--- Pablo Neruda
Urbano Astuyari Soto is a slim, quiet man from the mountains above Lima, Peru. He was born in a small village in an Andean high valley named Huarochiri (which is also a district), in 1963. He went to Lima in 1975, worked in a print shop and six years later studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, and returned to his hometown in 1988.
|Urbano Astuyari Soto and his work.|
I spoke with Urbano at Feathered Serpent gallery recently -- in his native Spanish. He told me he started drawing as a child, and recalled a seminal experience of seeing a painting that motivated him to make his own work. While he could not recall exactly what it looked like, he clearly recalled that he felt a great sense of joy, one that he experiences with his own art.
[Huarochiri is famous for a manuscript written only seventy years after the Spanish conquest, a very interesting text about the sacred topography of the area.]
|Urbano Astuyari Soto, "Camino a Para"|
The artist told me his work is centered around his childhood experiences, many of which are tied to the topography, ebb and flow of family, personal activities and events around where he lived as a child. This is more than nostalgia, it is a dialogue. He defined his style as what we call magical realism. There is nothing naive about it: He was schooled in painting and is familiar with its history, counting Goya, Paul Klee and Rufino Tamayo as influences. A personal symbolist, the artist has created an endemic mythology revolving around mostly cyclic events that he loved as a boy, in the cultural context of the Andean Inca post-colonial tradition. These are not literal visual descriptions, but symbolically encoded memories and feelings. All of this through a magnificent palette of carefully modulated colors, from ethereal pastels to pungently saturated ones.
|Urbano Astuyari Soto, "Traveling the River"|
Note the paper boat in both of the above paintings. It also appears in others, and while it can be taken literally as a child's plaything, the gravity given to it by the artist suggests metaphorical significance, perhaps related to their ephemerality. In the first one it assumes a relatively minor role, in the second a major one, almost an analog of Noah's Ark.
|Urbano Astuyari Soto, "Rider in the Magical".|
The above work is connected to a lagend about a rider that emerges from a local lake and goes looking for love.
These works are unusually strong, a synthesis of an indigenous tradition and Western art education. Also the artist's personal dialogue with his childhood and the near universal desire to connect with one's own.
Treat yourself to this one.
At Feathered Serpent Gallery, 1018 Central Avenue, Saint Petersburg. Open 11 AM - 7 PM Monday through Saturday.
Urbano's blog [Link]