Macarrón. Liquid scenographies | Kosme de Barañano

Rafa Macarrón is one of the most interesting voices of the present-day Spanish art scene. His work moves between the Spanish heritage that comes from the painting of Picasso to Saura, Mompó to Bonifacio, and the trace of a liquid figuration seen in Arshile Gorky or Roberto Matta, and the meaning of Jean Dubuffet’s Art-Brut and Philip Guston’s All this cultural baggage, not learnt in any Spanish or foreign faculty, but rather seen motu proprio, led him to crystallize – in his alchemic melting pot – a figurative painting whose narrative takes us to a distinctive new world.

New generations of Spanish artists, born starting from the 1980s, have seen that their success is either worldwide – at least crossing the Atlantic – or does not exist at all. They are rooted in Spanish tradition but with an outlook which, from the outset, goes much further. Rosalía starts her recent song “LLYLM” (lie like you love me), with the words “I am from here….I will say it in English and you will understand me”. Following this acoustic introduction, there is a moment of silence before a catchy pop melody begins: “I don’t need honesty, baby, lie like you love me”. It is the perfect mix, an international song, a rupture with flamenco brushstrokes.

“Painting involves transmitting the emotion that we have inside and being capable of transmitting it to the spectator”, explain Rafa Macarrón. This artist’s goal is to show strange and fun worlds through his paintings, with the desire and hope to transmit happiness or an emotion, like music does. If Rosalía emerged from flamenco, with the albums Los Angeles and El Mal Querer, Macarrón emerged from that Spanish tradition of original graphics, which came from Goya and included Picasso (with The Dream and Lie of Franco) and Saura, from the distorted figure of Barjola or of Bonifacio, but observing and understanding very well the distortions of the British (Sutherland, Bacon) and the Americans (Gorky, Guston, etc.).

In the present painting Nueva York (226 x 366 cm) six original figures are interlinked in a dialogue focused on looks and on the gestures of their extremities. Their fingers and toes, of which there are never five, are distorted like Picasso’s finger/phallus from the time of Guernica, influenced by the imagery of the mediaeval Blessed, shown to him by Juan Larrea. Macarrón presents his characters as if emerging from the pictorial space, occupying the entire scene (consisting of greys and blacks), or as if trying to emerge from it. Their hands and feet, uneven or huge, alter the perspective and everything floats in a deconstructed space. In this respect, his sculptures arise from his own painting.

The composition, created with sprays, acrylic and strokes with oil sticks, is based on the tension of strange bodies and their positions, with huge eyes, not arranged symmetrically, which transfer the tension to us, as if it were an adventure of Mort and Phil. Macarrón shows us his painted universe, his ghosts, like Graham Sutherland presented his animated forest. They both use simple images of strange characters or animals with an elementary graphic language (which comes from cartoons), but with a unique poetic load in their personal zoology.

Macarrón’s figures, his characters, are also characterized by deformed hands and feet, by eyes which pop out of their sockets and which are not placed parallel, and by strange heads with jaws of many teeth. He makes them live in a setting beyond the literary threat, encapsulating them like in a zoo behind the glass barrier. He does not pause on the specific details of the face, on the Aristotelian similarity, but rather he blurs all these details, drowns them in alcohol, and individual features become animal features. For Green Tree Form 1940 (Tate Gallery, London), Sutherland took a tree fallen on a grassy bank, with its roots exposed, isolated this “found object” and abstracted its shape so that it seemed to be emerging from the turbid green setting. Sutherland converted the fallen tree into a monster; he metamorphosed it into an imaginary animal.

Macarrón’s work presents a pathos like Sutherland’s in relation to the world of trees, a narrative world inhabited by monsters, by distorted figures, by coloured windows and black paintings, by books and covens. His painting is an exercise of rupture; it is a declaration. It represents an epiphany of something that we do not master and which arises from the confrontation between the artist’s hand and his head, the seismography of which is disclosed on paper or on canvas.

The distortion and the frenetic energy of his scenes confer a tender vulnerability on his strange beings, on these black paintings. The composition likewise has something of Egyptian figuration, of palimpsest, tracing the history of art. Macarrón controls the dynamics of the action, the kinetics of the stroke, the expressions of his paradoxical beings; he controls this with a very personal graphic finish, with an excellent command of the technical means. His poetics is amphibious by nature, classical and viral: at the same time he intervenes, covering both the history of art and the new systems of platforms and networks. Macarrón appears to follow the determination of the poet Jean Cocteau: “do today what everyone else will do tomorrow”.


Text by Kosme de Barañano