Rafa Macarrón - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Thursday, December 1, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Everything depends on the power of wonder at life, from there I build my work. I am interested in each of my characters being unique, alive, and having their own soul.”
    — Rafa Macarrón
    Carrying a sense of tranquillity, tenderness, and wonder, Spanish artist Rafa Macarrón’s fluid, dazzling  dreamscapes are characterised by his layered use of mixed-media techniques that culminates into a rich tapestry of texture and detail, brimming with life. Playing host to an assortment of uncanny humanoid characters, Macarrón’s paintings celebrate the excitement of ordinary life, depicting figures in quotidian moments as they drink beer, smoke cigarettes, or go to work.



    Atmosfera II 


    In Atmosfera II, Macarrón’s surreal, alien-like protagonists are sprinkled across the canvas in various groups, surrounded by patchworks of impasto, colour, lines and text. Under close observation, the artist had incorporated three-dimensional bulbous eyes that protrude from the surface for the largest creatures, animating these characters with an air of playfulness and humour that stands in contrast with the intentionally flat background. 


    Detail of the present lot 

    Incorporating a diverse range of mediums in his work, Macarrón builds up a tapestry of layers and perspectives as seen in the current work. Each group of figures is situated on disparate planes whilst linked by colourful strands of acrylic, creating nuanced complexity within the pictorial surface.



    Distorted Figuration


    A physiotherapist by training, Macarrón plays with anatomic distortions and deformations based on his personal experience working with the human body. Demonstrating the artist’s acute sense of observation and familiarity in this area, Macarrón depicts limbs and faces with all their imperfections, celebrating each person’s unique soul and personality.  

    My characters [...] are born from a fantastic, surreal, and expressionist figuration. I consider them hybrid characters that are closely related to my admiration for Dubuffet, Bonifacio, and Alfonso Fraile.”
    — Rafa Macarrón

    Deeply rooted in the history of European figurative painting, Macarrón’s paintings draw comparison with the works of Jean Dubuffet, in particular in their shared sense of unstructured space, their application of layered, swift brushstrokes and a playful use of line, evident in examples such as Dubuffet’s Random Site with 5 Personages from the Sites Aléatoires series.



    Left: Jean Dubuffet, Random Site with 5 Personages from the Sites Aléatoires series, 1982
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    Right: Detail of the present lot 

    Acknowledging the influence of a fellow Spaniard, Macarrón recalls a childhood visit to Musée Picasso in Paris as particularly inspirational: ‘When I entered one of the rooms I asked for a notebook and coloured pencils. I spent the whole morning trying to understand what was in front of me. At the age of seven I used to make drawings full of colour, animals or people taken out from some unknown world.’ i  Similar to Picasso, Macarrón plays with fragmentation and reconfiguration in character construction. Yet departing from this Cubist starting point, Macarrón places an emphasis on the exaggeration of their facial features through his use of elongated limbs in juxtaposition.



    Left: Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman, 1927
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York 
    Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Right: Detail of the present lot

    In Interview 


    In 2021, Rafa Macarrón spoke to Rom Levy from Street Art News on the aesthetic and inspiration behind his idiosyncratic characters:


    Street Art News: Who and what inspires your work?


    Rafa Macarrón: A small sunrise, the time I spend with my children, a walk with the dogs… To look at the small, ordinary, and daily details. It is very important to me and for my practice, to feel, perceive and keep painting to learn how to create new work. Those are the little things that inspire me.


    SAN: Who are the characters in your paintings?


    RM: The characters come out of my everyday life and I take them out of context. They could be individuals living with us. When I create them, I always like to imagine where they come from, what they do, where they go, what life they have…


    It is clear to me that I want to speak about life on the street, the everyday life, and my own existence. And I want to speak about these things with humour, more white than dark humour, more compassionate than cruel.


    I also like that the characters relate to the viewer, and I play with the formats and scales. I go from a large portrait, where the contact with the figure is direct, to panoramas in which dozens of characters seem to be starring in multiple scenes simultaneously.


    SAN: Although your subject engages in daily human activities and has human resemblance, they have a more cartoonish quality. What do you aim to deliver through that, and do your subjects stand as separate entities from ordinary people?


    RM: My characters don’t go towards the caricature. I flee away from all kinds of cartoonish ornamentation. They are born from a fantastic, surreal, and expressionist figuration. I consider them hybrid characters that are closely related to my admiration for Dubuffet, Bonifacio, and Alfonso Fraile. My characters live in a transcended daily life, clean days, sunsets, and fresh air.


    Read the full interview here.



    Collector’s Digest 


    Born in Madrid in 1981, self-taught artist Rafa Macarrón first came to prominence after winning the BMW Painting Award in 2010. The artist's debut solo exhibition in Asia, Afternoon Delight, had just closed at the CVG Foundation in Beijing, which lasted from 22 April - 19 May, 2022.

    Alongside solo exhibitions with Allouche Gallery in New York and Nino Mier Gallery in Los Angeles, Macarrón held his first institutional solo show at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga in 2021 with scenes of bathers and beaches providing the central thematic focus.

    Macarrón’s works are in the public collections of the Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art, New York; Foundation BMW, Spain; Caja Campo, Valladolid, Spain; and Collection Mercadona, Spain, among others.

    i Rafa Macarrón, quoted in ‘Artist Interview: Rafa Macarrón’, Street Art News , 26 October 2021, online

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      Lío Malca, New York
      Aurora Vigil-Escalera Galería de Arte, Gijón
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



Atmosfera II

signed with the artist's initials and inscribed 'Rm BACH' lower right
mixed media on aluminium and PVC
228 x 146 cm. (89 3/4 x 57 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

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Charlotte Raybaud
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2022