Alvarado: an artistic obsession with refugees

‘La barca de Medusa’, inspired by Gericault’s classic work.
‘La barca de Medusa’, inspired by Gericault’s classic work. / SUR
  • More than 70 works are on display at the Convento de Santo Domingo in Ronda, all on the theme of the tragedy of immigration

Ever since his beginnings in the world of art several decades ago he has taken a subject, explored it, then left it alone. Sometimes he has returned to it, sometimes not, and in that way, progressing in circles, he has forged his career. For more than ten years now, Rafael Alvarado has focused on a single theme: the tragedy of immigration.

“I have never spent so long on one thing. Even I don’t know why Ihave focused on this for all this time,” says Rafael, who is displaying more than 70 works about the migrant drama in an exhibition called ‘El viaje: sombras que habitan 2006-2017’ at the Convento de Santo Domingo in Ronda.

The artist, Rafael Alvarado.

The artist, Rafael Alvarado. / SUR

“In a way it is a continuation of what I did at the Municipal Heritage Museum in Malaga in 2013. Some of those large-scale works are also on display here, but there are many others as well,” Rafael says about his new project, where he once again raises awareness of ‘the wretched of the Earth’, as Frantz Fanon titled his popular book about the excesses of colonisation, particularly in Africa, and some of its consequences.

“The subject has been the same for a long time, but this exhibition aims to make people observe more of the process of my work: my obsession for choosing a theme, repeating it, so it has already become a pretext and what is truly important transcends the subject; in other words, it focuses more on the purely artistic aspect,” he says.

A member of Colectivo Palmo, the group which started the campaign for the Aduana building to be converted into the Malaga Museum, and one of Malaga’s most outstanding artists in recent decades, Rafael reflects upon the double aspect of his work: “I have always expressed social concerns in my work, but it is also an investigation into expressive resources. There is a greater emphasis on the pictorial and a greater capacity to abstract, to interpret,” he says. “In principle, it is an emotional question. The first thing is that the subject must have an impact on people’s consciences, that’s the ‘leitmotiv’. It’s something that moves you and from that emotion comes the work itself, which is something else. You start to forget and realise that the work has its own value. You want a visual impact, you want it to work compositively, for it to be fresh and immediate, for it to reflect in some way what I feel, maintaining the concern through the language of art.”