Miki Leal opens the door to reveal his 'mikitology' at CAC Málaga

Miki Leal, next to one of his ceramic creations, surrounded by paintings influenced by jazz.
Miki Leal, next to one of his ceramic creations, surrounded by paintings influenced by jazz. / Salvador Salas
  • The "anarchic and impulsive" artist from Seville unveils his own universe of artistic and personal references in almost a hundred works on paper and ceramics

You get to know Miki Leal through his work. As you move around the central gallery of CAC Málaga (the city's contemporary art centre), you discover his passion for jazz, his love of tennis, his tastes in film, his artistic references and, if you look very carefully, even some information about his family.

This is what the artist has called 'mikitology' - his expanded universe, a world which Leal is leaving open to viewers in the gallery until 21 February.

It is his answer, he says, to the theory of "the box of old photographs". "As I go through life I collect objects, newspaper cuttings, a magazine, a book, a film... and I put them in this sort of shoe box," he explained at the opening of his exhibition at the end of last week.

And when he feels " a bit empty", he opens it and the memories return to him... and to his paper.

"Some topics come back round again, or I feel like a challenge, such as mixing sport and art, the world of jazz, architecture or applied arts," he added.

'Gente conocida / Derecho a entrar' (Well-known people / Right to entry) is the most important exhibition to date devoted to this Seville-born artist. It brings together works created recently, pieces recovered from throughout his career of almost 20 years and others produced especially for this show.

Around a hundred paintings and ceramics represent the two grand concepts that hold up Leal's work. As the exhibition's curator, Alberto Martín, explained, on one hand is "the artist's own and intimate universe" and, on the other, his "continual dialogue with painting, with authors and with the challenge of painting in itself".

Leal establishes another distinction between the works on display in the CAC. One area is dominated by framed "museumified" paintings. "But that doesn't mean they are finished, but they do give an impression of how I would like to see them in a museum," he said.

The other part works more like a "laboratory of trial and error". There, the pieces are placed directly on the wall, with no frames. These include small-sized works, which normally get left out of exhibitions, where the artist likes to experiment.

Leal admits to being an "anarchic" and "impulsive" painter. That's why he chooses paper over canvas; it's easier and faster to set up. And that explains why almost all his creations start with the spontaneity of watercolour before acrylic is added later. "I spend more time thinking about a work than doing it," he said. But that initial idea is always movable.

The title of the show sums up its content. Those "well known people" of "mikitology" go from Matisse and Malevich to Miles Davis and John Coltrane, through Federer and Steffi Graf.

His pasion for jazz is clear from Jam Session, a collage with concert tickets. His love of tennis results in the pieces Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where geometric shapes gain special importance.

And the second part of the title, Right to Entry, signifies that "open door, or curtain that Miki Leal draws to show a world of painting and culture, an invitation to spectators to enter into his work and share it," said the curator.