As it is typical of Calleja’s approach to presenting his work, the exhibition is conceived as one large installation, with artworks being in dialogue with each other and space. Colorful interventions and scripture on the walls expand the viewer’s experience of the works, allowing them to immerse themselves in Javier Calleja’s affective, optimistic universe.
It was early summer when the artist arrived on Mykonos for his residency with Dio Horia, so he encountered a landscape that was mostly brown and all the hills were dry. Being confident that he could find his Mediterranean palette on Mykonos too, he set out looking for color on the dry Cycladic island. It only took him a couple of days to discover the colors he loves right at his doorstep: clear blues from the glorious Aegean sky and sea, warm orange and pink from lantana flowers (lantana camara), deep greens from oleander leaves (nerium oleander), ruby red from hibiscus flowers (hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and brilliant yellow from an endemic variety of mullein (verbascum thapsus).
With this little discovery being the starting point for the artist’s residency, this exhibition is both, a celebration and an acknowledgment of all those little things in life that often go unnoticed, but in the end, it makes all the difference in the world.
The painting of Javier Calleja possesses a directness that is the result of his very personal way of finding the balance between masterful, sophisticated technique and casual simplicity. He paints portraits of kid’s characters with large, life-like eyes, which are drawn meticulously and with great care for their expression, color, texture and depth. Everything else surrounding the eyes — the hair, the clothing, the background — is by contrast very plain and minimalist, and painted in a cartoon way
Childlike innocence and imagination run through Calleja’s entire work. This is nowhere more evident than in his heartwarming use of text in his paintings and wall installations. His characters are often accompanied by a small phrase that adds playful absurdity to the scene or points out a detail in its context that went by unnoticed until that very moment. Just like a child pointing out an evident truth to a group of distracted grownups, Calleja’s wide-eyed characters are here to make us see and feel more in the everyday.