Chechu Álava was born in Piedras Blancas, Asturias (Spain) in 1973. She lives and works in Paris.
Over a decade she has been creating dream-like portraits, mixing her passion for art history and gender issues, and challenging the patriarchal narrative.
Her paintings are inhabited with female characters which are both strong and fragile, tender and haunting. Sometimes they resurrect from oblivion the memory of previously forgotten women artists or poets which she considers as her role-models – Suzanne Valadon, Sofonisba Anguissola, Anna Akhmatova… – either by portraying them or by revisiting their works. At other times, they rescue female models and their representations from the equivocality of a male gaze. They “borrow” these girls and women from the paintings by Botticelli or Manet, Balthus or Cranach, and invite them into a different environment.
However, these “borrowings” are hardly ever direct quotations. Rather, they should be seen as re-inventions and re-compositions, often referencing multiple paintings at once. Thus, a head posture can evoke one painting while a shoulder may come from another one and legs or feet from a completely different artwork. This puzzling Frankenstein-like manner of conceiving the images communicates to them both an eerie and ethereal allure.
Through the dreamy transformations omnipresent in Chechu Álava’s work but also through her hazy, enigmatic style, her paintings hide an alchemical dimension. Moreover, the very act of painting is, for her, an activity similar to witchcraft. It too convokes phantoms and spirits and creates alternative realities, mixing empathy with love.
Chechu Álava’s work has been exhibited in numerous institutional exhibitions: in 2020 she had a major solo show in Thyssen Bornemisza Museum (Madrid); her work was shown in Museu Fundacion Juan March (Palma de Mallorca), Lazaro Galdiano Museum (Madrid), Museo Barjola (Gijon, Spain), Instituto Cervantes (Rome), Centro Cultural de Castrillon (Asturies, Spain), Fine Arts Museum Castellon de la Plana (Castellon, Spain), Carré de Badouin (Paris), Cité des arts (Paris). It features in important public collections: Fine Arts Museum of Asturias, Spanish Minister of Culture, Government of the Principality of Asturias, Government of Castilla y León, City Council of Castrillón, City Council of Jaén, City Council of Luarca.