Artistic immunity in the tiny village of Genalguacil

Raquel Serrano at work on her project.
Raquel Serrano at work on her project. / Laura Miñé
  • Creativity. The biennial Art Encounters went ahead this month despite the pandemic, with fewer artists but an impressive display of talent

We may be in the midst of a global pandemic, but the tiny village of Genalguacil in the Serranía de Ronda (population 400) was not going to let that stop it holding its Art Encounters, which take place in August every two years.

There may have been fewer artists than usual and they had to spread out more, but this year's event, which has just finished, is considered by the council and local residents to have been one of the most successful yet.

Eight artists were chosen for the Art Encounters this year, two of them working jointly on one project. Accommodation and costs were provided for two weeks and they drew inspiration from the village, its people and the beautiful surrounding countryside to create works of art which remain on display in Genalguacil. Over the past 25 years, locals have turned their attention to art to revive the rural economy. In 2019 an impressive 20,000 visitors came to the village's permanent museum and art gallery.

The artists who took part in this year's biennial were Jesús Palomino, Ana Varea, Christos Papasotiriou, Rafael Jiménez, Eduardo Rodríguez and José Manuel Ruiz, Raquel Serrano and Paula Valdeón.

Their works were varied, surprising and very interesting, in a wide range of formats. For example, Raquel Serrano recreated the texture of some of the walls of village houses by sticking pieces of thick white paper over part of them, then soaking a sponge in graphite and wiping it over the paper to capture the marks, small dents and bumps which have appeared with the passage of time.

Rodríguez and Ruiz.

Rodríguez and Ruiz. / L. M.

She says of her work that "my intention was not to invent something, but to capture it instead".

Colour as time

Raquel's work is similar in a way to that of Jesús Palomino. His Edición Blanca reflects the different tones of colour in the village streets at different times of day, from the violet blues of the façade of the church at 6am to the dazzling white of the houses at midday.

"The project talks of how colour is time, because it always changes with the presence of the sun," he explained.

The new works also feature issues such as identity, memory and the nearby surroundings, all of which are crucial for the project by Rafael Jiménez, called Pertenecer, de Alguna Forma. He describes it as taking the decorative geometric elements of local architecture and transforming them into new visual patterns made with pieces of clay.

Ana Varea took a different approach in La Casa de Fulanita, which features the life and personality of a local lady who is practically an institution in the village and the Art Encounters, known as Antonia 'La Española', in the form of a video and photo-book.

Native vegetation

Paula Valdeón and her Un Paisaje Verde.

Paula Valdeón and her Un Paisaje Verde. / L. M.

Paula Valdeón used the countryside as the basis of Un Paisaje Verde, reproductions of the architecture of Genalguacil against native vegetation which she has reproduced in paint on fabric.

Meanwhile Christos Papasotiriou, who is originally from Greece, recreated the belltower of the church in wood as part of his project Local Intonation, in which he has drawn up a map of the sounds of Genalguacil. "The relationship between sounds and territory really interests me," he said.

Eduardo Rodríguez and José Manuel Ruiz have taken a completely different approach and used local olive oil, water and caustic soda and the traditional soap-making method to produce 'tiles' which they placed on different roofs in the village for their project, Vino, Jamón o Teja.

Genalguacil now has new works of art on display to attract visitors. It has fought the Covid-19 crisis and a loss of institutional support to continue its unique Art Encounters, which bring life and vitality to the village. Long may it continue.