Ximena Garrido-Lecca: ‘Paisaje Antrópico’ @ Max Wigram Gallery

Max Wigram Gallery showcases the first solo exhibition of Peruvian artist Ximena Garrido-Lecca, titled ‘Paisaje Antrópico’. The exhibition consists of numerous sculptural installations, including a working fountain, a wall made of flattened oil drums, a metal screen forming the shape of a condor and covered with party streamers, a cactus growing in a paint bucket underneath a light-bulb. The show is complimented with a video projected onto an artificial house wall, showing the annual celebration of Toropukllay that takes place around Independence Day at the highland villages of Peru during the ‘Blood Festival’. A condor is tied to the back of a bull and viciously pecks its back.

Garrido-Lecca’s Peruvian village re-creation is a heavily symbolic –almost totemic- locus. With clear references to the long procellous history and struggle of the Peruvian population against the Spanish colonial powers (before the nation’s independence in 1821), the artist attempts to also demonstrate through a playful context the mixing process between tradition and modern influence. The use of architectural elements associated with privacy and individuality such as walls or doors stand as ancient monuments echoing bygone eras, which have not destroyed but altered the nation’s socio-historical and cultural idiosyncrasy. Garrido-Lecca has effectively managed to transform the limited gallery space into a vast perspicacious platform by addressing meaningful issues ad rem. Having Peru as her starting point, the artist has skillfully managed to demonstrate how any nation’s cultural identity may be under threat by colonialism and its peripheral phenomena.

Ximena Garrido-Lecca talked to REVma -/+ about her work:

REVma -/+: Your sculptural pieces as well as your video installation refer to a rural Peruvian and a -slightly more- traditional idiosyncrasy. Why did you select these particular elements to produce a symbolical context associated with Peru’s political and social status?
X.G.L.: While I don’t like to explain my work in detail as some of its meaning comes from encountering the objects for what they are in the gallery, all my works are based on real objects or architectures that I have found travelling in Peru. Common among the things that interest me are instances when common materials or services have been improvised by colloquial needs.

The symbolism of the Yawar Festival in the video is a clear battle between the indigenous and colonial culture, and I was interested in it as an act of resistance as well as celebration of local traditions. But I was also interested in putting that together with more everyday acts that could also be seen as improvisations of cultures. The fountain is a mixture of styles – and of civic structures. As in the city of Cuzco where the foundations of the colonial buildings are actually Inca in origin, I was looking to show this two-way hybridisation. Civic or public works of all cultures contain symbols related to power, fertility, and fortune or religion and these moments of European and native American symbolism combined bring this out.

There is also a sense of responsibility within modernisation and development which concern me, and, I think, this resonates within my work. In the fence and the electricity meter, power and resources appear differently in relation to public services and private access. The used oil drums becoming a barrier to define a private space, or the awkward wiring of the power, or the condor gate. I like these instances, not just for their political meanings, but also there is something playful and human about their pragmatic and slightly clumsy aesthetics that appeals to me when placed in the gallery.

REVma -/+: Your work resembles a cultural identity very familiar to you. To what extent do you feel London as a major international centre for the arts can be the fertile ground to present your chosen visual language?
X.G.L.: Yes, it is an important place for work, but I have a love hate relation with the city. The issues in my work question global economies and the dominance of old colonial powers so its not a place I am fully at home in, even though it is a rich environment for an artist to be based professionally. Like many people, I think, I feel displaced both at home in Peru, or at home in London. Perhaps that’s a condition of the contemporary global world.

REVma -/+: Although you currently live and work in London, how do you see contemporary art evolving in South America at present and how easy is it for a Peruvian artist to be understood from audiences in other continents such as Europe?
X.G.L.: My work focuses on instances from Peruvian culture, but the subjects I address are global – issues of change and development and how traditional customs and cultures become extinct. On the one hand I’m celebrating them by registering before they disappear, on another I’m mourning them. Recording this idiosyncratic visual language in the transition from old to new, my work traces these cycles, the economic, environmental and aesthetic in different moments.