GIRONELLA joaquim vicens

1911 . agullana . catalonia . spain

1997 . toulouse . france

Born in Catalonia, Joaquim Vicens Gironella became a cork maker as his family. As a teenager, he published articles and poems celebrating the qualities of cork oak in the local press. He also tried writing plays and novels. In 1936, anti-fascist, he joined the Republican army and directed the weekly journal entitled Military Unity. The victory of Franco’s forces necessitated his departure for France in February 1939, where he found himself interned for over a year in the camp of Bram, in Aude. After his release, Joaquim Gironella moved to Toulouse, started to work in a cork factory and married a fellow refugee. Around 1941, he began sculpting clay and the material he prefers: cork. The director of the factory, René Lajus, was interested in his work and asked him to lend him some sculptures for his Paris office. In 1948, Jean Dubuffet, who was still a wine merchant, visited Lajus’ office for a command of corks. He fell in love with his work and organized an exhibition at the Foyer de l’Art Brut. Progressively, Gironella transformed his technique, creating in particular mural panels, freely inspired by themes related to his native Catalonia, Islamic art, but also medieval representations. In 1990, he published a book in Catalan dedicated to the celebration of cork, Exaltatió del suro, containing his poems and illustrations; the publication is made entirely out of cork.