After studying philosophy, in the 1980s Javier Peñafiel became involved in various movements that were critical of the existing system, including a campaign in favour of conscientious objection and protests against Spain’s entry into NATO. However, he soon left behind such explicit political militancy and turned his attention to art. He completed his artistic training outside the university system, participating in workshops offered by the Quincena de Arte Contemporáneo de Montesquiu (QUAM), the Círculo de Bellas Artes of Madrid, and in particular, the Arteleku art centre in San Sebastian. In 1994, Manel Clot, the curator of a series of exhibitions held that year at the Chapel of the Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu in Barcelona, offered the artist a chance to present the first solo exhibition of his work. Javier Peñafiel’s interest in philosophy and contemporary thought has led him to create works that critically, and sometimes ironically, reflect on the individual’s loss of innocence in the contemporary world. In 1997 he started work on a piece called Agencia de intervención en la sentimentalidad, which explores the difficulties of personal communication. The work was presented in the exhibition Maltrato, held at Sala Montcada of Fundación ”la Caixa”, and later within the framework of a project called Tragedia de las corporaciones. Ignorancia (TCI). In both cases Peñafiel showed how our imaginary is not a protected private domain, but rather an area subject to laws that govern the surveillance of feelings and desires. The political status of the individual has always been a key concern for Peñafiel, and his work has taken the form of drawings and dramatised readings, which have been collected in various publications and artist books.
David G. Torres