Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mixing the Old with the New

“Discovering beauty always changes you.”
Fernando de Szyszlo

The Peruvian lyrical abstract artist Fernando de Szyszlo has a profound attachment to the land of his birth and the pre-Columbian art that informs it. His adoption of the European aesthetics associated with cubism, surrealism and abstraction when combined with the aesthetic of his local art has enabled him to produce work that has been collected far beyond the borders of his South American home.

As he told Santa Monica’s Latin American Masters gallery “The content was everything and the content was the one that gave me form…the form is the result of a very powerful content.”

Szyszlo was in his mid 20’s when he first came face to face with the masters of European art like Rembrandt and Van Gogh. “It was a shock to discover the modern world,” is how he described the experience to The Economist. Prior to his arrival in Europe Szyszlo had only been exposed to pre-Columbian pottery and textiles about which he lamented as being “the only original art that was within our reach.”

During the first half of the 1950’s, mostly spent in Paris and Florence, Szyszlo immersed himself in artistic movements of the time with a particular interest in the European adoption of African motives. It was a process he would invert upon his return the Peru adopting aspects of cubism, surrealism and abstraction that could enhance the reproduction of pre –Columbian masks, feather mantles, clay figurines, symbols and colors in a modernist style that he made distinctly his own.

Such was his success that the 2010 Nobel laureate for literature, Mario Vargas Llosa wrote in his essay Szyszlo in the LabyrinthLike Latin America itself, Szyszlo’s art dips into the night of ancient civilizations as it rubs elbows with more recent ones that have arisen throughout the globe.  His art stands squarely at a cross-roads:  eager, curious, craving, devoid of prejudice, open to any influence.  And at the same time, he is stubbornly loyal to the secret depths of his heart, to that submerged and ardent intimacy where experiences and lessons metabolize in a place where the rational is at the service of the irrational, where the personality and genius of an artist can emerge.”

Szyszlo’s current self-titled exhibition is on show at Medellin’s Duque Arango Galeria until the 18th of August.

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