The main piece in a new cycle dedicated to butterflies. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ

Hell, in the eyes of Jorge Rando

The expressionist artist has returned to the theme of butterflies to reflect upon the state of humanity in his latest exhibition

REGINA SOTORRÍO MALAGA.

Three years ago, to everyone's surprise, Jorge Rando began to follow the flight of butterflies. This beautiful, delicate insect appeared completely opposite to the strong, expressive art of this master from Malaga, but appearances can be deceptive. Using powerful black brushstrokes, Rando took the butterfly on a vital journey from light to darkness, from emptiness to hope, to analyse the human condition. Now he is taking it down to hell. The painter reflects upon the "distancing of the human being from his spirit" in his latest exhibition at the Museum Jorge Rando.

In the Black Room at El Molinillo cultural centre, the artist evokes the biblical account of hell with a series of inks and watercolours on oil in the fifth cycle dedicated to chrysalides. The black is combined with empty spaces to compose scenes which transmit pain and despair. A darkness which is only broken by occasional touches of reds, blues and yellows which, in some cases, intensify the drama of the piece. The Museum presents them as an immersion in the underworld, and a long bench has been placed a few metres in front of it to contemplate it calmly.

The main painting extends for five metres, with butterflies flying and falling into darkness along a canvas with no frame or security glass to distract from its message. Other chrysalides flutter around the room, but one painting breaks the series: a mother walking backwards, clutching her two children. Rando returns to the theme of motherhood, a classic in his career, as a counterpoint to the hopelessness which hangs over humanity. "In the face of doom, love always emerges," explained Vanesa Díez, the director of Museum Jorge Rando, at the presentation of the exhibition which can be seen until 28 February.

As Díez explained, at the age of 81 the artist is still painting life from a humanist point of view as a type of "contemporary testament". With the butterflies Rando poses his own questions about the death of truth and the sinking of humanity, she said: Where is the truth? In war? In peace? Is the painter the judge of goodness or evil, or beauty and ugliness? He wants to know. Through these works he meditates on hell in modern times, "in which we voluntarily distance ourselves from our essence, from our spirit, immersing ourselves like the butterflies in the darkness," Díez said.

This fifth installment of the chrysalides is his most recent creation, carried out during the summer at his second home in Hamburg. And also in this exhibition there is a re-encounter with his origins: along with his latest works Rando includes some from his early days which have never been on display before.

Virtuosity with a palette knife

In Young Years of an Old Master (II part) we discover the skill with a palette knife of an artist aged about 20 who is still searching for his own style. Years later he would abandon it forever and evolve towards other techniques. The strokes are cruder than his later works, but the young Rando already showed his expressive ability in portraits that seem to capture the soul of his subjects.

These were themes he would later develop: his concern for the underprivileged, a portrait of old age through the faces of those who meet in the village café every afternoon, a pensive woman on her own, the face of an inmate in a psychiatric home and the heartbreaking gesture of African women with their babies in their arms. "He turns the human face into an argument for representing everyday life, and that is the main premise of his painting: he paints life," Díez said.