If you grew up in Germany in the Eighties, chances are the name ‘Mordillo’ rings a bell. Some might have forgotten about his art, but at that time he was practically everywhere. His little round, white figures with the big nose – in German we called that ‘Knollennase’ – where absolutely iconic, his worlds were colourful and melancholic at the same time and his humour was ‘in the face’ and subtle at the same time.

Mordillo’s art was loved by many different people. Marcel Marceau liked the tenderness displayed in the pictures, “giving people hope in the light of the inevitable, hanging like a cloud above our heads”, Jane Birkin observed that Mordillo’s characters have a “childlike conviction” of wanting to fly before ultimately crashing. And looking at those little figures running around some labyrinth-like worlds Brazilian footballer Pelé felt “a similar joy as scoring a goal”.

For me, there is one particular way almost engraved in the back of my memory of how I encountered Mordillo’s art: The large 1500 piece jigsaw puzzles in their typical black triangular boxes. As a teenager I’ve put together a few, and of this, there’s one that certainly connected with me. It’s titled ‘Mordillo Tornado’ and it’s a pirate ship under construction. And while below construction work is progressing, high up in the rig all the usual pirate mischief is going on. Little did I know that years later in my professional life I’d find out that things at the yard aren’t too dissimilar….

This week Guillermo Mordillo y Meléndez passed away at the age of 86. His wonderful insight into the poetry of struggle will live on forever.