When someone asks us to picture a garden, inevitably we begin to work our imagination. We picture in our minds the texture of the leaves, the colors of the flowers, and maybe some birds flying around. But what happens when we see something that disrupts our imagination?
Not all pictures show everything clearly. On the contrary, there are some images that ask us questions, that make us doubt about what exactly we are watching. There are images that hide many possible meanings and demand from us a special way of looking.
This is exactly what El tríptico de los encantados (una pantomima bosquina) by Max does.
El tríptico de los encantados is the first comic book published by El Museo del Prado, one of the most important museums of art in Madrid. It was written and illustrated by Francesc Capdevila, better known as Max, a personality of the comic scene in Spain.
This very recent publication was in honor of the 500th anniversary of the death of painter El Bosco. It is quite remarkable that an institution such as El Museo del Prado would publish a comic book to commemorate the work of an artist considered one of the pillars of the history of art. Despite our classical vision of his art, El Bosco was a very modern painter. He explored different ways of expression and created poetry in visuals that implies theology, erotism, and a special use of color.
On the other hand, Max is a comic book artist who developed his career in the underground scene in Spain. His work is recognized internationally and is one of the most important renovators of the comic industry in his country.
His style is between the grotesque — influenced by Robert Crumb — and a surrealistic aesthetic that make his work a very interesting combination. Through the years, Max evolved as an artist and developed a way of expressing through the comic language in which drawings and words create a visual narrative. Max has a particular style that explores the possibilities of expression of the comic language and allows him to transform showing into telling.
El tríptico de los encantados is an interpretation in words and images of three paintings: Extracción de la piedra de la locura, Las tentaciones de San Antonio Abad and El jardín de las delicias by El Bosco. Although this book is not a work based in the paintings, it is a retelling and an exploration of El Bosco’s art.
Many scholars and art critics have tried to understand El Bosco’s paintings. They have written theories in order to understand them and develop systems of interpretation to get close to the “real meaning” of the paintings. But in this particular case, only an artist can truly understand another artist. Max creates a narrative that implies a theological interpretation of the paintings, but more importantly, the process of the imagination and how it takes part in the process of creating and the process of reading. In this particular comic book, Max involves the reader into the narrative and invites him to be part of a game in which things are not necessarily what they look like.
Max chose only two colors, black and an particular orange that pretends to be red, to establish a difference to the colorful paintings of El Bosco. He picks up some characters of the paintings and creates his own version of them. Max gives personality and a voice to the figures represented in El Bosco’s paintings to create a narrative.
At this point, we might say that Max creates a visual map that connects all the elements to tell a story. Max has created a visual language that presents to the reader different routes to travel around the book. In this book, we have to read the images and the words combined and follow a line that transform itself in other lines and directions.
In this comic book, the reader will find a invitation to a journey through the drawings where the possibilities of the imagination make everything possible. A sinister rabbit walking through the page; a man acting like a riding horse; a saint who speaks with a clever pig; a small demon who walks around with a little spear; and a man who suffers one of the must fascinating sickness: an imagination out of control.