Transcript of "Inner Visions - Artists of the Peruvian Amazon Exhibition in London 1999"
INNER VISIONSA RUSTS O F THE P E R U VJ A N AMAZON
INNER VISIONS: ARTISTS OF THE PERUVIAN AMAZON 4th NOVEMBER - 11th DECEMBER, 1999In the Peruvian Amazon, art serves as a shamanic tool. To appreciate this art,therefore, it is first necessary to understand neotropical shamanism - that Centraland South American branch of a widespread tradition still to be found surviving inmany cultures around the world - recognizing it as an integral part of the Peruvianculture which it has helped to form.The term shaman - a word originally of Tungusic Siberian origin - is now commonlyused to refer to the religio-cutural practitioner of the tradition known as shamanism.The roots of shamanism are to be found in the distant prehistoric past, when thehuman psyche and imagination were vastly more powerful than human technology;when language, although rudimentary and limited, was nonetheless imbued withthe power of enchantment. In one form or another shamanism was perhapsmankinds first cohesive religio-cultural tradition. With the migration of humanpopulations, shamanism spread throughout the world, while retaining its coreteachings and adapting its art, iconography, and mythology to new latitudes andenvironments. It is safe to say that its expression in the extreme northern latitudes isprobably a later and somewhat marginal development, as these areas were notcolonised by human communities until relatively late prehistoric times. In the NewWorld, shamanic traditions are primarily found in the neotropical latitudes.Above: YANDO RIOS, Amasanga, Master of the Forest (detail), 1999, Mixed Media, 75 x 70 cm
Many of the themes which characterized pre-Columbian shamanism havecontinued into the ethnographic present. In addition, many shamanic beliefs areancestral to related beliefs found in contemporary non-shamanic religions.Among these are the existence of a spirit world, the belief in an afterlife, theconcept of soul, the division of reality into a series of upper-worlds (heavens) andunder-worlds (hells) and the belief in the efficacy of properly conducted rituals.In shamanic cultures the human being is not at the centre of the universe, but rathera part of a larger physical and spiritual context, comprising a complex web ofinterrelationships. Moreover, the visible universe is but a part of a more significantunseen reality which is governed by dualistic forces, manifesting in eithercomplementary or antithetical forms - for example as positive/negative,male/female, or as good/evil. Thus, the shamanic perspective is relativist rather thanabsolutist. To understand anything one must understand its relationships. There is noshape to a tree apart from its relationship to gravity and wind; no colour apart fromsunlight, no scent apart from earth, wind and water. A tree, therefore, is an eventcentre, demarcating an extensive field of interrelationships.Within this cultural tradition, the shaman serves as mediator of the forces of thephysical and spiritual realms, functioning as guardian of fertility and replenisher ofspecies, as healer, sage, or guide for the soul of the dead on its journey in the afterlife.Shamans must activate their powers by ritual preparation, fast, posture, trance, theingesting of powerful psychotropic substances and power songs. Once empowered,a shaman may engage in soul-travelling, shape-shifting, divining the cause of illness,curing the sick, divining the future, altering the weather, or maintaining the fertility ofthe biosphere. Such shamans also communicate with a variety of spirit entities thatcontrol the local ecology. With respect to human behaviour, the shamanic ideal is notperfection but rather a state of inner harmony, the human correlative of social,psychological, and ecological balance. Many forms of illness are believed to resultfrom personal, group, or cultural dissonance and imbalance. PABLO AMARINGO, Arcoiris - Rainbow Vision, 1998, Acrylic on Paper, 52 x 72.5 c m
FRANCISCO MONTES SHUNA , El Origen d e la Ayahuasca y la Chacruna - The Origin of Ayahuasca a n d Chacruna, 1998, Natural Pigments on Bark, 51 x 49 c mThe shaman uses art like that on show in Inner Visions as a means of mediationbetween the forces of the psyche, the natural world, and the realm of spirits. This artnot only codifies and reinforces essential shamanic concepts such as harmony andbalance, it gives that which is hidden perceptible form in order to harness andmanipulate the spiritual and environmental energies.Inner Visions: Artists of the Peruvian Amazon is a visual odyssey through the SouthAmerican mindscape as perceived by three contemporary, mestizo, Peruvianartists, each of whom has been heavily influenced by the regions shamanictraditions. Not surprisingly, both the Pre-Columbian and historic shamanic art of thePeruvian region reflect their cultural a n d environmental surroundings.The iconographic repertoire is rich in tropical forest imagery such as jaguars, boas,anacondas, colourful birds, plants and other denizens of the forest, waters and sky.The art of Pablo Amaringo, himself a former shamanic practitioner, introduces us tothe energetics of the tropical forest, communicating through colour, line and formsome of the negative and positive forces of the invisible realms. Amaringos worksare animated with intricate forms and brilliant colours; moving reflections of hispersonal visions that blend purely neotropical mindscapes with elementsinfluenced by esoteric cultural traditions from around the world.Francisco Montes Shuha is a practicing vegetalisto and self-taught artist. His work,employing natural pigments on bark, reflects his focus on the plant life of theAmazon forest and the role it plays in the life of the local vegetalistas whoseshamanic powers are largely obtained from plants. His works are intimateperspectives, giving the viewer the feeling of participating in a scene that is at oneand the same time both mythical and allegorical.
Yando Rios, himself the son of a famous Amazonian shaman, reflects the shamanicuniverse filtered through his formal training as an artist. Rios art focuses on the spiritualessence and hidden wisdom behind such personages as Sunguy, the Master ofWater or Amasanga, the Master of the Forest. His backgrounds are intrinsicallyecological, reflecting the real a n d potential fauna of the forest.Rios employs modern media such as clear plastics and acrylics to express a sense ofluminosity which reflects a quality and emanation of the inner essence of being,a quality that is in constant dynamic tension with the world of shadow and darkness.The Inner Visions Exhibition offers insight into the Amazonian universe and theunderlying shamanic traditions which give it form. It reflects three interwovenpathways exploring an indigenous view of the nature of nature.Armand J. Labbe, 1999(Armand J, Labbe is Director of Research and Collections at the Bowers Museumof Cultural Art, California and Lecturer in Anthropology at California StateUniversity, Fullerton.) YANDO RIOS, Master of Water and Yacu-Mama (detail), 1999, Mixed Media, 75 x 70 c m
D e s i g n e d b y E l i s a b e t h L a l o u s c h e k • Printed b y A r n i c a F i n e Art Print Ltd P u b l i s h e d b y t h e O c t o b e r G a l l e r y , 1999 • ISBN 1 8 9 9 5 4 2 14 0
The exhibition Inner Visions: Artists of the Peruvian Amazon is a c c o m p a n i e d by a n exhibition of historic p h o t o g r a p h s of t h e C o l o m b i a n A m a z o n by t h e r e n o w n e d ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, presented in c o l l a b o r a t i o n with Synergetic Press. The exhibitions are s u p p o r t e d by the London Arts Board, Visiting Arts a n d t h e Embassy of Peru. The O c t o b e r Gallery is s u p p o r t e d by t h e National Lottery through t h e Arts Council of England a n d receives funding from London Boroughs Grants.j The O c t o b e r Gallery Education D e p a r t m e n t is s u p p o r t e d by Marks & Spencer a n d t h e Save a n d Prosper Educational Trust. The O c t o b e r Gallery is extremely thankful for t h e assistance given by: Luis Eduardo Luna Luis Escalante A r m a n d J. L a b b e Pascal L a c o m b e Marlene Dobkin d e Rios Gerard Barriere Robert Trunz D e b o r a h Snyder John Allen Richard Evans Schultes FRANCISCO MONTES SHUNA, El Baile d e los Espiritus - The Dance of the Spirits, 1998, Natural Pigment on Bark, 45 x 46 c m
COVER: PABLO AMARINGOLos Renacos en la Cocha - By the Lake, 1998Acrylic on Paper46 x 60 cm Visiting Arts LONDON ARTS BOARD T h i s o r g a n i s a t i o n receives f u n d i n g f r o m London Borough GrantsMARKS & SPENCER