A Coruña, Spain, 1973

Jorge Rivera is a Spanish born artist, he spent his formative years in London where he received his MA and Ph.D. in Fine Arts/ Sculpture from the prestigious Royal College of Art. Since then he has been granted with many awards and residencies which lead him to live in other major towns such as
Los Angeles, Tokyo, Berlin or Vienna. His work has been internationally recognised and showed in leading contemporary galleries, museums and Art fairs being auctioned by Sotheby’s and taking part in relevant private and public collections.

Throughout his life Jorge has worked in a variety of medias and materials, ranging from casting bronze, carving marble, printing on inflatable vinyls and plastics, film, performance, drawing and painting. He has used these diversity of materials and methods as a way to explore, reflect on and share his relationship with the different contexts and cultures he has lived on.

Throughout these experiences he has developed a personal sensitivity and form of perception, that of a contemplative observer who sees Art making as a two-folded inward journey which forms and is itself formed by outward everyday experience.

About Jorge Rivera

– There I was, another evening looking at the beautiful sunset from the roof of my attic, contemplating the top of most houses from the Northern Spanish town of A Coruña, staring at the sea where the Cantabrian sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Inside of the attic, sounds of boring repetitive violin exercises played on a tape recorder tricked my parents who thought I was studying hard. Outside of the window the violin sounds were overlapped by music of The Cure, Joy Division and many after punk gothic bands of the 80s that rhythmically inspired gestural brushstrokes as colours and wild images from my imagination poured into the sketches, drawings and at times small paintings.

Downstairs my parents were thinking that the violin practice was becoming intense and families were getting on with their everyday lives preparing dinners and getting ready to go to bed. Meanwhile I was flying away in time and space daydreaming and drawing, traveling to far away places with the boats and ships coming in and out of town.

My paintings needed to become much more tactile and my sculptures like the film not simply visual but rather contemplative.

These are the early memories of Jorge Rivera, a Spanish Artist from Galicia, at the Northwest end of the Spanish peninsula. Jorge firstly studied Fine Arts in the region at the Facultad de Bellas Artes de Pontevedra before he headed to London where thanks to a grant from the Spanish foundation Don Pedro Barrie de la Maza and the British Council he did his MA in Fine Arts at the Royal College of Arts and finished it on the year 2000.

Jorge was born in a singular family, his father was a high rank army officer and his mum an opera singer. From his father he inherited a fascination for individual sports: tennis, swimming, Martial Arts and horse riding. From his mother the love for music but his parents never thought he would grow up to become a sculptor and painter who unfortunately for them decided to live his life in many places far away from the Northern Spanish coastal city. Paradoxically with the distance, his roots grew bigger on Jorge’s heart as he spent long periods of time away from his family and childhood friends, even though he always knew he could never truly fit in the context where he was born. There were too many places to explore, too much to live and many people he wanted to meet and be inspired by.

Perhaps it is due to his upbringing or his evenings spent drawing and painting on the attic’s roof that he developed the eye of some sort of an outsider, someone who likes to observe and immerse himself in life but with a sense of not belonging. In Rivera’s own words:

The Altar of My Heart, Installation with lambda print and paint
on acetate, glass, water, red pigment, 284x380x65cm 2000.
Picture courtesy of Jorge Rivera and
Royal College of Art”s archive

– I enjoy being with people from all circles of life, enjoy making new friends during unexpected and unprecedented encounters. I love to know them deeply, to sense what moves them and find beauty in their expressions and gestures, however I remember very well this view from above. A feeling of being a watcher who somehow stopped me from fully believing in social structures and prevented me from playing a role or having the need of belonging to any social “group”.

For example, I loved playing tennis but could never fully engage into the ‘tennis world’ for me training the whole day and talking about forehands and backhands could feel extremely limiting, the same happened with studying or interpreting music. Making my own Art, observing and reframing a personal view of the world, was the only place where I felt at home and even now, whenever I am working and wherever my studio is located, I always feel the breeze of the Northern Spanish sea and have that feeling of fear and pleasure of sensing the heat on my soles and hearing the cracking sounds of my barefoot walking on the slippery roof tiles of my old parents house.

For Jorge this feeling of danger, of putting everything at stake for his Artistic practice was always important. This is the reason why after showing with Artlink Sotheby’s in Chicago, Vienna and Tel Aviv and spending two years completing two Art residencies in Nagoya and Los Angeles, he decided to let go a job offer to stay in LA as a Master printer in Modern Multiples and go back to the Royal College in London to study a PhD in Sculpture instead. Jorge had “unfinished business” in the UK and wanted to challenge himself and the academic format presenting a PhD project with a film, in order to share the inner and outer journey that goes on in the intimate relationship between the sculptor and the sculpture.

The Wrestlers, Installation view,
Porcelain and black clay 60 x90 x50cm, 2001 Oil on canvas,
150x 150cm, 2002. Picture courtesy of Jorge Rivera and World
design City, Takumy M Space, Nagoya.

Rivera wanted to open up to the viewer what they cannot see when they encounter a finished bronze sculpture, he wanted to unveil and share the beauty of the bronze casting process. Jorge took this chance to deeply explore the transformative nature of Art and proposed the process of bronze casting as a ritual where if one enters this process with honesty, as an initiate, not only the work could go through many transmutations, but also the Artist, in the same way than an alchemist, could undergo very profound transformations.

The project called In the Skin o the Bull had plenty of hints to Clouzot’s film The Mistery of Picasso (1956), an Iconic film where Clouzotattempts to capture the creative act on film as it unveils in front of the Artist’s eyes. Many references to taurimachies and the Suite Vollard revealed the need of confronting our inner monsters (the bull or the Minotaur) and like a bullfighter dance away our fears of facing death, risking everything on a celebration of life. – I had to constantly translate into captivating images and performances the sensations and reveries that the touch of different materials triggered on me. I realised that like Jan Švankmajer I should mainly trust the sense of touch, since the sense of sight is more perverted by the media. My paintings needed to become much more tactile and my sculptures like the film not simply visual but rather contemplative.

After completing his PhD in 2010, Jorge felt that he needed to leave London, he knew that this could be risky move for his career but he decided not to take an offer for an internship to teach performance Art in Goldsmiths school of Art. Instead, after spending a couple of years between London, Berlin and Spain he embarked on a motorbike trip around Vietnam in 2013 where after much exploring and falling in love with their people and culture, bumped into the marble mountains of Hoi An. It was then that he decided to stay there for as long as needed to produce a project later on called The Dream. In this project parts of the popular and iconic Honda Dream, which is very popular and loved by various Vietnamese generations were perfectly carved in white marble and placed on carefully stone and wood stands with traditional decorative motives.

Tortoise, White marble and yellow stone
102X35X29cm, 2015, picture courtesy of
Jorge Rivera and Art Vietnam Gallery

– I didn’t have a strategy and didn’t know what I was going to do when I arrived to Vietnam but when I saw a Vietnamese driver sleeping in perfect balance on top of a small motorbike under the bright light, totally oblivious to the loud honking and engines of the busy streets of Hanoi, I knew I was witnessing something very Vietnamese but at the same time quite universal that needed to be explored and shared with a Asian and Western audiences. The breeze slightly moved the newspaper covering the man’s face and the tranquility, stillness and perfect balance of his body on top of the bike lead me to believe that like most good sculptures it was his inner movement, in this case his dream, that was way more relevant and poetic than anything happening on the outside.

After two years in Vietnam Jorge was asked to show in Taipei in the old space of Elsa Art Gallery and after getting to know Taiwanese culture doing some projects between Vietnam and Europe and considering different options, he decided to move to the North of Taipei. In 2018 he joined a community of Artists in Xia Gui Road, Tamsui. This is an old clay factory where artists moved in many years ago and collaborated to restore the space and turn it into large studios.

Jorge rented a large studio there and started to paint oil paintings in large formats. He also had the chance to work in a glass factory where he translated his experiences of bronze casting into what for him was a new, vulnerable and extremely beautiful material.

Painting and Art practice in general allows us to discover deeper layers of our persona to communicate things that can only be expressed after becoming totally vulnerable and naked within the Artistic process.

The Good Shepherd
Glass,26x40x13.5cm, 2019
Picture courtesy of Jorge Rivera

This was a revelatory point where his oil paintings became extremely three-dimensional as he commenced to blend sculpture and painting methods by adding rubbers, resins and other materials from casting into his paintings. It is as if the distance between seeing and touching was finally narrowing. The paintings were calling the viewer to touch them and the sculptures with the way light affected them were becoming more contemplative. Due to the fragility of glass these sculptures invited the audience to look and comprehend volume and hollow spaces with their eyes rather than the hands.

In Taiwan it feels as if the circle is closing, there are a lot of formal elements and conceptual obsessions that have always fascinated and being with me that are coming back very strongly. There is a need to make my own personal and contemporary myths rediscovering and reinterpreting ancient archetypes from a more universal perspective, decontextualizing them from their original beliefs and cultural constrains. In this manner, the space between painting and sculptural methods, second and third dimension, translucent and opaque and the inherent differences between the East and the West commenced to fade away.

The latest body of work Eudamonia and it’s Vicissitudes articulates this Universal perspective and dwells in the effect that the excessive access to information is having on us. Digital format could become quite cold and disembodied, during a time where we have more and more need to deeply connect to our bodies in a non-compulsive way and have more meaningful human interactions.

Painting and the act of painting has a very therapeutic and profound healing effect on us. It can help us to connect deeply with our emotions and deepen our energies, instead of becoming malleable consumers and passive spectators in a world where according to Jorge we unfortunately have less and less agency.

We need to understand our psyche and get into deep contact with our pathological dimension, painting and Art practice in general allows us to discover deeper layers of our persona to communicate things that can only be expressed after becoming totally vulnerable and naked within the Artistic process and allow the colours that we mix or the shapes that we mould to reveal and integrate our darker and brighter sides.

After showing his work in Art Taipei and Art Solo in 2021 and 2022, Jorge is heading back to Europe, he is now on his way to Lago Maggiore where he will be for a month dwelling, contemplating and absorbing the beauty of the Swiss/Italian Alps. Jorge wants to produce a special collection of large paintings and sculptures that will be shown in Paris + in the first edition of Art Basel at the Grand Palais Éphémère in October.

Yue Fei vs Medusa
Oil and resin on canvas, 229x184x5cm, 2022
Image courtesy of Jorge Rivera and 333 Gallery, Taiwan

During his stay in the lake he will have access to glass facilities and kilns near Lago Maggiore, Rivera’s plan is to expand his combination of glass sculptures with paintings and at the same time remain open to what such a unique context might trigger. He believes that this will be a very special opportunity to produce very personal and distinctive Artworks with which he hopes to captivate the French and European audiences.

Ph.D., MA Royal College of Art