Who is Javier Calleja?
Javier Calleja was born in Málaga in 1971 and graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Granada in 2000. Before completing his artistic training at the age of 31, he was a gymnast training for the Olympics. Calleja's work appears to be a simple aesthetic, but Javier Calleja creates surprising and humorous works of art through ingenious twists on everyday events. In his paintings, drawings and sculptures he uses the aesthetic conventions of cartoons and children's book illustrations, in search of simplicity and immediacy. Javier Calleja's work involves instantly recognizable figurative paintings with exaggerated proportions. Balancing innocence and cynicism in her wide-eyed characters, Calleja escapes the 'over-theorizing' of art, creating works that viewers can effortlessly access and connect with, effectively identifying bewilderment and derisive attitudes.
The characters of Javier Calleja
When he started painting in the 1990s, he felt that contemporary art was too intellectual. In contrast, Calleja wanted to create art that touches people without the need for explanations. Therefore, he developed his trademark characters that he considers small versions of himself, his “children”. This emotional authenticity, combined with his simplistic, ironic humor, imbues Calleja's work with understated but serious power.
The influences and characteristics of the works of Javier Calleja
Javier Calleja's work is as sarcastic as it is sensitive. His portraits depict stylized figures with exaggerated heads and large, melting eyes, reminiscent of manga or anime characters. Scribbled on their T-shirts, phrases like “FUCK YOU ALL” undermine their apparent innocence. Facial features with perfectly blended gradients are contrasted by monochromatic backgrounds and loose lines that illustrate their bodies. The artist also translates his painted figures into fiberglass sculptures that, with their strange animated style and manufactured finish, evoke the works of contemporary artists such as KAWS and Yoshitomo Nara - or even a lone Playmobil toy. That constant thread of irony underpins Calleja's work, bringing a sharp edge to the seductive simplicity of his aesthetic. In addition to comics, pop art and surrealism influence Javier Calleja's work. The artist invites the viewer to participate in playful scenes, interact with his ironies or react to the disproportionate sizes that evoke the world of Alice in Wonderland.
Javier Calleja's exhibitions
“Clouds Through The Window,” a 2019 solo exhibition at Galerie Zink in Regensburg, showcased a two-story wall covered in nine portraits, each with an oversized wooden frame in a simplified Baroque style. The composition of multiple paintings in slightly different shapes and sizes is reminiscent of historic emblems of art power: the Parisian salon-style display or the interior of a 19th-century English country house. However, the purposeful simplicity of Calleja's paintings juxtaposes their grand presentation, reimagining the traditional portraiture in a sardonic yet endearing gesture. Emotion, not reason, is Calleja's driving force. He has presented 5 solo exhibitions in museums and 22 solo exhibitions in galleries in several international cities, including Hong Kong, Greece, Germany, Tokyo, Spain, Rome, London. The artist also exhibits in many museums and art fairs such as ARCO Madrid, Art Basel Hong Kong, ZONAMACO, Art Brussels. His work has been featured in Juxtapoz, Hypebeast and other international art publications. The artist now lives and works in Malaga, Spain.