In: Julio Falagán

October 14, 2016

10 Spanish Artists Under 40

This not-at-all-comprehensive list includes some of the most exciting representatives of the contemporary Spanish art scene. Despite belonging to a generation of highly qualified Spaniards that do not have many chances of succeeding in their home country, these young creators have already caught the eye of critics, curators and the public. Scroll down to discover their work.

Mercedes Pimiento

Mercedes Pimiento, ‘Monument#1’, 2016. Paraffin, 80 x 100 x 80 cm. © Mercedes Pimiento.

Mercedes Pimiento, ‘Monument#1’, 2016. Paraffin, 80 x 100 x 80 cm. © Mercedes Pimiento.

The work of Mercedes Pimiento (Sevilla, 1990) revolves around architectural structures and materials, particularly those that go to waste. She puts the emphasis on the ruins of the capitalist “monuments” of the 21st century by creating her own anti-monuments, small in scale and often made of fragile materials such as soap. In a country full of unnecessary and abandoned megalithic buildings -the result of decades of property speculation- Pimiento’s work make us think about the precariousness of our current sociopolitical system.

Miguel Laino

Miguel Laino, 'I listen to the stillness of you', 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm. © Miguel Laino.

Miguel Laino, ‘I listen to the stillness of you’, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm. © Miguel Laino.

Miguel Laino (Huelva, 1980) studied fashion at Central St Martins in London and worked with renowned designers such as Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. However, after seeing a Georg Baselitz retrospective in 2008, he decided to commit himself to being a painter. He usually reinterprets images from online and print media that he finds compelling, in a process that involves the subconscious more than the conceptual. His piece “Didier” was chosen by Chantal Joffe as the winner of the recent Painted Faces Showdown in Saatchi Art and exhibited at The Griffin Gallery, London.

Guillermo Mora

Guillermo Mora, ‘Dos casi cinco’, 2012. 60 kg. of acrylic paint. 61 x 48 x 36 cm. © Guillermo Mora.

Guillermo Mora, ‘Dos casi cinco’, 2012. 60 kg. of acrylic paint. 61 x 48 x 36 cm. © Guillermo Mora.

Guillermo Mora (Alcalá de Henares, 1980) is currently a resident at ISCP, New York. He often uses paint as his artistic medium, but in original and unconventional ways. Some of his most characteristic works consist on layering great amounts of acrylic and vinyl paint that he later folds and piles up to form sculptural blocks. His recent work looks at the forgotten histories of painting and specifically at ideas about acts of concealment, overlapping and disappearance. The motto “add, subtract, multiply and divide” guides his artistic process.

Almudena Lobera

Almudena Lobera, ‘The Proof’, 2015-2016. Audio-installation. Dark room, framed latent image, altar, liquids for analogic photography in glass containers, safe light lamps, 3-voice audio. ©Almudena Lobera.

Almudena Lobera, ‘The Proof’, 2015-2016. Audio-installation. ©Almudena Lobera.

Almudena Lobera (Madrid, 1984) works in a variety of mediums and formats, including sculpture, performance and installation. Drawing is also essential to her work, which aims to show alternative models for the configuration of the visible, delving deeply into the notion that the image is not always visible or accessible in nature. The work pictured above, “The Proof”, was part of her exhibition A latent revelation, hosted by Galería Max Estrella (Madrid) earlier this year. She is currently based in Ghent, Belgium.

Julio Falagan

Julio Falagan, 'Untitled', 2015. © Julio Falagan.

Julio Falagan, ‘Untitled’, 2015. © Julio Falagan.

Through his collages, installations, and other ‘rarities’ –as he calls them— Julio Falagan (Valladolid, 1979) seeks to dignify the banal and the obsolete. His works lead us to think about social constructions and their fissures by putting dogmas into question. I find particularly interesting how he recycles old paintings found in street markets. He modifies them in different ways, often by cutting them into pieces to compose new works with their fragments, other times by leaving his own mark on them to add new layers of meaning.

Cristina Garrido

Cristina Garrido, '#JWIITMTESDSA? (Just what is it that makes today´s exhibitions so different, so appealing?)', 2015. Mixed-media installation and HD video. © Cristina Garrido.

Cristina Garrido, ‘#JWIITMTESDSA? (Just what is it that makes today´s exhibitions so different, so appealing?)’, 2015. Mixed-media installation and HD video. © Cristina Garrido.

Cristina Garrido (Madrid, 1986) investigates the value that is assigned to objects, and particularly to those objects classified as art. Through common and repetitive gestures, such as picking up, collecting, and archiving, she studies the circulation of artistic objects in the art market and examines curatorial practices. In her 2015 award-winning installation “#JWIITMTESDSA? (Just what is it that makes today´s exhibitions so different, so appealing?)”, for instance, she proposed a critical reflection on the success of contemporary art exhibitions.

Marina Vargas

Marina Vargas, ‘Apolo Hile’, 2015. © Marina Vargas.

Marina Vargas, ‘Apolo Hile’, 2015. © Marina Vargas.

Mythology, symbolism and art history are usually present in the work of Marina Vargas (Granada, 1980). She mainly uses traditional media such as painting, sculpture, and especially drawing, but she has managed to create a very distinct and personal language that has an enormous power over the viewer. In the past few years she has explored the idea of destroying and questioning the classical canon. An image that keeps appearing in her projects is that of the inverted pieta.

Blanca Gracia

Blanca Gracia, ‘Celebraciones de vuelta’ (project ‘Walkabout’), 2015. Oil on canvas, 89 x 130 cm. © Blanca Gracia.

Blanca Gracia, ‘Celebraciones de vuelta’ (project ‘Walkabout’), 2015. Oil on canvas, 89 x 130 cm. © Blanca Gracia.

Watching the animations created by Blanca Gracia (Madrid, 1989) is almost an immersive experience. They lead the viewer into and exotic world populated with noble contemporary savages that provide an evasion from our current reality. These animations originate from Gracia’s incredibly imaginative drawings and paintings, where she merges wild anthropology theories, explorers from pseudo-fictitious worlds and lunatic expeditions, all with a flavour of our contemporary world.

Borondo

Borondo, ‘SHAME’, Athens, Greece, 2013. © Borondo.

Borondo, ‘SHAME’, Athens, Greece, 2013. © Borondo.

Gonzalo Borondo (Valladolid, 1989), known simply as Borondo, is a street artist based in London whose large-size and very expressive murals cover the walls of buildings all over the world. However, some of his most characteristic work is made on glass, which he covers with white paint that is scraped and scratched from the inside of neglected windows to reveal haunting images. The human figure, and particularly the naked body, is at the centre of his artistic vision, which take its influence from the great Spanish master, Francisco de Goya.

Saelia Aparicio

Saelia Aparicio, 'Pickled Balloons', 2015. © Saelia Aparicio.

Saelia Aparicio, ‘Pickled Balloons’, 2015. © Saelia Aparicio.

Saelia Aparicio (Ávila, 1982) studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London. Her recent work establishes analogies between corporeal and social mechanisms, delving into different ideas of the organic to create artificial microcosms that tell us something about our own reality. To achieve this, she uses a multiplicity of materials and processes, always with a poetic approach in mind. In one of her most recent projects, Epidermal Speleology, she explores the concept of ‘abjection’.

Last week was Art Week in Madrid. Although the main event this year was the celebration of the 35 anniversary of ARCO, Spain’s biggest and most famous contemporary art fair, there were so many interesting alternatives (ArtMadrid, JustMad, Room Art Fair, Drawing Room, We Are Fair! and Casa Leibniz) that it was tough to choose among them.

I usually find regular commercial fairs quite overwhelming, with their endless corridors and lack of space between stands. So, this year I decided to visit those that promised a different experience: Room Art Fair and Casa Leibniz.

Both of them took place inside splendid nineteenth-century buildings located opposite each other in the lively district of Chueca. I was able to visit them in the same day, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the works exhibited and the radically different concepts behind them.

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Room Art Fair put the emphasis on the active role given to the spectator. Each gallery or curatorial project occupied one of the 36 rooms of the Petit Palace Santa Bárbara Hotel, where visitors could find the works of emerging artists from all over Europe, as well as those of the three winners of the New Curators Project.

One of these was Texturas Sonoras (Sound Textures), curated by María Castellanos, which consisted on a site specific interactive installation by artist Alberto Valverde. Inside a dark room, a luminescent structure projected onto the ceiling and bed developed in response to the sounds produced by the visitors’ presence. I was mesmerised by the changing patterns that were created by a spectrum of frequencies that our brain ignores, and it was great to talk to both artist and curator about the different environments in which they had recorded ambient sounds resulting in incredibly colourful and intricate images.

Photography also had an important presence in many of the rooms. I was particularly drawn to a series titled I called her Lisa-Marie by young French photographer Clémentine Schneidermann, represented by Galerie Huit Arles. Schneidermann explores the legend of Elvis through images of his fans and doubles taken during an annual festival held in his honour in a small town in South Wales, which she combines with photographs of the King’s home in Memphis, Tennessee, blurring the lines between document and fiction in the viewer’s mind.

‘Robbie, Abergavanny, Wales’, 2015. 70 x 70cm. C-Type print. © Clémentine Schneidermann, Courtesy Galerie Huit.

Another project involving photography that I found particularly interesting was the one presented by Març Rabal and Kiko Navarro at Galería Artara. Both artists work around the theme of boxing through the lens of gender: Rabal uses collage to create subtle but powerful images in which she merges the bodies and attributes of ballet dancers and male boxers, while Navarro’s black and white photographs situate the viewer inside the world of female boxing, where the contrast between the masculine and the feminine is brought to the surface.

Març Rabal and Kiko Navarro, Galería Artara.

Perhaps one of the rooms in which the works exhibited were better integrated in the space was the one occupied by Mad is Mad, a local gallery located minutes away from the fair.

Assaf Iglesias, Frédérique Bangerter and Berta López, Mad is Mad.

Assaf Iglesias and Frédérique Bangerter’s fine drawings and Berta López’s carefully arranged objects and embroidered messages occupy every corner of the room as if they were meant to be there. The dark grey tiles in the bathroom seem particularly fitting for the subtle colours and enigmatic forms in Iglesias’ works.

Assaf Iglesias, Mad is Mad.

Although the constant flood of people entering and exiting the rooms was a bit stressful and made the experience feel a bit like speed dating, I was very impressed by the way artists transformed the space and made it their own.

Walking along the corridors and peeking through open doors accentuated the embarrassing yet exciting feeling of invading people’s privacy over and over. To me, the most interesting aspect about Room Art Fair was the intimate atmosphere created inside the small hotel rooms, which facilitated the interaction between the artists and the general public.

Visiting Casa Leibniz was a completely different experience. In its second edition, this small art fair coordinated by Sara G. Arjona brought together 13 galleries and 23 Spanish artists whose works were displayed in the high-ceilinged rooms of the Santa Bárbara palace.

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The main purpose was to “create an inhabitable space to enjoy, understand and talk about new art”. It felt more like an exhibition than a commercial art fair, which made it easier to connect to the space and the works selected. These were accompanied by a group of 8 panels with texts by contemporary Spanish writers and philosophers, including Félix de Azúa and Chantal Maillard, which were purposely difficult to skim through. Visitors could decide whether or not to stop for a few minutes to read them, but they were meant to be as important as the artworks.

From the moment I entered the building, its nineteenth-century architecture and cracking wooden floors made me slow down and forget about the noisy street outside. The experience resembled that of slowly turning the pages of a carefully illustrated book. The rooms were almost empty, giving visitors the chance to move around the artworks and observe them from different perspectives, while the open windows served as blank pages where one could pause and breathe before moving to the next object.

Julio Falagán, ‘Way of Escape’.

Some of the projects seemed to fit this unique environment particularly well. This was the case with Julio Falagán’s Way Of Escape, an installation composed of several pieces of old landscape paintings. Falagán uses the old to construct a hopeful view of the present, which is nevertheless fragmented and held together by visible threads. He is interested in the sky as the last remaining free space, owned by no one in a world full of borders and restrictions.

Rubén Martín de Lucas, ‘Minimal Republics’.

Falagán’s work was not the only one to deal with territorial frontiers. Rubén Martín de Lucas’s Minimal Republics, for instance, dealt with the artificial and ephemeral nature of our borders. The artist intervened in three different landscapes and drew three temporary spaces that he inhabited for 24 hours. These experiences were shown through a video installation whose strange power of attraction kept me glued to the screen for a good ten minutes.

Ignacio Canales Aracil, ‘Ver a través’.

Ignacio Canales Aracil’s Ver a través made visitors literally see the space around them through the fragility of time and nature. It is easy to get trapped in the delicate web of pressed flowers that he uses to create his sculptures, which he has exhibited in several countries including the UK and Australia.

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Gloria Martín, ‘Lo flamenco’.

In the same room I was drawn to Gloria Martín’s figurative paintings. They were part of her project Réplica, through which the artist establishes links between her hometown, Seville, and Brussels, where she has been working recently. Her images transport us to a different realm where artistic objects from different provenience and cultures can coexist, which was precisely the aim of Casa Leibniz: to create a different time.

The longer I stayed inside the Santa Bárbara palace, the more it felt like a refuge from the outside world. Those lucky enough not to be in a hurry could enjoy the incredible experience of letting go of time to give each work and piece of literature the attention it deserved.

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