When we keep looking at the world from the same perspective, we learn nothing new.
If we keep walking by the same building, we only notice its facade. If we get to know a person only in the professional environment, we don’t get to know this person really. If we look at the horizon, we might not notice its curvature. And if we only experience the world around us with our own eyes, we might miss an opportunity to learn how others see the same world.
In this exhibition, we collected several paintings by contemporary artists from Chile. Chile, a country in South America thousands of miles away from our homes in the San Francisco Bay Area, is still part of the same planet.
The artists and their work in this exhibit touch upon the same subjects as we encounter in our lives. The same issues that we encounter, read in the news, notice on the streets, they encounter as well. Homeless on the streets, the global pandemic, a great political divide, a melting pot of cultures and culture clashes. Yet, they have a different perspective, a different angle for the same issues. And that angle is different enough to be intriguing. And that perspective is communicated to us through the language we can all understand.
Brexit Consequence. Oil on canvas, 2019
Lobsang Durney is a contemporary Chilean artist from Valparaiso, Chile, who is currently residing in Barcelona, Spain. In his work, he focuses on painting post-apocalyptic surrealist worlds, where he mixes realistic and imaginary subjects and storylines.
His native Chile cannot be farther from this painting’s subject, Chile is more than 7,000 miles from the United Kingdom. Yet, Lobsang’s perspective on the Brexit events in the UK is insightful and knowledgeable. Using the images of Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister in the 1980s) along with a dilapidated double-decker London bus, he is connecting the UK’s past and his predicted future with the Brexit in-between.
Luces Invisibles. Oil on canvas, 2018
Born in Santiago in 1964, Eduardo Mena is a self-taught Chilean artist. Mena alternates his residence between Valparaiso and Santiago in Chile and Mexico, where he exhibits extensively. In his work, he often depicts port cities along the Pacific coast of Chile, the boundary between the sea and the land, where the day and the night meet each other in dusk hours. His subjects are “porteños”, or port city people in Spanish.
While we might not think of that, but we as residents of San Francisco are also porteños. We’re a mix of people who came here, in this port city from different parts of the world. We, as porteños, created a melting point of cultures and are probably accepting of other cultures more than the in-land people. We, as porteños, are moved by the ocean, its depth and vastness.
Floating Future. Acrylic on canvas, 2020
Cristina Vera Aguilar
Cristina Vera Aguilar is a contemporary Chilean artist from Concepcion, Chile. Cristina Vera comes from an artistic family; both her grandfather and her mother are accomplished artists. She still resides in Concepcion, and her art is influenced by the natural beauty of central Chile and its Pacific coastline. In her work, she focuses on the spiritual and mystic side of the natural environment around us.
Cristina Vera painted this artwork during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. Chile was one of the world's worst hit by the pandemic, with some of the highest infection and fatality rates. In this work, Cristina depicts our visual world during the pandemic: the polychrome world is just a narrow line in the otherwise black painting. Just a narrow strip of life we've all been limited to in these times.
Refugio. Watercolor on paper, 2017
Luis “Beto” Martinez
Beto Martinez is an accomplished Chilean artist who currently resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His paints in oil and watercolors, while his subjects are distorted, sometimes almost nightmarish human figures.
Another American crisis that we are all familiar with is the crisis of illegal refugees. In this work, Beto is giving us yet another perspective, which is nevertheless very accurate. A family of three, a man, his wife, and their small son are naked, afraid, and crammed in a tiny transparent hemisphere with a tiny light above them. Their imperfect bodies, distorted faces, uncomfortable poses, and crammed in the smallest space make them so much more human. Moreover, it makes us relate to them on a very physical level.
Homeless. Acrylic on canvas, 2018
Chuchin Gutierrez is a contemporary Columbian-born artist who lives and works in Requinoa, Chile. He specializes in vivid, highly graphic, graffiti-inspired compositions. Chuchin defines his art as Neo-Expressionism, Marginales Art, and Art Brutal.
In this painting, Chuchin painted portraits of three homeless people. Their disfigured faces, exaggerated features, sad and distanced eyes, dissonant colors highlight their misfortunes and difficult lives.
There is a big debate in San Francisco on how to handle our homeless crisis. And although different methods are proposed to solve the crisis, the consensus is still to remove the homeless from our eyesight. Yet, in Chuchin’s work, they are the front center protagonists to be studied and understood. No less human than his other human subjects.
One World, Multiple Perspectives
In this exhibition, we presented five contemporary Chilean artists. The works selected focused on contemporary issues that most of us are familiar with. The same issues we have opinions on, we have read about and most likely, we have seen them addressed from our own American perspective.
We started this exhibition with the premise that if we look at issues only from one perspective, we learn nothing in. We are just regurgitating the same narrative. We are presented with similar points of views, similar language, both verbal and visual.
One question remains:
What is it that these Chilean artists see that we don’t?