• Gyotaku: the spirit of a fish at ´La Pecera´

    An ancient Japanese fisherman’s technique, the vastness of the sea and a great talent to shape ideas.

    As if he were a fishmonger or a bartender, the merchant of La Pecera unfolds his apron and ties it to his waist before attending his customers. But don´t expect him to fillet a fish, or serve you a pint. Instead, he will present us the works that are hanging in this particular market stall.


    During the first weeks of November, a dozen works of art have been covering a wall of the gallery La Pecera de la CebadaThe fish bowl of la Cebada. Visual artist and designer Noelia Báscones Reina has created these works for the gallery at the Madrilenian market Mercado de La Cebada and has titled the exhibition: GYO/collection.

    The leading actors of these simple, but solid works of art are printed fish. These fish transferred on paper in black ink have been made with the real fishes as a template, a Japanese technique called gyotaku. They are rubbed with non toxic ink and pressed against the rice paper, resulting in an accurate reproduction of the very own animal.

    The reproductions on paper were indeed the main purpose, used by Japanese fisherman to show their buyers their daily catch at the fish auction. 

    Noelia Báscones Reina, Pez grande pez pequeño

    So, what better location to show this technique nowadays, than a market? Don´t we all like to see the fish, the meat, the vegetables, or any other produce before we buy it? Especially at a market we have a very good opportunity to check their quality and freshness, and let the seller advice us. 

    Aside from the beauty of these depicted fish, what adds up to the value of this exhibition, in my opinion, is that the artist not only shows us the technique, but is adding different layers to her works, and I´m not only referring to the layers of material, of course. 

    Noelia Báscones Reina, Lapiz – tinta

    In a very subtle way she includes pieces of robe as if they were scraps of a fishing-net, or secures a few grates beneath a seam, to bring important issues to debate, such as the alarming pollution of our seas or the enormous amounts of food waste we all generate. She also points a fish in the direction of a plate made by a round laced paper or adds eating sticks or cutlery to reflect aboutour current consumption habits. We can even read the wavy paper as the metallic store shutter, through which the fish in this case, has to be transported in order to be sold, as a little reminder of the journey from the sea to our table. 

    Noelia Báscones Reina, Espina I, Plato I, Cuca

    None of the materials or the words that Noelia has used have been chosen lightly, each one adds depth, resulting in collection of modern still lifes that exude quality and freshness, just like the fish at the auction. 

    Thanks to this exhibition at La Pecera, the market not only offers food, but it gives us the opportunity to reflect on the provenance of the products, on the way we eat and on the waste that is generated by the product itself and its capture or production.

    We leave this market stall hungry, with the urge to visit more. During only a few weeks, we have seen the immense sea in just a little fish bowl.

  • Arte cisoria and mastering the art of the knive

    Do you know the feeling when you start with something on your to-do list and you realize you have no idea what you´re doing? Or that you still have quite a lot to learn, which doesn´t sound as bad. When you´re listening to ´the expert´, and the only thing you can do is nod and make sounds, like: ooh, uh-huh, sure…

    Well, that´s what recently happened to me when I took some kitchen knives to the sharpener at the local market. I have to admit that he had quite some things to teach me about the matter. Half the knives I brought weren´t even worth sharpening anymore, the pour things.

    Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash

    While I was listening to the master himself explain about the sharpening techniques and the correct use of knives and scissors, my eyes wandered around the shop, with all its instruments, until suddenly a very interesting object came into my sight: a dark book with gold lettering. It was titled: “Arte cisoria, o Arte del cortar del cuchillo”, which means something like: The art of mastering a cutting knife. Even though the first edition came out during the sixteenth century, the manuscript was already written by Enrique de Villena in 1423, as commissioned by Sancho de Jarava, who was in charge of cutting the royal meals of the king Don Juan II.

    Arte del cortar del cuchillo, 1763. Biblioteca Nacional de España.

    It was intended as a useful book, describing the science behind the cutting techniques, and bringing it closer to the work of a surgeon that to that of a cook. The master of the knife was both key to the monarchs diet and to the presentation of the food or the ceremonial aspects around the table. And besides that, the manuscript also includes a few images, showing us some of the different tools a professional cutter needed.

    Taking a look at this manuscript, we can agree that the cutter is asked to be a connoisseur, to know his job perfectly, or at least try to, as much as possible. Isn´t this exactly what we need to look for when we take some knives to sharpen them, for example? It´s essential to be able to count on professionals at our local markets. They need us, especially nowadays, and it is clear we also need them.

    With these kinds of visits to the market, I usually take something else home, something great and intangible, besides the food in my shopping bag. What do you take with you when you come home from the market?


    D uring the build of the new city market in Cuenca in the 1960´s, a very special order was made, which was intended to give the construction a more artistic look, but without losing sight of the purpose of the building, which was of course the gathering and selling of food. The work was commissioned but was eventually never placed, and the market was finished without its intended artistic look.

    Last week I was speechless when visiting the exhibition on the work of the ceramist Pedro Mercedes at the museum Casa Zavala in Cuenca. Not only because I was introduced to the work of this artist, but because I discovered what the commission for the market was all about. Pedro Mercedes made a series of fascinating works that are indeed close related to the theme mycurioseaty is also into… Indeed, food! Some of the murals we already shown to the public in 2007, for me however, they were completely new.

    One of the rooms of this exhibition is designated to a series of murals that he created to decorate the façade of the city market after it was build sixty years ago. With his characteristic scraping technique, Pedro Mercedes created spectacular images of daily scenes related to large part of the food chain and, in particular to the market life.

    He made a total of sixteen individually themed murals, which were formed by several smaller panes. This was necessary due to the measurements and consecutive restrictions of the clay oven. Part of these murals can still be admired at this exhibition until next December 16th. As soon as you enter the room where they are on now located, you are overwhelmed with the images. A different lively scenery is displayed on each of them, it´s hard to pick just one of them, they all capture your attention and make you stare at all the figures and objects they show us.

    No sketches or preliminary drawings were made. The ideas Pedro Mercedes had in mind were directly transformed into the clay with his scraping technique, resulting in these beautiful two-coloured murals. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. They are worth admiring.

    Pedro Mercedes, Harvesting with love, scraped clay panes. Temporary exhibition Casa Zavala, Cuenca.

    Pedro Mercedes, Farmers to the market, scraped clay panes. Temporary exhibition Casa Zavala, Cuenca.

    Pedro Mercedes, The butcher shop, scraped clay panes. Temporary exhibition Casa Zavala, Cuenca.

    Pedro Mercedes, The bakery, scraped clay panes. Temporary exhibition Casa Zavala, Cuenca.

    Pedro Mercedes, The fish shop, scraped clay panes. Temporary exhibition Casa Zavala, Cuenca.

    A frieze on the market´s façade was reserved to place these murals decades ago. The frieze is located at street level just beside the sidewalk and currently beside parking spaces as well. It´s not difficult to image that this location was perfect for quick decay and that vandals wouldn´t have to try too hard to damage the murals. The decision therefore not to place them after all, to preserve them, to avoid decay and to avoid direct damage has made it possible for us today to be able to admire them. Despite that, it would have been interesting to see them at their original location, for which Pedro Mercedes made one of the largest works of his entire career.