Tàpies was born in Barcelona. A self-taught artist, his early work was influenced by Surrealism but from 1953 he began to make abstract works in mixed media. He would 'paint' with a thick paste made of glue, marble dust, plaster and paint: a mixture that produced a substance resembling cement or volcanic lava. Tàpies was interested in exploring the physicality of his materials and also wished to challenge the accepted concept of 'fine art'. He was strongly influenced by the art of the insane and by graffiti, and his work is often associated with the pessimism of the existentialist movement.