He likes to go out running, but because of the coronavirus lockdown he had to swap the street for a running machine at his partner's home in Seville. "I was fascinated to see animals coming into towns while people were confined indoors. It was rather bittersweet, though, because it showed that animals run away from human beings. So, I had the idea of ingratiating ourselves to them through a gesture that Covid-19 has deprived us of, namely a hug".
The person speaking is Malaga illustrator José Luis Ocaña, who is behind the 'Abrazo de oso' project, meaning 'bear hug'. The idea graduated from his mind to social media, and from there to the exhibition room at Finca El Portón in Alhaurín de la Torre.
More than 20 artists from different countries have participated in this collective display which presents a delightful diversity of styles and can be visited until mid-September.
"Each artist has created an illustration of someone hugging an animal of their choice. We posted it on the abrazodeosocovid19.com website without any other plans for it, but when I saw the response it was receiving I suggested holding an exhibition at El Portón and they were delighted to host it," says José Luis.
The exhibition will remain at Finca El Portón for the summer, and may then go on to other venues in Malaga province and elsewhere in Andalucía. "It could be a mobile exhibition. We are in discussions with other entities in Malaga and Granada," says José Luis, who is thrilled that "something that started as a game, just a vague idea in someone's head, has ended up as an exhibition".
Some of those who took part, from countries such as Estonia, Greece, Chile and Mexico, are professionals, others are training or are just enthusiastic amateurs, including students from the virtual workshop which he held during lockdown.
Diversity of style
The exhibition 'Abrazo de oso' includes examples of understated colour, such as Pachi Idígoras' delicate sepia, the serene palette of José González Ruiz, the coppery re-encounter between Red Riding Hood and the wolf at the hands of Viive Noor, the economy of expression of Javier Longobardo and the virtuosity of brush strokes of Marta Parejo and María del Carmen Cebrián. The variety of ideas on the same theme and the use of colour is a major attraction of this exhibition but as José Luis Ocaña himself says: "In the end, the idea behind the project is that nature is the best anti-virus we have."
Illustrations in the exhibition are for sale and half the money raised will be donated to the Patitas Andaluzas and Equinac associations, which are dedicated to caring for abandoned animals and the recovery of cetaceans and turtles, respectively.