Humanity's Darkest And Funniest Hour

Prepare to be shocked, offended, or appalled: not necessarily by the often controversial works of Joan Cornellà but by the fact that you may find them so amusing.

March 15, 2017
We are all a little evil, a little sadistic. We sometimes foster thoughts that are a little too impure for the light of day. To put it in a quote: "…because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil, and good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature."

This quote from Apocalypse Now is about the fact that the dark side of Colonel Kurtz had won and that he had become pure evil. Fortunately, most people are good and don't need to suppress evil tendencies or immoral desires. Or do we?

That is the question Joan Cornellà asks. The Spanish artist whose work is widely known online and who is currently exhibiting his work in Bangkok explores the darker side of humanity through absurd and surreal illustrations. Often hilarious, Joan Cornellà knows no mercy for sacred subjects and uses every taboo he can get his hands on
Cornellà’s drawing style directly juxtaposes the story and sets us on a false path. The bright colors and cheery yet robotic and emotionless characters seem to live in a blissful world until things take an absurd or morbid turn. How to make a sad girl happy? Give her some heroin. How to get away with murder? Paint the white face of your victim black.

Yet there is more than just shock value in his work. If you examine it more closely you'll find he’s a keen observer of human nature, often exhibiting and unveiling our erratic and irrational behavior. At the end of his dark scenarios, there are usually happy beneficiaries. Sometimes these characters benefit from the suffering of others, but often the victim and beneficiary are one and the same.

Cornellà is mostly known for his more farcical work, which is widely present on the Internet where it perfectly fits in with meme culture. He doesn't, however, only stick to dark gags but effortlessly switches to surrealism and absurdity. Thus, his work fits in with that of Belgian surrealist contemporaries such as Herr Seele, Kamagurka, and Brecht Vandenbroucke, whom Cornellà identifies with. Their work, however, takes absurdity and surrealism to a higher level. This, combined with a lack of online presence, makes Cornellà's contemporaries virtually unknown in the mainstream.
Image: The Momentum
It is hard to assess whether the direct farcical nature of his work made him famous online or the fact that his type of humor fits in well with the online meme culture. The answer is probably both. The fact that his visual language is directly aimed at conveying a gag, story, or message helps with reaching a broader audience as well.

Although Cornellà's reach is great, his work remains controversial and is definitely not appreciated by everyone. You might be shocked by it. You could be offended or appalled by it. But don't be surprised when you find yourself giggling at it. His work, after all, exposes our ugly side, something all of us should try to embrace.

Joan Cornellà
Bangkok Solo Exhibition
March 10 – 26
Daily from 11 am – 10 pm
Future Factory Bangkok
Admission fee: 200 Baht