James Rielly in front of two of his works at the Contemporary Art Centre. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ

James Rielly's view of life at the CAC in Malaga

The British artist is showing around 40 works, including watercolours, produced in the past two decades, in an exhibition that runs until 27 November


James Rielly's new exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre in Malaga (CAC) opened this week and runs until 27 November. Called Work, Rest and Play, it consists of around 40 works, including watercolours, which this British artist has produced in the past two decades, reflecting on subjects such as power, human complexity, family relationships and narcissism.

Rielly's works are characterised by the use of a very striking palette of colours, although this exhibition is a good way to see how his work has evolved in recent years and that he decided to vary his style to make those looking at his work lean towards joy and happiness.

"I'm very happy to be discovering colour. When I was young I used to use paler, softer shades but as I grew older I wanted to incorporate brighter colours to show off the happiness there is in my work," he explained at the inauguration of the exhibition.

"I always see the act of crying as positive. For me it represents joy rather than sadness"

Curiously, this happiness is hidden behind characters - mainly children - who at first sight appear to be burdened with sadness, with tear-stained faces and sorrowful expressions, creating an array of feelings in the spectator which are completely open to the imagination.

However, not all the tears in these works are caused by grief, but also by joy.

"I always see the act of crying as a positive thing. It's something everyone does and for me it represents joy rather than sadness. I'm not a religious person but I like the imagery of Catholic iconography where tears have a different significance," he said.

The inspiration for his paintings, especially those depicting children, he explained, comes from his personal experience, his paternal figure and the desire to protect his children from the outside world, although it may awaken a different sentiment in each person who looks at it.

"I never know how the public are going to react, but I'm an artist who likes this freedom of expression and I always think that everyone invents their own stories and my work evokes something in them," Rielly said.

Fernando Francés, the curator of the exhibition, said that Rielly's works invite visitors to question aspects such as the evolution of each stage of our life, from beginning to end.

"James Rielly is different. Behind this explosion of colour and pop he is giving us a message, he is saying not everything we see is what it appears to be. I'm very attracted by this idea of showing what isn't, a bit like Alice in Wonderland, with a mirror in which we can see ourselves but what is important is what is behind the mirror," he said.

In his youth, James Rielly spent some time living in a monastery in northern India and this, with his travels elsewhere in the country, has had a major impact on his creations. So much so, in fact, that he has even used khadi paper for his most recent works. This is a sheet of paper, similar to papyrus, which once made is left to dry in the sand, creating a texture like small ripples and giving the effect of having been made by hand.

It is on this material that he has created numerous faces and different figures, where circular elements, stripes and masked faces with big blue eyes are predominant, a key piece in the work of this artist, with which he seeks to emphasise this hidden expressiveness of the character, although he always hides something mysterious behind it.

"I like simple stories that are hiding something. Always, in stories or tales, there is a part which is said and another which isn't said, beating away there. And that is something that I like to be reflected in my work," he explained.