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Exploring the glitched visual arts practice of Spanish artist Rafael Jiménez

Spanish Artist Rafael Jiminez discusses the impermanence and unreliability of human memory, and how it fits into his artistic practice.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Feb 16, 2022

Someone once said, “every time you remember something, your mind alters it ever so slightly, until all your best and worst memories are almost entirely fictional.” This notion questions the very foundations of how we as a collective approach human thought and psychology. It is sad, certainly, for what are we but the sum of our experiences, and what are we when subtracted from their reliability? However, there is a certain comfort to be found here as well, for if a thing could not have been as great as we think it was, could it really have been quite so terrible? An interesting idea, to be sure, but more interesting still, when it manifests itself through art. This brings us squarely to the work of Spanish artist, Rafael Jiménez, who hails from Cordoba in Spain, where he currently lives and works on his digital art. Jiménez graduated in Fine Arts, with a specialisation in engraving and design from the University of Seville in 2012. He began his career with mural art, and participated in numerous events throughout Spain, exploring different techniques of painting within an urban space. His practice led him to New York to establish contact with big names in urban art, and he would also go on to spend time with the Cuevas de Nerja archaeological team in 2009. These experiences were a turning point for the artist, and prompted him to dedicate himself exclusively to the plastic and visual arts.

Papá, 2018, Charcoal on paper, Rafael Jiménez | STIRworld
Papá, 2018, Charcoal on paper Image: Courtesy of Rafael Jiménez

Discussing his early creative journey, the artist tells STIR, “As a child, I felt an affinity for drawing and practiced it continuously. However, despite dedicating a lot of time to it, it never went beyond being a game for me. At the age of 13, I began to paint graffiti with the urban artist OTES. He didn’t just teach me to paint, but also taught me how to be in tune with the hip-hop movement, and took me to many places, painting non-stop for a few years.” Jiménez looks back on this time happily, but admits that he had little to no interest in what he was doing beyond simply painting whatever he wanted. Eventually, he would decide to pursue his own path, beginning with an education in Fine Arts. He continues, “University was when I decided to focus on my own practice and delve into all those questions and ways of seeing the world that art allowed me to. In college, I tried experimenting with different forms and styles. This was really a period of great self-discovery where I got to know myself and learned from classmates and multiple references. My interest in portraiture, image distortion, the passage of time and the differences between memory and art history developed in parallel during my last two years of college, manifesting themselves in clay, glitch, and my appropriation of existing images.”

Duelo a garrotazos, Goya, 2021, Plasticine on paper and printing on fabric, Rafael Jiménez | STIRworld
Duelo a garrotazos, Goya, 2021, Plasticine on paper and printing on fabric Image: Courtesy of Rafael Jiménez

In regards to the previous mediums such as portraiture, clay and more, what stands out the most is Jiménez’s focus on glitch art. Much of his work feels as though it is an “analog glitch” of sorts, which is a very interesting and bold take on the art form: glitch art has, since its inception, been a matter of the digital, yet here is an artist who applies it to his painting practice in order to complicate questions of human memory. Jiménez’s work invites us to wonder how obscured our recollection of faces, events and feelings may be, and in that, carries both, a very rare kind of sadness and mirth, that only those who have seen great upheaval and pain in their lives may understand truly. Fascinatingly, this ties into a medical condition Jiménez is afflicted with, however, in the grander scheme of art, this must not be seen as a disabler of any sort. He tells STIR, “My high hyperopia prevents me from seeing clearly when I take off my glasses. This act of "filtering reality" has always interested me, as it brings into question memory and recollection, regarding images of the past. Do we visually filter our memories? How does the reading of great universal stories and small personal experiences alter the passage of time? Do we see and imagine our time according to the technological devices of the moment? Such questions fascinate me deeply. I like that my works resemble glitches; failures in the file as a plastic resource; a loss of information that instead of cancelling the image generates new questions before it.”

Sorolla, 2021, Plasticine on cut paper, Rafael Jiménez | STIRworld
Sorolla, 2021, Plasticine on cut paper Image: Courtesy of Rafael Jiménez

The artist does not have a specific order to his workflow, and off late, works every day without forcing himself to decide what kind of venue or series a certain piece is destined for. He says that he is usually activated by looking at a pre-existing image or by a recent reading. Sometimes conversations with other people also spark ideas which Jiménez will pursue in his practice. Other times, it’s the simple joy of sitting down to explore his materials that guides the artist.

Girasoles, 2020, Plasticine on paper, Rafael Jiménez | STIRworld
Girasoles, 2020, Plasticine on paper Image: Courtesy of Rafael Jiménez

When engaging with the artist’s work, one cannot help but feel a pang of sadness at the thought of fading, crumbling memories leaving us. And yet, beyond that, there is a layer of deep sincerity to Jiménez’s art: a sort of higher honesty regarding the nature of the human image that has been absent from portraiture in its widest sense. Currently, along with his artistic practice, Jiménez conducts experimental painting and drawing workshops at the Andalusian Contemporary Creation Center, and tutors the Plastic Arts residents of the Antonio Gala Foundation for young creators. He is also involved in curation work, which he undertakes along with his partner Demetrio Salces. It remains to be seen how the artist’s practice will develop further, however, when asked, he says, “Undoubtedly, I want to move towards experimentation with audio-visual installation formats, while maintaining the base of my practice in painting and drawing. This will not only help me understand and develop my practice further, but also expand the ways in which I expose and relate my works to space. Creating video clips and even animated films in a small and independent format is also something that attracts my attention as a goal to work on.”

Portrait of Rafael Jimenez | STIRworld
Artist Rafael Jimenez Image: Courtesy of Rafael Jiménez

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