Charo Carrera's Guerrera.

Warrior instinct

Keeping track of "artista-guerrera" Charo Carrera

GEORGINA OLIVER

A"heroine", a "warrior"... When actor/peace and climate change activist Jane Fonda announced recently on her Instagram account that she had been diagnosed with "non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a very treatable cancer", a cohort of celebrities including Naomi Campbell, Reese Witherspoon and Lenny Kravitz posted words of encouragement with military connotations.

Ever a fighter, Fonda - the quintessential "warrior princess" - pledged that she would not allow this new oncological battle to deter her from her ecological objectives: "We also need to be talking much more not just about cures but about causes so we can eliminate them. For example, people need to know that fossil fuels cause cancer. So do pesticides, many of which are fossil based."

The two-time Oscar-winner and author of two "What can I do?" books - subtitled respectively My Path from Climate Despair to Action and The Truth about Climate Change and How to Fix it - told her Insta-followers: "You can count on me to be right there together with you as we grow our army of climate champions."

"Barbarella" strikes again... – surfing, as always, on Hollywood stardom to promote her PAC (Political Action Committee)? Perhaps, but - in terms of marketing strategy - being identifiable is half the battle. Even artists have to produce work that's instantly recognisable, if they want to be successful.

Guerrera is among the most striking exhibits in Charo Carrera's solo show at the Ateneo de Málaga (Calle Compañáa, 2 -just off the Plaza de la Constitución, within steps of the Thyssen Museum - until 28 October): a free-standing abstract acrylic and cloth creation, imbued with samurai-like burnished gold and patinated red hues, evoking - dare I venture to suggest this...? - a "self-portrait of the artist as a woman warrior".

Carrera's "guerrera" persona brings a sense of unity to this pluri-disciplinary exhibition; comprised of 17 works ranging from large contemplative canvases infused with a hint of figurative story-telling left to the onlooker's imagination (a mysterious geisha-coiffed Japonesa; children, possibly war or climate refugees, running away, where-from, where-to...) to enigmatic objects made of recycled materials that appear to belong to an unspecified past or future archeological context, it stakes its territory in the Ateneo's ground-floor Antesala space. At once harmonious and impactful - conceived as a whole, like an installation.

Gut reactions

The theme? "Más amenazas que promesas" (More Threats than Promises). Under the banner of this cryptic message, the artist denounces the consequences of unbridled consumerism and industrial pollution; ready-at-hand, a double-page introduction, with biographical notes and a text by French poet and author Annie Le Brun, offers Spanish-speaking visitors further information; a militant surrealist and reputed expert on the Marquis de Sade, Le Brun is an outspoken opponent of present-day "cultural uniformisation", which she attributes to global branding, the omnipotence of social media, digital marketing and influencership.

I have been following Palencia-born, Malaga-based Charo Carrera's irresistible rise to artistic notoriety for a while, and have to say that it is hard to keep abreast of her nationwide land art projects and quixotic forays into the international scene; a landmark in her career was an ephemeral commission unveiled at the Centre Pompidou aka "El Cubo", on the last Saturday of February 2020, just before the mid-March lockdown; intended to greet a steady stream of museum-goers for a year or so, Charo's painstakingly painted staircase mural was invisible to the public for almost three months, when the centre was "closed for Covid".

In Madrid last week for the opening of one of several group shows she is included in at the moment, Carrera Messengered replies to a couple of "before and after" questions. The Pompidou staircase featuring a blood-red frieze and gothic lettering was a final call, an invitation to reverse contemporary society's major errors, whereas her current exhibition at the Ateneo alludes to a planet "in ruins, having reached a point of no return".

If fighting the good fights has become a losing battle, what's the point of soldiering on? "Art is like a survival kit. Being a pessimist and being an artist, taking a critical stance and enjoying life... are not incompatible. Anyway, nature will still be there, when we're gone."