Tasting the new tapas

Updated: 2011-09-09 14:28

By Mark Graham (China Daily European Weekly)

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 Tasting the new tapas

Pop artist Judas Arrieta has lived in China for six years carving out a successful career. His inflatable dolls sell for 95 euros each. [Mark Graham / for China Daily]

After finding his true love, a Spanish artist is now living his dream in the capital

Artist Judas Arrieta, who has a flourishing career in his native Spain, astonished friends and family when he announced that he was moving to Beijing to fulfill a lifelong dream to live and work in Asia.

The bold decision was one Arrieta has not regretted for a single second, even though his pop-art work is still sold mostly in Spain, or through the Internet, rather than in his new home base in the Chinese capital city.

"I think working here is a great opportunity," he says. "I have my galleries in Spain but I don't need to be there all the time. I am happy to be in Beijing, I am growing up and I am meeting many artists - it is a good personal experience rather than a business experience.

"When people ask where I am from then I say I am Chinese, but I am a six-year-old Chinese, as that is the amount of time I have been here.

"You can re-invent yourself here and be much more natural here. The language of art is universal but Chinese people like you to talk, so they can understand more about your art. I am trying to learn Chinese, but it is hard, day by day I learn a little more. You have to think long term when it comes to China."

Gregarious Arrieta is clearly a fun kind of guy and that personality trait is reflected in his pop-style work, influenced by the Japanese manga cartoon style and clearly meant for entertainment and enjoyment rather than to induce any deeply-reflective emotions.

The price generally depends on the size of the work: a 1 meter by 1 m painting would be around 25,000 yuan (2,700 euros).

One of his recent projects was to make a limited-edition series of giant inflatable dolls, with a bearded visage not totally dissimilar to their 39-year-old creator, that sell for 880 yuan (95 euros). If the artist's dolls or paintings bring a smile to people's faces, Arrieta feels he has achieved his professional mission.

"I want to create a joyful experience," he says. "I try to make art that is close to people. It is nice for them to recognize something and feel close to it. Sometimes, I think I am not an artist but like one of those gypsies moving around from city to city, from carnival to carnival.

"I don't want people to get bored; art is part of life. I enjoy it when I am painting. Artists put in their money, their life, their time, into their work.

"In the studio, when I have finished a piece, I am very happy, that is the prize for me. You can own 10 houses and have no money and it is like that when you have paintings you don't have the money until you sell them."

Arrieta was already an established artist when he first came to visit Beijing, initially on a residency program organized by long-term Beijing resident Brian Wallace, who has mentored many young Chinese and overseas artists at his Red Gate Gallery.

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