I have a strange relationship with bullfighting. I saw the first bullfight in Spain in 2009. The bullfighting arena was like its own little world with its own rules and aesthetics. It’s like an opera where a dramatic story was told with great emotion. But most of all, the smells, sounds and hot sunshine made me feel very sad.
I was reading Ernst Hemingway’s book ”Death in the Afternoon.” At the beginning of the book, he describe how matadors are transported to the arena. It’s cramped in the car because the matadors had heavy combat jackets on. The book describes this very moment as the worst of the day. The battle is getting closer and the matador can’t do anything about it during the whole cramped car ride. The matador lives with death every day and therefore becomes very distant. After reading that part, I was reminded of the bullfight I saw in 2009. The same sense of sadness overwhelmed me.
My first bullfighting drawings I made right after the bull fight at the espresso café to my sketchbook. Over the years, I have occasionally made portrait drawings of sad matadors. Now I Googled bullfighting photos, especially old black and white ones. I poured indian ink into a container, took a feather and I painted my the first bullfighting drawings in years. At the same time as drawing those bullfighting drawings, I was wondering at my painful relationship with force and violence.
When I read more about Hemingway’s book ”Death this afternoon”, I learned more about bullfighting techniques. It felt like when I found out how a magician does his magic tricks, sad when the enchantment disappears. The bullfighter’s brilliance pales in as I read that when a bullfighter forced the bull into quick turns and quick stops, the bull cripples its spine and damages its leg and eventually exhausts itself.
During this time, when many men value strength and muscle more than real information, it occurs to me from Hemingway’s book where people had asked the famous bullfighter Rafael Gomez ”EL Gallo, what kind of exercises does he do to keep his body strong enough for bullfighting? Gallo replied: ”What on earth would I do with force, a bull weighs 500 kilos. Should I use my powers to be as strong as a bull?” ”May the bull keep its strength.”
Bull or a man? I think man is a bull until he start thinking, then man is a man.