— Text by Marcel Feil, 2016

The magical and colourful world created by Bubi Canal vividly celebrates the maintenance of a healthy dose of naiveté and optimism. 

When working through the countless photographs that present themselves each day, it’s rare to be suddenly jolted awake by an image totally different from all the others you’ve seen. It happened to me with an image by Bubi Canal, an artist who originally comes from Santander in Spain but has lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York, for some years. It stood out for its deployment of bright, primary colours and geometric shapes to create a unique and fantastical show: colourful, naive, simple, but extremely direct and powerful. Although it caught my attention immediately, I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. Was there an element of irony or cheap kitsch? Was it serious? No idea. At any rate it wasn’t like anything I knew or had seen before. Welcome to the universe of Bubi Canal. 

Bubi Canal is an artist who creates a fantasy world all of his own, against the trend and oblivious to fashion and hype. In his work he uses materials from his immediate surroundings (with an obvious fondness for brightly coloured objects, ranging from children’s toys to cheap plastic cutlery) or costumes he designs and makes himself. With the aid of photography, video, installation and performance, he creates a universe where the sun always shines, where there is space for dreams, fantasy and a magical reality lost to most of us along with the innocence of childhood. It is a place where that innocence and astonishment can still exist, an innocence all too often foreign to the world of the arts.

The characters in his work are usually played by close friends of the artist or by Bubi himself, a bearded young man with big brown eyes. As well as appendages and weird and wonderful dolls, which he makes with the greatest possible care in his small New York studio, he constructs tableaux that, although unique in the art world, contain countless references – to the world of Disney and to the Japanese children’s series that Bubi watched as a child, for example, but also to stereotypical images of fairies, magicians and priests, with all their accompanying spiritual and religious paraphernalia. 

Through his work Bubi Canal hopes to make a real contribution to the creation of a better world and greater positivity among people. Naive? Perhaps. But it is a laudable artistic aspiration and one that he pursues with passion. Under the title Manual he has published a kind of visual manifesto in which he combines black-and-white images with hope-filled, cheerful messages. 

Alongside works that feature characters and often contain a loose narrative, Bubi Canal also creates playful still lifes constructed from colourful toys. These cheap items are rearranged, stacked and transformed into totem-like objects that each have a mysterious aura. On the one hand these works have a connection with surrealism and the use of the objet trouvé, on the other hand they refer to objects with a magical charge that feature in the rituals of non-Western cultures – once, unsurprisingly, a source of inspiration to many surrealists. 

Bubi Canal’s work has at its core the power of transformation and an ability to create a world that is entirely his own, a world defined by willpower and by faith and confidence in our innate creativity. Or as he puts it himself: ‘You can change whatever is around you and create whatever you dream.’ Bubi Canal’s dream of confidence, faith, love and positivity might be called childlike and naive or seen as pure escapism, but in today’s world, in which so many people are trying to escape everyday routine by means of a virtual reality that is anything but hopeful, his is a voice as refreshing as it is infectious.