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The painting of Javier Calleja possesses a directness that is the result of his very personal way of finding the balance between masterful, sophisticated technique and casual simplicity. The acclaimed Spanish artist paints portraits of kid’s characters with large, life-like eyes, which are drawn meticulously and with great care for their expression, color, texture and depth.

Calleja only paints boys because all his drawings are self-portraits in a way: every character he paints is a reflection of a part of his own personality. His characters always have blood-shot eyes and their noses are red; this is because he is trying to capture the moment when a child stops crying and is about to smile again. This tipping point between sadness and joy, crying and laughter is important for the artist and the emotion he is trying to evoke through his work. It is a moment of small victory, of being a little hero and overcoming difficulty or pain, in order to smile again and move on. Childlike innocence and imagination run through Calleja’s entire work. This is nowhere more evident than in his heartwarming use of text in his paintings and wall installations. His characters are often accompanied by a small phrase that adds playful absurdity to the scene, or points out a detail in its context that went by unnoticed until that very moment. Just like a child pointing out an evident truth to a group of distracted grownups, Calleja’s wide-eyed characters are here to make us see and feel more in the everyday.


We had the opportunity to talk to Calleja about his work, influences, and what he hopes to accomplish in his career. Check out the interview below. :)

© Javier Calleja

What is your earliest memory of art?

My grandfather was a painter. My first memory related to art is the smell of oil painting coming from his studio.


Who inspired you to be an artist?

There are many people who have inspired me. My parents and a very close uncle, among other relatives, but at the end of the day the biggest inspiration comes from oneself.


What is your art about?
My art is about emotions. I try to talk about the world around us and its impact on our lives through art. I try to reflect what it provokes on our emotions and feelings. The mediums used are sculpture, paintings and drawings.


Who were some artists that influenced your work and you admire?

There are so many artists that influence on my work. Every-single one of them are represented on my work somehow, some of them in a more glaring way than others. There are so many I admire, it would be hard to name just one in particular.


© Javier Calleja

How did you develop your style?

The style develops gradually and always with lots of efforts and hard work. Sometimes it comes naturally, but it is a concept that is in a continuous progress and development, it also grows as my evolution as an artists develops. 


If you could collaborate with any artist dead or alive, who would it be?

In regard to the previous question, it would be hard to pick one. However, right now, if I had to collaborate with someone, I would do it with any artist from the Neolithic age. I'm very interested on the magic profile of prehistoric art, as well as its capacity of abstraction and symbology that the artists used. 


What do you want to accomplish with your art?

I pretend to awake the emotions of the viewer and make him, somehow, empathise with mines. Nevertheless, my main intention is to leave no one indifferent. 


What is the last thing you saw that really inspired you to create?

Every day I see or feel things that inspire me to create. The last thing that is going to inspire me is yet to come. 


Galeria Rafael Perez Hernando

Madrid, Spain

February 25th

Five years since his last solo exhibition in the city and over a decade since his solo debut with the gallery, Javier Calleja is coming back to Madrid for a solo presentation with Galeria Rafael Perez Hernando entitled Si Yo Te Contara (If I Told You So). During an emotionally intense period filled with uncertainty and longing from familiarity, Malagan artist is looking at his beginning and reliving his past with one of the first galleries he ever worked with. This peculiar sentiment of homecoming and friendliness is captured in the common Spanish phrase that is used for the tittle of the show and extends all the way to the instillation as well as each individual piece by itself.

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