Joan Cornellà - 24/7: Online Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, July 20, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Catalogue Essay

    “I think we all laugh at misery. We must start from the idea that when we laugh, we laugh at someone or something. With empathy or not, there is always some degree of cruelty. In spite of that, I am aware that if one of my cartoons happened in real life I would not laugh at all.” —— Joan Cornellà  

    Internet sensation Joan Cornellà Vázquez, or better known by his first two names, was born in Barcelona in 1981. Known for his comic strips and artworks that are full of satire, Cornellà rose to fame via his colourful 6-panel comic strips originating as Facebook posts. With a simplistic visual language, bold outlines and the same, stoic facial expressions on every character in his works,  Cornellà contrasts a bright colour palette with dark humour. Without any dialogue, the images speak for themselves through simple visual cues.


    Installation view of the current work at Taipei Huashan 1914 Creative Park, 2019


    With a fixed gaze and stiff smiles, the characters in Cornellà's works are permanently set in their complacent delight of the suffering of others, or sometimes, even themselves. His unique and absurd portrayal of these surreal situations pokes fun at traditionally prohibited subjects with gory scenes of amputation, cannibalism, abortion, and suicide — no subject is off limits.


    However, what transforms Cornellà's art from macabre to dark humor is the vein of humanity that runs through it. In the current work, a little girl looks to her father to help fix the broken record player. Desperate to help, the father uses his own fingers as a plug to connect the record player to the electrical socket, shocking himself as electricity runs through his body, with smoke and blood gushing out of his head. Though evidently in a lot of pain, the father still  has the plastered smile ubiquitous on all of Cornellà's characters. Oblivious to the damage this is causing others, the little girl joyously breaks into song and dance, happily enjoying her music with the same stiff smile.


    Animated version of the current work, RECCO 


    The present work was made into a 6-panel comic and short animation, expanding the story of the work. Furthermore, the artist posted the comic with the caption “Happy Father’s Day” on Instagram on the day in 2019, adding a final comedic touch.         


    Left: The Artist's Instagram on Father's Day, 16 June 2019
    Right: Comic strip version of the current work shown on the Artist’s instagram and in his book, SOT


    Revelling in absurdity and impropriety, the myriad of unconventional situations in Cornellà's creative universe elicits an uncomfortable reaction at first, but gives way to a guilty smirk and laughter, recalling the quirky series Happy Tree Friends which is also rooted in dark humour. These simple stories deliberately provoke the public and awaken feelings that help us recognise our limits; but most importantly, call out the hypocrisy, inequality and cruelty that is prevalent in our society.


    Joan Cornellà lives and works in Barcelona. His works have been on view across the globe in Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Paris, New York and London.  In September 2016, Cornellà designed the album cover for Chicago-based alternative band Wilco, Schmilco, which was also a modified version of the present work.


    Wilco's Schmilco, cover design by Joan Cornellà
    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Taipei, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Joan Cornellà: A Solo Exhibition, 25 November - 11 December 2016


Untitled #1

signed 'Joan Cornellà' lower left
acrylic on canvas
100 x 100 cm. (39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

HK$200,000 - 400,000 

Sold for HK$1,008,000

Contact Specialist

Hin Hin Wong
Associate Specialist, 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2013
[email protected]

24/7: Online Auction

Online Auction 21 - 30 July 2021