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Contemporary Art Practice (MA)

Rafaela Tellaeche

Rafaela Tellaeche (b. 1997) from Mexico City graduated from the National School of Painting, Sculpting and Printmaking "La Esmeralda". She works with the image of the hand portrayed by her own hands. She uses techniques such as drawing, relief etching, embroidery, and textile. Her work is often permeated by existence and metaphysics discourses by using the hand, tautology, language and repetition.

Rafaela has had a solo show in Galeria Casa Lamm in 2022 entitled "De manos a manías, sobre tautologías y otras necedades" and has participated in various collective exhibitions both in Mexico and abroad; such exhibitions include “El universo se encogió en madejas fantasmales” curated by Fabiola Iza and in the London Biennale with her "MANOS" print.

"Manita escondida"
Pencil and embroidery on paper
100 x 70 cm

I understand the hand as a symbol, as a sign, as meaning and altogether, as the constructor of symbols, signs and meaning. I draw my own hands because I chase their mysterious uncertainty.

Only by working through my hands, I perceive a hint of what they conceal.

The hand knows, the eye draws and the mind follows the lines. My hands are the closest bond I have to my relationship with the world. Techniques are the specific ways in which I relate to the materials; they are the way in which my body modifies matter, where we accept and respect each other.

I use the image of the hand to speak about its capacities, its mystery, its beauty and its complexity.

-how can we resist the hands?-

I want to wake others’ hands, to tickle their palms and persuade their fingertips. The hand that draws itself is looking to unveil the very Hand. Where, ultimately, there is an ache that speaks for the precarious existence.  

And finally, what remains unnamed will keep me meticulously alive,

*embroiders patiently*

Knowing that one day I no longer will be, I remain in the precarious tension, the one that suspends me before the unquantifiable shiver -of (not) being.

the word "tender" embroidered on tracing paper with a pair of matches


The use of tracing paper in tender was a conscious decision to look for a more fragile platform. I was looking to further explore the idea of precariousness and the tenderness I find in techniques that are necessarily unnecessary in my practice. I find tenderness in the thoughtfulness, in the caring process for two matches to be trapped by thread. There was -once again- an ache to investigate a fragile nature that speaks for the tender end and the patience to savour its delay.

I relate the idea of tracing paper to the ethereal, to something suspended, floated and escaping. It also reminds me of a veil, of the un-veiling, not seeing, of discovering. There is something to the hidden, of knowing its hiding place and peeking. The act of unveiling has the characteristic conscious act of removing a veil that will reveal something. The discovery is not phenomenological, it is known that the veil conceals something and the act of removing it, is a decision. A complicity is being created.

Detail of "tender" that depicts "end"
"tender" with my hand
two matches embroidered on tracing paper


Embroidery on paper


60 x 42 cm
This piece is a hand embroidered piece that has various elements that allude to the naïve and to intuitiveness.
Cross-stitched "intricately dying" depicted by the void of the stitches.
Detail of "La escalera"
Detail of "La escalera"

El dechado y la escalera

"La escalera" is a piece that alludes to embroidery samples called "dechado" in Spanish. Many of these pieces were made by little girls in their endeavors to learn how to embroider. Today, there are samplers that are the only trace of existence of some women. 

I wanted to create a piece that spoke of the fragility and precariousness of existence through a naïve discourse. The nature of embroidering paper entails a meticulous handmade work. I am interested in creating pieces that reflect the process that they were made with, I like to make the hand present with the stubborn process. The patience and care for the embroidered paper is another reference to a precarious existence.The piece refers to a patience I have in my process that I sometimes resent. But I also think that there is a patience facing the tender end, or even a sort of neglect.

I want to speak of the unquantifiable, of the incommensurable overwhelming shiver. Naïveté becomes a celebration of precariousness: intuitiveness is the way that I have found to access a world that is prelinguistic. Of what is unnamed because it escapes language, and all of its flimsy words. I have found that the best way to reach what moves me is through intuitiveness, tenderness and naïveté. What links us to the world but have taken for granted. The surface is only grazed if not appreciated. Because we forget about it all, we forget the body, neglect our experience of the world and leave (live) it as an intellectual one. We will forget everything that matters before weeping for it. Dying for the invisible, that is metaphysics. 

Drawing of a ladder, detail o "La escalera"
Hands embroidered on paper
Detail of "La escalera"


Drawing, embroidery and print on paper


350 x 125 cm
Drawing of a tense hand with red chain-stiched sun, print of "morir por lo invisible" and a moon
Drawing of moon, detail of "morir por lo invisible"
Used up pencils embroidered to the paper underneath a saturation scale corresponding to their pencil grading
Embroidery of chain-stitch in red and detail of hand
Invisible printed, white ink on white paper

"Morir por lo invisible: eso es la metafísica."

"Dying for the invisible: that is metaphysics."

Emmanuel Levinas writes in Totality and Infinity when describing the costs of life. He explains that as finite corporeal beings, we depend on a series of necessity fulfillments such as nourishment, temperature regulation, work (in a modern civilization) etc. But the self not only depends on its necessities, it becomes content in requiring in the measure that I have to regulate my body temperature but I still enjoy the sun warming my skin. In this manner, he writes that work can become fulfilling in a spiritual level because it surpasses a contentment when enjoyed. When enjoying the necessities, life becomes the very price of enjoyment.

As a finite corporeal self, I live for my work because it fulfills my existence. Embroidering, drawing and carving fulfill me as a transcendent self that is pro-jected onto -into- the world. My practice is the only way in which I can understand my world. My work is transcendental because I enjoy the making of it, and with it, the making of myself: “Enjoyment is the very shiver of the self.” My work overcomes me because it justifies my very being in the world. 


Embroidery, drawing and print on paper


125 x 95 cm
A hand holding a linoleum carving of a hand

"Patrona" means the boss in mexican slang, which is a clear variation of the word "patrón" (pattern, can also mean boss in masculine pronoun).

I have been exploring repetition, patterns and obsessive processes. Nevertheless, I always go back to making my own hands. The hand that makes itself is a tautological iteration that I profoundly enjoy because it's ultimately an ode to the hand -to my hands. In the midst of exploring the meticulous repetitions, I went back to portraying my hands due to the rigorous focus on their work.

The linoleum carvings were yet another exploration of the repetition and the nature of the multiple reproduction techniques that printmaking provides. I immensely enjoy carving because it's an antique technique that allows no mistake, it entails a hand challenge. I realized that the linoleum plates would be called Patrona because my hands are the bosses in my practice and the word also refers to pattern.

La mano is a drawing and carving of the mexican game "Lotería", and I had been toying with the idea of reproducing it.

Print of "La patrona"
Pencil drawing of "la patrona"
Colour drawing of "la mano"
Black and white print of "la mano"


Drawing and printmaking on paper


Various sizes
The word "handjob" embroidered on paper

Handjob speaks of a specific hands' action and furthermore, an action that refers to a "job" or "work". I enjoyed playing with the tautology of proposing a piece made and worked by hand with the juxtaposition of the word "handjob". I wanted to play with a piece that was in fact a job made by hand and the piece saying so. The word for me has a masculine and firm nuance and I liked to depict it in a fleshy colour to make even more of a touching feeling.


Embroidery on paper


56 x 76 cm
Horizontal black lines embroidered on paper
French knots stitches embroidered on paper
the word "pattern" embroidered with black thread on paper
Cross-stitch covered paper
Loom on paper
The word "repetition" embroidered on paper
Vertical lines embroidered on paper


I was looking to explore the pattern as a visual, corporeal, mental and physical repetition.

I wanted to create a series of a sort of embroidery sampler on paper.


Embroidery on paper


50 x 35 cm each