Rafa Macarrón - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • Rendered with bold lines, vibrant colours and a childlike aesthetic, Spanish artist Rafa Macarrón’s idiosyncratic creatures have come to represent the artist as his signature motif. His style of figuration is wholly unique, producing cartoon-like characters with elongated limbs and exaggerated features, perhaps informed by his previous profession as a physiotherapist. Channelling the primitive styles and expressionist elements found in the works by art historical giants, such as Pablo Picasso, Francisco Goya, Jean Dubuffet and Alfonso Fraile, Macarrón similarly shares in their endeavours to develop a distinct aesthetic in figurative painting, one which is often infused with his personal experiences, emotions, and a sense of playfulness.


    The artist in his studio
    Image: Courtesy the artist's studio


    Freedom of Expression

    The materials used in my painting give me total freedom of expression. The spray gives modernity, dynamism, and colour. The pencils and the marker create the weft, the waxes, the acrylics and the gouaches, nuanced transparencies and the oil brings complexity.”
    — Rafa Macarrón


    Often incorporating non-traditional materials such as three-dimensional elements, sand, cement, plaster, collaged pieces of paper or cardboard into his work, Macarrón's paintings are unique in their execution and present a sense of texture and depth. His works are also known for its bold and expressive use of colour, with each painting featuring its own unique palette. His unconventional use of materials is seen as a departure from traditional painting techniques and has helped to establish Macarrón as a key figure in the contemporary art scene of today, creating visceral and uncompromising works that break the boundaries in traditional notions of representation and genre.

    “I’d like the viewer to relate to my interpretation of reality and what surrounds us. I hope they experience my painting and its characters the same way I do, asking themselves: who are they? What is their life like? Where do they come from and where do they go?”
    — Rafa Macarrón


    As a self-taught artist, Macarrón began painting in 2006, and has found the freedom to express his personal experiences and unique perspective directly onto the canvas. He cited a childhood visit to the Musée Picasso as a formative experience that strongly influenced his work: ‘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.’ i Other than Picasso, Macarrón is also influenced by other Spanish artists such as Alfonso Fraile, Roberto Matta and Antonio Quirós.


    Alfonso Fraile, 143 personajes no. 1, 1979
    Collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid


    Sharing similarities compositionally, the present lot and Fraile’s 143 personajes no. 1, 1979 both feature numerous individual figures situated in a grid like structure. A representative of Art Brut and Naive Art movements. Alfonso Fraile executed his work with drawings of individual characters glued together to often form collages. Such as can be seen in 143 personajes no.1, Fraile’s later works showcased minimised subjects isolated in spaces, sometimes in tight lattices swathed in bright colours, and were characterised by a strong linear preoccupation and fervent brushwork. It is not difficult to see hints of the late artist’s work in Macarrón’s own piece, created some nearly four decades later.

    343 Souls

    “Everything is centred around the wonder and amazement that can be found within daily life… I am interested in all of my characters being unique and alive. They each have their own souls.”
    — Rafa Macarrón


     343 Almas, translating to 343 souls, is an eccentric work by Macarrón that refers to the number of characters in the painting, each with its own unique composition of abstract shapes, vibrant colours, and collaged elements. These protagonists are characterised by a unique sense of energy and movement, with various shapes, movements and colours interacting in dynamic ways. Instead of focusing on any specific subject or theme, Rafa Macarrón's art goes beyond traditional artistic boundaries, creating an intimate connection with both the viewer and society as a whole by evoking a sense of energy and emotion with his unique style of characterisation, reflecting his own incessant drive to capture the world around him. 


    Detail of the present work


    Macarrón's characters are easily identifiable, featuring highly individualised personalities conveyed through simplified gestures. Macarrón seeks to not only create his own art but also to portray the movement and creation of others. As he trained as a physiotherapist, Macarrón possesses a deep understanding of the human anatomy, which he incorporates into his creative process. As the artist explains: ‘To create my elongated figures requires knowledge and respect for anatomy. I know the structure of the body perfectly. Then, I begin to try out distortions and deformations, which I think works very well. I am able to create my own characters, each with their own soul and personality.’ ii


    Despite their dramatic deformations, the dreamlike scenes and unusual figures in his work exude tenderness and approachability. Macarrón's painting disrupts traditional notions of representation and medium within the genre of figurative painting. His distinct characters command the viewer's attention within each piece, representing both the universal and the unique.


    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Madrid in 1981, Rafa Macarrón studied at the Complutense University of Madrid and is a contemporary Spanish artist known for his colourful and abstract paintings that feature his idiosyncratic alien-like figuration.

    • Winner of the first BMW painting prize in 2011, Macarrón’s work has been exhibited around the world and in numerous art fairs such as Saatchi Gallery in London and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, and collected by institutions around the world, including Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art in New York and Cristina Masaveu Peterson in Spain. He has also been featured in numerous publications, including Artforum, Art in America and The New York Times.

    • The artist's held solo exhibition The Girls' Dreams at the Nino Mier Gallery in Los Angeles, which lasted from 15 January - 11 February, 2022.


    Rafa Macarrón, Sin título (Cosmos), 2015
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong, 22 June 2022 for HK$1,386,000 (premium)
    Artwork: © Rafa Macarrón

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

    ii Rafa Macarrón, quoted in Melissa Mui, ‘Rafa Macarrón Explores Shape-Shifting Characters at La Nave’, Whitewall Art, July 2021, online

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Spain (acquired directly from the artist)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


343 Almas

signed with the artist's initials and dated 'RM 17' lower right
mixed media on aluminium
183 x 296 cm. (72 x 116 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for HK$1,016,000

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Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023