Chechu Álava / Eros / 06.05 - 08.07 / 2023
"I cannot disregard the history of painting, with its endless combination of pleasure and knowledge." Over the years, Chechu Álava (1973) has built up her own particular canon, based on a deeply personal blend of painterly expression and conceptual research. On the one hand, her work is defined by the way it reprises a female-centred narrative, by reengaging with an undervalued tradition of women artists, writers, pioneers and rebels. On the other hand, it has been shaped by the artist's very personal treatment of the matter, in which technique and motif come together to comprise a beautiful, indivisible whole.
Eros, Álava's first solo exhibition at Galería Alegría, is the next phase in the creation of her own particular atlas mnemosyne of women as represented in images. It goes beyond the kind of compendium of methodically-arranged portraits, situations and characters that we have become accustomed to in the artist's work: in this new exhibition, Álava expands the limits of her own symbolic, artistic and affective territory, taking a deeper look at the intimacy of female desire.
On this occasion, Álava presents a set of direct, rotund and sexy paintings that reclaim the centring of women's desire as a necessary step in the quest for genuine aesthetic equality. They are poetic, beautiful pieces, yet also radical and subversive, as only true love and desire can be. These free, irrepressible paintings welcome us into a breathless, hazy setting of craving, yearning and mystery. Caresses, urges, concealed gazes... they all take place within bold canvases where curiosity about the body - both one's own, and those of others - is predominant. Álava's signature sfumato carries us into a fertile, stifling universe of matter in its perpetual coming-together and breaking-down. She skilfully and perfectly intertwines technique with the sensuality of love's raptures.
We can still find, of course, hidden in the folds of this atmosphere, some of the recurring themes in the artist's oeuvre: gender, creation, mystery, revelation and rebellion. There are also some characteristic motifs from the history of art and painting, which, here, are meticulously gathered and rigorously questioned through the prism of the feminine gaze. This can be seen in some of the amorous angels, in Cupid and Psyche or in Adam and Eve: they feature in the sensual sequence of the exhibition, there to challenge notions such as sin, purity or shame - notions that, historically, have penalised women's desire. There are also echoes of the unprejudiced intimacy of artists and poets like Suzanne Valadon, Anne Carson or Cecily Brown... Each and every space tells a new story, as the paint leads our gaze. Spaces inhabited by a new desire, one which is free, passionate and creative, one which has not always been accessible to us.
The intimate greatness of Chechu Álava perhaps comes down to the fact that she takes us to those places we have long been reluctant to explore, and she does so in painting, a medium loaded with history. She has borrowed elements from the iconographic tradition and successfully applied them to the reality of love in today's world. Therefore, in the eyes of the spectator, her works seem both vulnerable and proud; they manage to bear the weight of a pleasure that wants to break out and find new points of equilibrium.