All the Creatures is a documentary (you can see it here) covering the thirty days between 2015 and 2016 that the artist Santi Moix dedicated to paint the walls of the small church in the village of Seurí in the Pallars Sobirà. The artist, who was assisted by brothers Pujol and Victor Pérez Porro, used the ancestral technique of the frescoe to pay homage to ancient masters and to nature, now forever trapped on the walls of the church of Seurí.
Filmed by Macià Florit, Raimon Fransoy and Xavier Puig and helped by Ion Izquierdo (sound).
Edited by Elisabet between Nau Ivanow and Solsona in the fall of 2017.
Audio post production by Jordi C. Corchs in his studio in Octata (El Masnou) infusionesmusicales.com
Produced by Mayca Sanz and Elena Sánchez at Cicely Films, Barcelona.
Actor Joan Solé recited a fragment from Cant de totes les creaturesby Sant Francesc d'Assís.
Recorded by Solé himself in the topfloor on Carrer de la Perla in the neighborhood of Gràcia in Barcelona.
Made possible with the help of the Bishop of the Seu d’Urgell and the cordiality of Mossèn Mauri.
EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED
In a tiny village in Catalonia, the muralist Santi Moix has transformed a 1,100-year-old church into a place of pilgrimage both spiritual and artistic.
BY KATIE CHANG
PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICARDO LABOUGLE
AS A CHILD, the Barcelona-born painter Santi Moix often made weekend trips with his father to Saurí, a remote Catalan village of 16 people perched high in the Pyrenees. Now, at 57, Moix is perhaps the closest thing Saurí has to local celebrity, having built a career exhibiting work at the Brooklyn Museum and Milan´s M77 Gallery, and at Prada´s SoHo store (a 2013 commission) featuring his abstract, hypersaturated flora and fauna murals.
Five years ago, the local government and bishop asked if the artist might come and paint the interior of St. Victor, the village´s 1,100-year-old Romanesque church, whose plain stone walls had become dull and decrepit over time. Moix, who isn´t religious, was reluctant. Finally, after many months of negotiations, he agreed —but only if he´d be granted full artistic license, free from conceptual obligations to church or state. “I was clear that I would not paint saints or martyrs,” he says.
What he ended up producing is his largest piece to date, some 1,200 square feet of frescoes that cover most of the church, wich he describes as a “huge garden full of fantasy.” This news Eden —painstakingly mapped out in his Brooklyn studio— abounds with psychedelic daisies, spotted salamanders, beasts with tentacles and copulating sheep, all rendered in cloudlike swaths of grass green, cornflower and strawberry pink. After assistants sanded and plastered St. Victor´s walls (and covered up some mediocre art), Moix spent three years in Saurí, off and on, painting these scenes directly onto the building´s surfaces for up to 15 hours a day using handmade boar-bristle brushes and organic pigments diluted with water. “Like human skin and tattoos,” he says, “the colors will continue to absorb for month to come.”
The motifs that appear in this Fauvist natural world are central to Moix´s work, though he says that what he found more inspiring was the opportunity to trip a place of workship of its religious iconography. (St. Victor, wich has welcomed parishioners continuously since its founding in the ninth century, closed during the transformation, but will open again this month). “Churches used to strike fear with images of demons and fire,” Moix says. “I love the idea of overwhelming with colors instead.” The Catalan government and the diocese that hired him agree; its members conceived of this residency —wich will expand to pair other regional artist with neglected Catholic properties— as a way of replacing the once-vibrant Biblical paintings that had filled hundreds of churches in the region before they were sold or stolen.
In painting St. Victor, Moix was joining a storied tradition: The Catholic Church is, of course, responsible for much of the Christian world´s greatest artistic endeavors. But he is also part of a more recent movement, one that sees contemporary artist remaking religious spaces. Earlier this year, the American painter Julie Mehretu converted an out-of-use Harlem church into a soaring studio where she made giant, 32-foot-wide paintings (now on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and occasionally hosted visitors. The U.K.-based sculptor Gareth Neal and the designer Chris Eckersley recently reskinned one London church, and Neal will hold a solo show in another this March. And this winter, a space inspired by Romanesque chapels that was designed by the late Ellsworth Kelly will be unveiled at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Tex.
It´s easy to dismiss these projects as opportunistic, a way of claiming magnificent buildings that have been left behind in increasingly godless times i service of the art world´s love of larger-than-life spectacle. But Moix sees the commission as a way to revive a region —one currently fraught with conflict— that he once called home. “I want to give something to the locals that they can be proud of,” he says. Occasionally, as he´s been painting, Saurí residents have popped in, offering approving nods, or even prayers. In thse moments, Moix just lets them be.