Against a passionfruit and pomegranate backdrop, black swirls created a face that grinned like a friendly version of Alice’s Cheshire cat. The picture hung in my hotel room at Mallorca’s Hotel Horizonte, a wild splash of colour in an otherwise neutral place.
As it turned out, this was Petrol Art, a creative enterprise distilled from the desire to convert environmental damage into something more worthwhile. I caught up with the painting’s creator, Jimmy Pons, and asked him to tell me all about it.
“I started about 20 years ago,” he told me. “And I learned by practising, learning, trying.”
To make the paint, Jimmy collects lumps of black petrol sludge (or “tar biscuits” as he more optimistically describes them) from the leftovers that wash up on the shores of his native Spain. After soaking for several hours, the tough material softens to form a vivid, dramatic artistic material.
Such strong black lines could easily display horror or focus on destruction, yet by casting his strokes over rainbow canvases, Pons obviously takes a positive approach.
He’s a man who smiles a lot, with tanned skin and an age that’s hard to pin down.
“This is some of the work we’ve done with kids,” he says, leading me through a series of YouTube videos and Flickr photo collections, the first hint of his main occupation as an expert in social media.
“Now we have a series of BlogRooms,” he tells me, showing me a photo of the room that I stayed in.
This is the sort of thing I feel I should know already, but don’t. “What on earth is a BlogRoom?”
“A hotel must provide free wifi within the room and donate 200 Euros each year to a charity that cleans up environmental damage,” Pons explains. “We now have Petrol Art on display in five different hotels across Spain, from Mallorca to Asturias.”
It sounds like the perfect project for this enthusiastic man from Menorca: travel, art and saving the world, mixed in with a healthy dose of social media.
“Is there any danger that you’ll run out of materials?” I ask.
“Walking around Spain?” he says. “Sadly, not.”