Calbet

by José P Ribas

Vicent Calbet Riera was one of the most famous and influential of Ibiza-born artists.

He was born in "Es Vivé" on 20th October 1940. His father Mariano had a barber's shop in Eivissa Town on Plaza José Pidal, now known as "La Tertulia" and his mother, Catalina, owned a food shop near the Vila Square.

The year he was born, all the family moved to "Dalt Vila" (the old part of Ibiza Town, inside the big walls) where he lived with his four brothers until he was 25.

1951: At the age of 11, Vicent begins his studies at the "Escuela de Artes y Oficios de Ibiza" (School of Arts and Crafts of Ibiza), where he begins to sketch pencil portraits. A year later he also starts working, helping his father in the barber's shop.

1956: Vicent is admitted to the Academy of Art of San Carlos (Valencia) where he studies for two years as an independent student, just going to Valencia for his exams.

1958: Calbet leaves for Valencia to finish his studies in four years. Meanwhile, he works as a waiter to support himself. There, he forms friendships with other students of the Art Academy, Valdes, Solbes, Toni Riera, Vicent Maciá, Manuel Naranjo. (Solbes and Valdes were in the following years, two of the components of "L'Equip Crónica," considered one of the most important Spanish artistic groups in the 1970s).

The influence of the Academy and the Valencian regional flavour of painting can be seen in Calbet's work of the time. During the same period, a show of Medieval Art, in the "Pio XII Museum" enables him to discover and develop a passion for medieval painting. Despite this, Munch and Rouault become his real masters. During these years he is supported and encouraged by his friends and painters, Agudo Clará and Antonio Pomar and also by the collector Ramón Medina.

1960: His first exhibition in Gallery Tanit. He obtains the 3rd National Medal in the "II Young Art Exposition" in Madrid. With the money that he earns for the sales of his paintings, he takes three trips to different countries of Europe, visiting museums where he admires his favourite painters, Rembrandt, Goya and the classic masters. Back in Spain, in 1961, he exhibits in "Sala Rovira" of Barcelona.

1962: Vicent receives a grant from the French government. He travels to Paris, where he meets Fernando Arrabal, who helped Calbet to find a job in a travel agency to support himself. He receives a sponsorship from the Die Insel Club of Hamburg, for an 8-month stay in the city. Once there, he decides to live in Lübeck, becoming deeply immersed in German expressionist art. (These were also important and happy times as far as his sentimental life is concerned, with Elke, his German girlfriend, probably the most important woman in Vicent's life).

1963: He has an exhibition at the "Küunstlerklub Die Insel" in Hamburg. He leaves Germany and came back to Eivissa.

1964: He has two exhibitions, one in the "Quint Gallery" in Palma de Mallorca, and the other one in "El Corsario" in Eivissa. Vicent also participates in the "Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid.

1965: He exhibits in one of the first shows of the recently opened "Ivan Spence" Gallery of Eivissa. One can appreciate the religious themes in his paintings of the Ibicenco Churches, the masses, nativity scenes, crucifixion, etc. His collages, which appear on the sideline, were more informal, showing the influence of different artists living on the Island, such as Broner, Dmitrienko, Giorgo Pagliar, as well as some of the painting he had seen during his European trips.

1966: He obtains 1st Prize for Painting in the second International Biennial of Art of the City of Eivissa.

1967: Exhibition in the "Gallery City of Stockholm". He continues living in Eivissa, in his old studio in the district of Sa Capelleta.

1968: Participates in the National Exhibits of Fine Arts in Madrid and the "XII Salon de Mayo" of Barcelona.

1969: He exhibits at the "Gallery 5" in Eivissa. Exhibits at the "Ariel" in Palma de Mallorca and at the "Atlantic Gallery" of Duisburg (Germany).

During this year, Vicent suffers profound depressions, the repercussions of which come out in the vibrancy and pure colours of his work.

1970: He has various exhibitions, one in "Chedel Gallery" in Geneva, another in the "Marlekin Gallery" of Stockholm and in the "L'Ull de Vidre" in Mallorca (later, this gallery was very popular with another name, "Quatre Gats"). In this same year, his paintings display more fluidity, featuring purer, joyous colours.

1971: Two very prolific years follow, with numerous exhibitions of his work. He rents "Can Puvil," an old Ibicenco finca in the countryside, on the road to "Es Cubells" in Sant Josép, becoming a very important and vital centre for him, where he lives and works until his death. He exhibits in the "Sala Libros of Zaragoza", at this time a centre of great artistic and intellectual importance. "Atelier Gallery", "Morona Gallery", both in Milan (Italy), "Alfa Gallery" in Madrid, "Latina Gallery" in Palma, "Museum of Painting" at Osnabrück (Germany).

Vicent Calbet obtains the 1st Prize at the first International Painting Exhibition in Eivissa organised by the Town Hall.

1972: Exhibits at the "Gallery Petit" in London, at the "Artlantis" in Duisburg (Germany) and at the "Kunstenaarscentrum" in Bergen (Holland). This is the year that he abandons his relationship with his foreign dealer (Josép Vallribera, also a famous painter) and begins a less prodigious stage in regard to his exhibitions.

1973: He exhibits again in "Libros" of Zaragoza and the "Gallery J. Blanes, in Palma.

1974: Exhibition in the "Latina Gallery" in Palma de Mallorca.

1975: Exhibition in the "Jeksen Gallery" in Denmark, and the "Gallery Quatre Gats" in Palma.

1976: Exhibits in the "Gallery Ibiza" Eivissa.

1978: Exhibits in the "Gallery Noray" of Pollensa (Mallorca).

1982: In the "Sala de Exposiciones Sa Nostra" in Eivissa, where he will exhibit consecutively in 1983 and 1984. Also during these years he participate in the "Feria Internacional de Arte de Madrid" (ARCO).

1984: Exhibits at the "Mostra Itinerant Art Eivissa".

1985: Exhibits at the "Sala de La Caixa de Pensions de Muro" (Mallorca) and at "Sa Nostra" in Eivissa. Also exhibits in Colliurse (France), within the "Mostra de Cultura de Balears".

1986: Calbet's work is gaining in importance, particularly his style of encapsulating everything in square "boxes".

About these works, the art expert Guillem Frontera writes in a magnificent thesis on Calbet's work: "It seems there is not a thing in its right place; So many things: little stones, dried leaves, easels, palettes, spatulas, punchers, a rag, a tin can, poster fragment thick with glue, bits of tobacco, wax and oil thrown out, stiff brushes, a juniper pine root, finished works, works begun, works packaged, spilled over inkpots..."

Elena Ruiz Sastre has also written about "The boxes of Vicent Calbet." Among other things, she says: "It is clear that Calbet is interested in the square as a basic shape, and on this he has built many compositions"

"It is as if in these boxes there is an inherent desire to preserve from destruction these mountains of miserable pieces of paper, destined for the rubbish bin, and there is strange delight and great concern in the process of creation that radiates from each one.

"Thus are treasured those fragments of reality, just as we treasure at some times in our lives those tattered memories converted into little-used objects that nevertheless remain irreplaceable symbols"

1987: Exhibits at the "Pelaires" Palma de Mallorca, and is presented in ARCO (Madrid) by the same Gallery.

1989: Exhibitions at the "Gallery Van der Voort" (Eivissa) and "Gallery Bisart" of Palma.

1990: Exhibition at the "Gallery Fenici" in Madrid. "Sa Nostra" in Eivissa organises the exhibit "Parafrasis" where once again the religious theme is taken up.

1991: Exhibits at the "Feria de Arte" in Nice (France) represented by a Parisian Gallery.

1992: Exhibits at the "Gallery Bisart" of Palma, and at the Balearic Pavilion of the "Universal Exposition of Sevilla" (Spain). He participates in the "Rutas de Baleares" of the "Conselleria de Cultura, Educació i Esports of the Govern Balear in Washinton (USA).

1993: Vicent Calbet Exhibits for the last time on the Baleares Islands at the "Gallery Ses Voltes" in Palma de Mallorca and in the "Museum of Contemporary Art" (MAC) of Eivissa.


All Pictures are a selection of Paintings by Vicent Calbet

José P Ribas