Gabriela Mistral, our great national poet, said: “There are three geographical orders in our territory. There is a desert in the north…’our mystical order.’ Then comes the explosion of the mountains, that great disorder and great confusion of our Cordillera, the same as the southern archipelagos with a great fantasy, so extravagant, crazy and unleashed..a kind of ‘romantic order’ in our country…but the body of Chile is formed by the central valley, clean, flat, relatively wide, organic, continuous, and that is our ‘classic order’…the valley that forms our solar plexus” (1).
(1) Quote in Paisajes de Estudio (Landscape Studies) by Pablo Chiuminatto, catalogue, Pontifical Extension Center Catholic University of Chile (Mar. 2015).
From the words of our Nobel Prize, the painter Pablo Chiuminatto presents in his most recent exhibition, Landscapes of Study, a repository of panoramas and landscape details that propose to the viewer to question both an artistic dialogue between figuration and monochromatic abstractionism, like the historical notions about the transformation of the landscape in Chile. The artist makes a study of the perception, representation and modification of the Chilean landscape through expressionist oil paintings, which dialogue between emphatic stains and the simplification of color, to create dense atmospheres that materialize, in the same fabric at the same time, wide and empty spaces that seek to establish an aesthetic-sentimental reflection with the history of landscape painting.
In this sense, following a tradition initiated by traveling painters and romantic painting of the nineteenth century, Chiuminatto’s work adds his own to the same interest of several artists − locals and foreigners − to represent the Chilean territory from experience. Thus, the images of the desert, the valley and the mountain are part of the painter’s study. He engages these images as part of a regionalist vision, which offers the public the possibility to recognize and settle in a national memory and in a common geographical imaginary, our own and specific. Indeed, when visiting Landscapes of Study, it would not be strange to admire the central valley and the mountain range and acquire a sense of belonging. This is because historically most of Chile’s development has been shaped and fixed in the center of the country, where the strongest political and economic force is located, which has created the image of those places as the most representative for artists such as Chiuminatto or Mistral herself.
Now, despite the strong influence that romantic painting has had for Chiuminatto, it is interesting to see how the artist stealthily sketches lines and shapes that allude to the present configuration of the territory. We can elucidate the tracing of boundaries in the area represented, which could refer to crops, roads, industrial towers or distant cities; the organization of the space is subject to change. Then, by what seems to be simple monochromatic expressive gestures, Chiuminatto’s work is actually a deep study of the concept that today summons us: the landscape.
The approach observed with regard to the study of the painter on the theme of the landscape fluctuates between a space based on vegetational examples contrasted with horizons including human interventions. Based on this artistic proposal, however, it is essential to state that the notion of landscape does not correspond to a space exclusively established from plants, but to a record of the continuous transformation of the territory from the succession of human constructions.
Therefore, if we consider that painting is a representation of a reality, it is, in turn, a fiction. In this way, we understand the commitment, skill and vocation of the artist, who with elegance and precision establishes an emotional connection with an idea of landscape, which differs quite a lot from the romantic tradition with its bucolic or pastoral landscapes, where time is suspended to denote the presence of an ideal beauty. This turns out to be rather a cultural paradigm that we preserve as a mental construct, as part of our imagination. To overcome this paradigm, it is important to know that the landscape is not natural. Without going any further, Chiuminatto’s paintings demonstrate it, by posing, questioning, criticizing, molding, recycling and reclaiming that paradoxically identitarian and local projection that the Chilean landscape possesses, as a way of paying tribute to and at the same time exposing the contradictions of the landscape painting and its tradition.
The exhibition Paisajes de Estudio (Landscape Studies) by Pablo Chiuminatto will be opened to the public until April 25, 2016 in the Art Gallery of the Extension Center of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Alameda 390, Santiago), between 10 am and 8 pm. Free to the public.