Unheard. Malika Favre, the designer of the poster of the festivities of La Mercè in Barcelona This year, he has managed to make his illustration go viral and receive the applause of the entire public. The French artist, based in Barcelona since shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, has drawn the figure of a solemn and empowered woman, but also with a religious and monarchical aura. “The magic is that each one sees something different,” considers Favre, who has managed to avoid controversy, a tradition that is repeated almost always when the festival poster is made public. This year, however, the illustration that will be omnipresent in the city from Thursday until Saturday has received unanimous approval.
“I have made a very positive image of the city and I think that is why it has been so well received,” says the artist. Faced with such success, the Barcelona City Council decided this Friday to distribute 15,000 posters throughout the city, taking the opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of this local festival. Just a day later the posters had already been sold out in several of the places where they were delivered, so some had to do a real gymkhana until they got hold of one of those plates.
Favre’s portfolio is bulky. Magazine The New Yorker has hired her to create some of his covers, Vogue Spain has knocked on your door and the organizers of the Swiss festival Montreux Jazz they asked him to design the poster of the 51st edition. Now he has stamped his art for the Barcelona City Council. “It is a project that I am very fond of, because of the reaction of an entire city, regardless of age, gender or political convictions,” explains the French illustrator, who set herself the goal of “finding the balance between the ancient and modern figure of a woman”.
The image of this Mercè is made up of mosaics, imitating the hydraulic floors of the old apartments in the Eixample district; a Holy Family turned into earrings and also the central element of the dress; the shield of Barcelona on the chest; and a crown made up of 11 people dancing a sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, presided over by a panot, the four-petal flower that is reflected in the cobblestones of many streets of the city. “In Barcelona you don’t have to go to a museum to nourish yourself with art, you just have to walk the streets and look up and down,” says Favre.
The use of the color red and yellow is inspired by the colors of the Catalan flag, the ‘”senyera”, explains the illustrator, who was studying Catalan culture and its symbols for a while to make the work. The result allows multiple interpretations and visions, even some of them antagonistic. “The patron saint of yesteryear becomes the queen of contemporary Barcelona,” he says. In Favre’s image you can also see the stamp of Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan modernist architect who created the Sagrada Familia, due to their similarity in terms of shapes.
The designer has printed several of her hallmarks on this poster. Geometry, for example, is one of his fetishes. “Nature is pure geometry, the golden ratio helps us to compose images, everything that surrounds us is governed by geometry … for me it is something almost sacred,” says the artist, who recognizes her fascination with these figures. The thick, carmine-colored lips also bear the stamp of the artist, who in her work aims to turn each element into a universal symbol. “I always look for the essence of everything and when I find it I add it to my visual language,” he says.
The light that illuminates the right half of La Mercè’s face from 2021 symbolizes the use of the mask, a Favre resource to portray the historical context in which we live in his art. A technique that, in addition, serves to add volume to the illustration and that has already been used in other illustrations.
The figure of the woman is frequent in his work. The reason? Very simple: “I am a woman and I draw what I know, understand and love. My women are always powerful, independent, sensual and symbolize all the strength we have,” she explains.
“My design is an idealization, but it is not a lie either”
The illustrator makes a cocktail with everything that she finds beautiful in Barcelona and channels it through this drawing. “My design is an idealization, but it is not a lie,” he acknowledges. There have also been elements that have remained in the inkwell. “Less is more,” he says. Another of his mantras.
Malika grew up in Paris. There he became interested in art, fashion, architecture and literature. In her teens, at the age of 16 she moved to London, where she found her calling as an illustrator. And at the beginning of 2020, before the coronavirus closed the borders and changed everything, he moved to Barcelona. “Here I have found the lifestyle I was looking for,” he says.
“What I like most about Barcelona are the lunchtime meals that last two hours and the squares full of children playing,” he says. Some of the talking points about the city, like the superblocks or the tactical urbanism of Colau, catch it with a different foot; you haven’t had time to form an opinion yet. However, it strongly supports those measures that make the city a more sustainable place.
Without planning too much, because he does not know what he will do and where he will live tomorrow, Favre reveals that he is now working on the design of the covers for a collection of books on the classics of world literature. “It was a dream I had had for many years,” he acknowledges.