Chechu Álava’s ongoing series of female portraits bring into dialogue depictions of ancient mythological figures like Eve and Venus with prominent intellectuals, cult and feminist icons, and writers and artists of the modern and contemporary moment such as Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt, Virgina Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Sylvia Plath, Colette, Marga Gil Roësset, Niki de Saint Phalle, Eva Hesse, Tina Modotti, Frida Kahlo, and Lee Miller. In an act of reclaiming the male gaze and challenging the archetype and hierarchy presented by the male artist/female muse relationship, the starting points of Álava’s works are often reinterpretations of recognisable art historical works by male artists, photography, and historic moments of gender hierarchy. A gauzy, auratic atmosphere is often offset by the directness of the subject’s gaze, and as such her depictions are reminiscent of hand-coloured black-and-white photographs from the mid-20th century. Álava’s portraits teeter on the edge of ghostliness amplified and unified by her soft-focus application of a palette of fleshy, pearlescent pinks and postmodern pastels. Offering up something of the otherworldly and strangely erotic, Álava’s paintings combine sex and spirit to conjure the creamy, dreamy, transubstantiated flesh of saints, angels and gods in the frescoes of cathedrals. Moody and existential they are imbued with a muted tenor of unspoken intensity common to many humans who currently identify as women, whilst celebrating the shared and common positionality of womanhood across the veil of time.
Álava obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Salamanca in 1996 and was awarded the Erasmus Scholarship to study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam in 1995. In 2020 Álava presented her first major museum exhibition, Rebeldes, at the Thyssen Museum in Madrid, Spain, which was accompanied by an artist’s monograph. Álava’s work is represented in institutions such as the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias, DKV Art Collection Spain, the Ministry of Culture (Spain) and in private collections in Mexico, France, Colombia, Germany, Portugal, the United States, South Africa, South Korea and Spain. In 2014, her work was selected by an international jury to be included in 100 Painters of Tomorrow, a book published by Thames and Hudson.
Recent solo exhibitions include: A Timeless Story, Cob Gallery, London, UK (2022); The Restless Muses, BravinLee programs, New York, US (2021); Rebeldes, El Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2020); Primeros Retratos, I.E.S. Bernaldo de Quirós, Mieres, Spain (2019); Volver a Pintar, Espacio Líquido Gallery, Gijón, Spain (2016). Recent group exhibitions include Unfair Weather, Lychee One Gallery, London, UK (2021); Pintura en las venas, Museo Barjola, Gijón, Asturias, Spain (2020); The Female Line, Smac Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2019); Las formas del alma, Instituto Cervantes, Rome, Italy (2019); 100 Painters of Tomorrow, Beers Contemporary Gallery, London, UK (2014).