Javier Calleja is "Still On Time" in London
Javier Calleja's expressionistic children with their pale pink cheeks are not as naïve as they seem. Over the last several years, the Spanish artist has been portraying them in paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations where they have the rare ability to instantly transmit a feeling, emotion, or state of mind to the viewer. But what these characters and their short missives tell us either candidly or mischievously is about our particular place in the world. As they adapt to the contemporary environment, they subtly jeer at the absurdity of our time through poeticized quotidian scenes.
Though he has a major exhibition at the Centro Cultural Fundacion Unicaja (Palacio Episcopal) in his native Malaga since March 2023, Javier Calleja here presents some twenty new paintings and drawings, thoughtfully assembled to offer a rich and exhaustive synthesis of a pictorial universe in constant evolution.
Still children or not quite teenagers, his signature characters resist the world, sometimes with tenderness, sometimes with a casual rebelliousness, and always with a keen sense of humor or touch of irony. A master of social satire and minimalist gesture, Javier Calleja endows them with gigantic, brightly colored eyes, breathing life into them with a wide emotional spectrum: from complicity to disappointment, wonder to nihilism, even combativeness.
These endearing characters with their often delusional hopes and desires seem helpless but never give up. On the contrary, they confront life head-on with both wisdom and optimism, all while turning the viewer into an ideal accomplice. The short and punchy messages they bring – "What to do now?", "No problem", "Same old story", "No step Back" or "This is your lucky day"– are full of panache, like a child, half-bewildered and half-delighted, finding magic in a simple three-leaf clover. — Charles Barachon, Journalist and Art Critic