Struck by the power and passion evident within artists to depict the times and conditions wherever they are in the world and whatever political climate they live within, Su Billington recently met a relatively unknown artist called Rafael quite by chance when visiting Cadiz.
Rafael Bueno Moron
Rafael Bueno Moron is a self-taught artist from Cadiz in Andalucia, Spain whose artwork focuses on the economic crisis and the poor state of world. Born on the third of March 1962 in Cadiz to parents Rafael and Dolores he has lived in Cadiz all of his life. As a young boy Rafael loved to draw and create figures or sculptures with his hands and he started painting at a young age. At the tender age of nine Rafael lost his father who himself was just 42 years old. This left his mother, Dolores, to bring up Rafael and his two brothers. As children Rafael and his brothers had to help earn the money they needed to live. Rafael started drawing caricatures on the street and later began to make little wooden dogs to sell. Brought up in poverty, often struggling to earn enough to eat, it would not be possible for Rafael to go to art school. Rafael attributes the lack of father figure towards his becoming somewhat of a hard to control, rebellious teenager, although it was during this phase that he met his wife Ines. At just 13 years old he became friends with the twelve-year-old Ines and their friendship developed through adolescence to become the firm relationship that is still going strong. After school Rafael attended obligatory military service for 18 months, which gave him the discipline he had previously lacked while growing up. At the end of his service, aged 21, he married Ines and they had their only child, Rafa. Up until this point Rafael had continued painting when he could, but his painting began to take a back seat during the next 25 years journey of hard work, while earning a living for his family. For the 9 years after his military service Rafael had worked for a kitchen shop until the angle of their work changed and they literally threw all of their existing kitchen stock out on to the street. Streetwise Rafael noticed an opportunity and gathered all of the kitchen stock, took it home and set up his own kitchen business which ran from 2001 until September 2013. His business grew successfully in to three shops until, affected by the global economic crisis, they began to shut one by one during 2008, 2010, and 2013. This is significant in more ways than one as it not only brought Rafael back to his true passion but also gave him an angle from which to work from. Conveyed within his imagery one can seen how these events would shape his line of art.
The man with the broken head (‘Fragile’ below) signifies how Rafael Bueno Moron felt during the years in which the economic crisis engulfed his work. He sat hopelessly waiting for people to come in to his shop, gradually then rapidly losing all his money until in the end he’d lost it all. He would literally be banging his head at what he could do to earn money. As a child he had always needed to fight to earn money with an attitude that he had two hands therefore could obtain anything. Now struggling again for his family and his own personal reasons, that attitude resurfaced with renewed intentions. He describes the difference between personal financial crisis in a relatively well functioning society and a global financial crisis imposed on everyone by a broken society, as “feeling like having the arms but with the hands cut off”. It was around 2009, when work was dying out in the area, that Rafael found time to delve back into his art. He began to sketch and produced his first three paintings, all figurative works, of a tiger, a gorilla and a nude. But by 2011 Rafael was living in one of the poorest areas in Europe. Cadiz was the provincial capital of the region with the highest rate of unemployment in Spain, with levels of over 40%. Indeed the small town of Benalup in Cadiz province in a country on brink of economic collapse, as recently as 2013, had the worst levels of unemployment in the whole of Europe. It was during this time however that interest in his artwork began to emerge. With the slowing down of his business due to the economic crisis and after months of agonising over what to do just to keep on earning a living he, along with his wife and son decided to try their hand at running a tapas bar and so they converted their garage in to the tiny ‘La Tabernita’. They had no idea how it might turn out but knew they had to try something. This decision led to the next key moment in the life of Rafael Bueno Moron as an artist. Only 3.6 square metres ‘La Tabernita’ became very popular very quickly and people began to see Rafael’s paintings hung in the bar. Praise began to pour in from the clientele of ‘La Tabernita’.
With the bar open from Wednesdays to Sundays Rafael still has little time for his art and so recognises the need to maximise his spare time on his two afternoons off. When confronted with a blank canvas he must be ready to paint so that no time is wasted standing around and thinking! Ideas must be at the ready and artist focused to maximise the small amount of time he has to paint. As such, he combines the ideas in his head with Internet searches, browsing for photos and videos in search of stills to work with. Rafael does recognise this as a problem in his process and feels he needs to have more of his own ideas and to find more time and resources to arrange for his own models and photos to be set up and feels that that time is not far off. In the meantime he describes the Internet as “an open window” and a world of possibilities, which he can use while he is still trapped somewhat by everyday work. This is a period in which he can continue to get to know his own style of painting and develop his technique, which is something he has taught himself due to his lack of opportunity to attend art school.
In His Own Words…
On how it feels to be practicing again: “It’s my world. I’d like to be doing it all the time. It’s my passion. It’s what I’ve always loved doing, but it is life that chooses the road you take. I had 26 years of life without my art as a result. It’s all about practice and I’ve lost many years of this.” On the need to portray his concerns: “I know that I am still in the phase of improving my style but even so I feel I must portray the effects of the world economic crisis during this process.” On what themes beside the economical crisis he likes to explore: “I love to paint figures as well as nudes so I would love to explore that part as well. Portraits and animals too. I like to search for the ‘reality’ in these paintings.” His painting style: “I paint in acrylics mostly. Oils as well. However, my preference is in pencil and pastel. I like to paint on large canvases.” On managing to live and work in such confined space with the family (Rafa Junior is the barman and ‘face’, Ines is the chef and Rafael is able kitchen assistant): “It’s hard to live and work together like this but it works because it is organised with military precision. Everyone knows their job and they just get on while working. We try not to even talk to one another. That way we can keep business and family life separate despite working together.”