Ouka Leele. Within the identify of a colourful star

Just a few days in the past, a really colourful and paradoxical picture of Pierpaolo Ferrari and Maurizio Cattelan (founders of the journal Bathroom paper) Sitting stiffly within the mountains of equally coloured rubble. Superb, I assumed, appears like a photograph taken by the Spanish Ouka Leele! It’s a pity that the unhappy information got here to her proper after this thought by way of Rai Information 24: “On Might 24, 2022, photographer Ouka Leele, icon of Movida madrileña, died. The nice and cozy and vigorous colours of his work marked the iconography of the Spanish cultural renaissance after Franco’s loss of life. ”

The truth that the information reached Italy says quite a bit about how this writer, virtually unknown right here, regardless of a latest and steady inflow of exhibitions dedicated to photographers, was thought of the foundational writer in Spain. Simply give her an concept: in 2005, the Spanish authorities awarded her the Prize Nationwide images; he has exhibited his works at prestigious Spanish establishments such because the Queen Sofia Museum and the La Caixa Basis in Madrid, but in addition in lots of capitals reminiscent of Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo and New York. In 2019, the well-known pageant Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles devoted a big exhibition to the authors of Movida madrileña: Movida. Chronique d’une agitation 1978-1988; Alberto García-Alix (1956), Ouka Leele (1957), Pablo Pérez-Mínguez (1946-2012) and Miguel Trillo (1953). And on this event he made her the distinction of utilizing her picture from the well-known collection Peluquería (or “The Hairdresser”) from 1979 as an icon of the pageant. Final yr, the Madrid Picture España Competition even devoted her to an in-depth retrospective at Sala Goya in Círculo de Belles Artes.

However who was this “unknown” (in Italy) and really well-known writer? His actual identify was Bárbara Allende Gil de Biedma and he got here from a rich household in Bilbao. His grandfather was a painter; his uncle Jaime Gil de Poor well-known poet; her father an architect (he gave her the primary digital camera): in brief, he got here from a creative atmosphere that posed no obstacles when he determined to review on the Academy of Positive Arts after which to review images Photocenter Madrid. Shy and discreet regardless of the colourful flood of her works, she instantly felt uncomfortable signing her works along with her actual identify, so she began introducing herself as “Bárbara Sin Appellido” (Bárbara with no identify), after which “Bárbara Aaaaaaa”.

However she wasn’t happy. Sooner or later, earlier than a drawing by her artist good friend El Hortelano (whose actual identify was José Alfonso Morera Ortiz), who portrayed the constellation of her personal invention, she discovers the identify of the imaginary star “Ouka Leele” and instantly exclaimed: Este, éste es el nombre. Me encanta ». That is how the pseudonym Ouka Leele was born; and the author is born in a magical second in Spain, which, after repression and the inventive, cultural and social lethargy of the Franco dictatorship, desires to rise, come again to life. New galleries, new magazines are opening up, and with them the motion of younger filmmakers (together with Pedro Almodóvar), musicians, writers, critics, journalists, painters, sculptors, photographers … who will act, with their revolutionary and disrespectful aspirations, with their new a creative language that will probably be known as Movida madrileña. As early as 1982, an necessary journal will probably be printed Lapiz and can open the equally necessary ARCO Worldwide Modern Artwork Truthful, which continues to be a reference level for worldwide modern artwork.

In 1925, Joan Miró made one in every of his works entitled Image. Ceci est le couleur de mes rěves, the place the colour of his desires turned out to be a coloured blue spot, camped on a sheet of paper subsequent to those writings. Half a century later, Ouka Leele will colour her playful and imaginary universe with the assistance of images. “First I create a picture in my head after which I take an image. The digital camera permits you to seize issues and conditions that I’ve beforehand created and serves as the idea for portray. My works are a combination of theater, creativeness, portray and images »- says the writer.

In actual fact, her approach is to create disturbing, a bit absurd and a bit surreal conditions, take a black and white picture, after which paint the picture with watercolors. In fact, the custom of portray photos may be very outdated, simply consider these made by Felice Beato in Japan on the finish of the Edo interval, however portray was used there so as to add realism to the portray to make it look extra pure. As an alternative, Ouka Leele makes use of colour within the reverse order: to present her work an much more absurd and barely poppy twist. So in collection Peluquería from 1979-1980, making her immediately well-known, introduces her tribe of pals and herself with the craziest objects in her head, then colours every little thing as an indication of pleasure, freedom, fantasy.


He attaches to his good friend a big octopus with lengthy tentacles on his head, which he paints a brilliant crimson colour; for the opposite, it creates a hair of yellow-orange “blowing” knives; then she attire a severe good friend with a lemon helmet that wraps her head (and this would be the cowl picture of the pageant in Arles); whereas the red-orange fish, coiled and held by the clocks, create the brand new coiffure of El Hortelano, his nice good friend. Within the picture from the Nineteen Eighties, they’re seen collectively in New York, she with two croissants on her hair, he with a wonderful fish tie. “I do not suppose I am doing one thing extravagant, I like freedom, I like that individuals are free to interpret themselves.

Sooner or later I confirmed up on the opening with a pig on my head, mild bulbs in my eyes and sporting a go well with that regarded like a digital camera bellows. However I did not wish to be extravagant … it was an artwork in life! ” – he says in an interview. In any case, she at all times felt near the equally fun-artistic visions that Salvador Dali reworked into works. And talking of Dalí, the well-known portray by Ouki Leele, El beso, 1980, reveals a pair of “kissing” revealing clusters of hardened tooth, as if illustrating a phrase by Dali from his e book Confesions Inconesables, talking of his first kiss with Gala, he writes: “Our tooth have been chattering arduous, like shields in battle.” Right here, the intense colours are transgressive, simply as the entire scene is transgressive and absurd, a bit like sitting on the dentist’s the place it isn’t the photographic shot that counts, however the artistic course of. The specificity of his method is, in truth, that images is faraway from its ordinary operate – the replica of actuality – and that it’s used as a drawing making ready for a picture. Certainly, the themes developed by her typically discuss with the painterly register: portrait, nude, panorama, nonetheless life, style scenes. The foundations of classical portray are adopted within the service of weird and illusory compositions, magnified by an extravagant, delicate or saturated palette, giving extravagant results and providing entertaining pictures.


Generally some critics introduced his work nearer to Pop Artwork, however whereas the artists of this motion began with mass media photos or with new client business objects (from Campbell’s soup cans to Brillo Andy Warhol’s detergent), our writer solely makes use of on a regular basis and home items a life the place, between spaghetti, cutlery, glasses, followers, fruit and fish, at most a vinyl file or a easy TV jumps out to position it in its irreverent stage buildings, the place banalities are intertwined – it’s absurd.

Such visible constructions typically abound with attractive, pure Spanish-style velvet curtains, such because the one which coated the armchair and portrayed photographer good friend García Alix (1986) posing whereas displaying off his tattoo. Once more, a big crimson curtain, a bit theatrical, a bit paying homage to work from the previous, surrounds a really smiling lady who in Madrid, in opposition to the backdrop of La Gran Vía and the dome of the Metropoli constructing, takes out a field with a field. ‘big steak (Madrid, 1984) as if it have been one thing like Alice in Wonderland which advertises Madrid in its personal manner. Behind her work, by which it’s simple to see a continuation with surrealism, there are additionally traditional facets, referring to her beloved portray, mythology and poetry (then again, she wrote poems and created drawings). In Retrato from Jarrón (1982), a shocked lady surrounded by flowers and birds that unexpectedly got here out of a vase that falls from her arms, appears to be a part of the ultra-color scene of Almodóvar’s movie.


Whereas in different works his work appear to delve into the historical past of artwork or into areas past the management of conscience, the place there’s something disturbing, obsessive, associated to the sense of loss of life typical of the Spanish Counter-Reformation tradition. At work ¿Dónde vas amor mío, amor me con el aire en un vaso y el mar en un vidrio? (1987), Ouka Leele explicitly takes up traces from a poem by Federico García Lorca to create a nonetheless life by which the “sea” water actually glides throughout the mirrored glass; however right here the misplaced love is symbolized by an important and disturbing beef coronary heart positioned on a plate. In Hasta que la muerte nos una (1988), two skulls surrounded by flowers relaxation on a wonderful white tablecloth, and the title itself appears to be paying homage to these warning phrases about our transience that always seem in mortuaries of Sixteenth-century Spanish church buildings.

Starting within the Nineteen Nineties, when he started to interchange watercolor portray with digital portray, most of his works will concentrate on feminine physique compositions blended into contexts of an idealized and imagined nature, thus getting nearer to works resembling these of the Pre-Raphaelites. protecting a detailed view and a decidedly reworked colour scheme. Now that the “star” Ouka Leele has disappeared from the constellation of Spanish artwork, we’re additionally happy to recollect it with the sentence: “I at all times begin my work as if it’s the first time and I attempt to hold my childhood clear when nothing else had a reputation. In any case, my humble inventive language is nothing however the fruit of the awe I really feel for the divine murals of which we’re an element. ”

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