Top News
Check latest news Read →

Cultural liaisons

Against the backdrop of the current security problems in the country, the recent art exhibition organized by the Argentine Embassy was a welcome diversion and a reaffirmation of the necessity for cultural exchange, particularly in troubled times.

The ambassador’s residence, with its white walls and floor tiles, and white curtains which filtered the autumn light, was a perfect setting for the artworks, both in terms of light as well as of atmosphere, providing an intimate setting for collectors as well as viewers.

The exhibition showcases the work of fifteen contemporary Argentine artists, all of whom have been exhibited in various parts of the world including their home country. It was refreshing to sit surrounded by the display of art, and have an informal conversation with the curator of the show, Roxana Punta Alvarez, the ambassador Rodolfo Martin-Saravia, and two of the artists.

Understatedly glamorous, Roxana is an interior designer who uses art as a departure point for her interiors. Whether it is a painting or a sculpture, art provides the focal point, the catalyst, for her décor projects. Interested in art since childhood, she studied the works of the great masters of classical and modern art, grooming her sensibilities. She is closely connected to the art community in Argentina, and likes to choose from a diverse range of age groups and genres, rather than focusing only on well known or senior artists. In this, the second exhibition that she has curated for Pakistan, she chose work which she felt would represent her country as well as combine with the sensibilities of Pakistanis, ‘In these difficult times, I felt that an exchange of art and ideas would create a liaison of friendship with the people of Pakistan.’

Speaking of her impressions of the country and of the capital in particular, she says, ‘I love the many shades of green and the mountains. The city is one of cultural contrasts, and represents both the traditional and the modern. What strikes me is the hospitality towards visitors, and the sentiment of joy. I would love to come here again and again.’
Mr. Saravia has been in Pakistan for the last five years and thoroughly enjoys the country. He is able to look beyond the turbulent political scenario to appreciate the essential humanity of the people, celebrating their open nature and hospitality. ‘Pakistanis are generous, warm and open. They are not xenophobics. They receive you as one of them. You may have to take a first step but if you do so, you are openly accepted and entertained.’
Marta Maria Pichel/Marcela Estrada
Marta Maria Pichel and Marcela Estrada are the two visiting artists whose work is on display at the exhibition.

Pichel’s work is largely figurative, and shows great command over form, mood and movement. Her large canvases, executed in acrylics, are from various series. The tango paintings are full of colour, movement and rhythm. But besides the mastery of form, these café paintings depict a range of moods: joy, languidity, rapaciousness, tension, detachment, pride. Conversely, her small canvases of individual fruits have a quality of serenity, and perfection of form. Lastly, she chose to bring her paintings of polo players because she felt that these would appeal to Pakistanis, as the country where the sport originated.

An attractive series of female nudes are framed between two sheets of glass and placed on wooden stands, designed to be displayed against the light. These are paper cuts, the result of what she calls a ‘happy accident.’ While designing a cardiology research centre, and living on its premises, she noticed the surgical cutting tools and began to experiment cutting forms out of paper during her free time. With their fluid lines and curves, the forms are at once stylized and expressive.

Marcela Estrada’s work is conceptual in nature. She likes to explore philosophical themes and find the patterns that are common to each of them. Her travels to the Far East have inspired her Oriental paintings, which are a balance of colour contrasts with script symbols that anchor the painting and in some cases appear like a third eye. Her insect series dates from 2002, during a period of political turmoil in her home country. Each insect is a pest, and the flag or map of Argentina is painted into its body. These painting represent the leaders and players in the political machinery. Work from an earlier series has used Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as its theme.
Cultural exchange has been a key element of the ambassador’s activities, beginning with movie showings several years ago. In 2006, he met Roxana with the idea of organizing an art exhibition. ‘Building bridges is important for me. And art is the best expression of joy, of peace, of perceiving the world. I feel that although our two countries are situated far away from one another, we are close at heart and in our way of thinking.’
With the limited budget available for cultural activities, Mr. Saravia decided to hold the art exhibitions in his own residence, partly to cut costs but also because he wanted to create an atmosphere of intimacy. In response to my statement that the general public, and young artists, would benefit from open access, he tells me that anyone can see it. However, with a view to taking the exhibition to other cities, and making it available to a larger public, he is already finalizing the details for the current show to travel to Lahore’s Ahamra. If this venture is successful, he will consider taking it to Karachi. He comments on the exclusive nature of local art galleries which, he feels, cater only to the serious collector, saying that he does not want to show the work at venues which do not welcome the general public. And although ideally he would like art to sell, he refers to ‘the delicacy of balancing business and culture.’

With the experience of the 2007 exhibition, the ambassador now has partners who are willing to support cultural ventures, and mentions in particular B-F Bio Sciences and Parthenon Construction and Engineering, which have contributed to the cost of arranging both these shows, as well as the photography exhibition scheduled for February 2010.

The exhibition is a well balanced display reflecting various genres that include figurative, still life, surrealist, landscape, semi abstract and abstract, and conceptual artworks. Each genre is represented by at least two artists, showing different treatments of common themes.

The work of Emilio Reato and Renata Schussheim explores surrealism in markedly different ways. Reato’s paintings are naïve and whimsical, with their depictions of larger than life children’s toys with rounded forms in pastel colours contrasting with the diminutive human figures (which appear almost like non-entities) that look up at them. Although the themes are serious, they are almost playful. Schussheim’s work has a mature quality: the colours are somber and the forms are defined. Most of the work on display consists of very small canvases framed in glass boxes with a large gap between the glass and the art-work, contributing to the feeling that one is viewing an alternate reality. In one painting a large bird seated among sand dunes in the foreground looks back at a tiny human figure walking towards it from a great distance.

The natural world is represented in the plant engravings of Sissi Gutiez. Nora Iniesta’s semi abstract landscapes are calm and reflective, while Blanca Isabel Toledo’s work is vibrant and strong.

Ricardo Cinalli’s drawings of heads, with a section of the paper coloured in and depicting background pattern or clothing, reflect his career in the theatre: the work has a stylized quality and is reminiscent of scenographer’s sketches.

Texture, the permutations of colour and handling of form and mood have been gathered here to produce a show that encompasses varied methods of painting and artistic concepts, showcasing a broad view of the Argentinian art community.

Leave A Reply