Rafael Varela


by Rafel Varela

As a kid, I always liked drawing and modeling airplanes, ships, cars, and spaceships. When it was time to go to the University, this hobby resulted in choosing a career in industrial design (University of Buenos Aires). Later I took a course in automotive design with the designer Jose Luis Denari that resulted in several internships in automotive design at the Alfa Romeo factory (Arese, Milan), at the Centro Ricerche Fiat and Advanced Design Fiat (Torino), and a master in transport design in Turin (Istituto Europeo di Design).

I designed sports shoes for Topper (a local brand) for almost 20 years and then I worked a few years for other shoe brands. I have also been a professor of morphology (the study of form) for about 30 years.


Parallel to my career as a designer, I first became interested in contemporary art and then I felt comfortable mixing my two passions, art and cars. It first started as a hobby until in 2002 the English magazine "Classic Cars" published some drawings of my authorship as collectible posters. Those were my first commissioned artworks and there began my career as an artist dedicated to the automobile as time went by this became a full-time profession.

I am very fond of drawing cars and races where Fangio is the protagonist, surely in part because he is Argentine, but in general what I like is to represent the car in motion, either on the streets or on the tracks, in present, past times or future, using scratches, splashes, stains, and other expressive resources to highlight that dynamism. Perhaps because of my history as a professor of morphology, a subject where everything is abstract, I like to play with abstraction especially in the background to give strength to the figure although I always look for abstraction to suggest images while I try to make the figure, cars, not a 100% figurative.

I mainly use carbon in combination with other materials such as acrylic, oil, inks, etc. Although I try to use biodegradable or recycled materials whenever possible: in my latest works, I am incorporating rubber from discarded race tires. As support, I use large format cotton fabrics although sometimes I also draw on the tread of used racing tires.

Together with my father Angel, who also paints cars and other subjects, we have a studio/showroom in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and we exhibit together at all automobile events and some art events in the country. As I am a bit more of a traveler than him, I regularly exhibit at Retromobile (Paris), Automotoretro (Turin), and other shows or spaces in Europe.















motor>spirit - Rob Alen