Chilean artist celebrates his native country at Glendon

If travelling to South America to explore its longest country is out of the question, then the next best option may be visiting the Glendon Gallery’s first exhibition of the academic year, Chile al norte del mundo (Chile at the Top of the World), on now.

Chilean artist Jorge Gonzalo Fernandez’s collection of paintings and sculptures provides a comprehensive cross-section of the regions and cultures of his country of origin, with the intention of celebrating Chile’s 200th anniversary as a country.

Right: Jorge Gonzalo Fernandez (left) with Martine Rheault, Glendon coordinator of artistic & cultural affairs

Gonzalo Fernandez comes from a family of painters and sculptors, who emigrated from Spain to Chile. He hails from Viña del Mar, a seaside resort in central Chile, but has lived in Brampton since 1986.

His paintings – oil on canvas – feature bright, primary colours and touch on significant themes of Chilean culture. Symbols of ancient, pagan rites and animist manifestations combine with Christian themes portraying the many layers of Chilean society. Among these, the painting of The Cueca, an ancient ritual dance with African influences, displays traditional costumes. La Machí presents an important shaman-like figure – sometimes filling the role of a medicine man, a psychologist or a musician – straddling the real and the spirit world. Rodeo portrays the Chilean cowboy tradition, which is different from the Spanish bullfight, aiming to control the animal, not to kill him or make him suffer.

Left: The Cueca by Jorge Gonzalo Fernandez

Various paintings represent traditional occupations of the country, among these the Pescador – a fisherman with distinctly native features in a typical Chilean boat against a mountainous backdrop. A painting of a bearded man playing the hurdy-gurdy on a street corner brought humour and surprise to the exhibit’s opening evening, when its subject – a close friend of the artist – stood next to his image.

A number of sculptures complement the paintings, touching once again on fundamental Chilean themes. Pachamama – or Mother Earth – carved out of honey-coloured maple, conveys the warmth and sensuousness of the subject. The Magic of Chiloe is a two-sided, Janus-like male head also carved out of maple, whose other side is a phallic symbol. It illustrates the fable of the magical woodcutter, who lived in the forests of this coastal island and could transform his axe into a flute, seducing young women with his music.

Right: Pachamama – Mother Earth – by Jorge Gonzalo Fernandez

A large allegorical painting pays homage to one of the country’s greatest literary and cultural figures, Pablo Neruda. In a magical, surrealist style, Neruda is sitting at a table writing, surrounded by features of the country’s landscape. These include the Andes, the ocean and its bounty, a semi-transparent muse playing his harp, Machu Picchu (the theme of one of the poet’s works) fruits of the earth, an onion floating in the sky (a reference to one of Neruda’s famous poems) and others. This monumental work summarizes the artist’s love of his country, his devotion to its culture and to the man who contributed much to it.

Left: An allegorical painting of Pablo Neruda

Many students, faculty, staff, members of the diplomatic corps representing numerous South-American countries in Toronto, as well as Chileans who came to celebrate the country’s anniversary and the artist, attended the exhibit opening on Sept. 16. Glendon’s coordinator of artistic & cultural affairs, Martine Rheault, expressed her thanks to all those whose support and contributions made the event such a success.

One of those contributors was Jose Labra and his company Flo Trading of Oakville, who enhanced the Chilean experience of the night by providing typical Chilean snacks, such as ceviche, artichoke and olive mousse, octopus, sea bass and salmon tidbits. Chilean wines, generously donated by the Consulate of Chile in Toronto, complemented the experience.

Right: Rolando Vasquez, the model for the hurdy-gurdy player, stands next to the painting

The opening of Chile al norte del mundo was the initial event in the 19th Festival of Images & Words – Festival 19 de la palabra y de la imagen – currently in progress and encompassing a whole series of Latin-American cultural events, under the direction of Spanish Professor Emerita Margarita Feliciano, director of Antares Publishing House at Glendon. The festival features talks, movies, art exhibitions and much more. For more information about other events in the festival, contact Feliciano at 416-487-6787.

Left: A traditional musician and shaman, depicted in one of Jorge Gonzalo Fernandez’s paintings on display at the Glendon Gallery

Following Gonzalo Fernandez’s guided tour, Uruguayan artist Martha Mazzoleni played traditional Latin-American songs on the Paraguayan harp to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. The musical performance was followed by a book launch of recent publications by Antares, under the title Otras latitudes: Voces argentinas alrededor del Paralelo 49 (Other Latitudes: Argentinian Voices Around the 49th Parallel).

Chile al norte del mundo runs at the Glendon Gallery until Oct. 2. For gallery hours and directions, visit the Glendon Gallery website.

The next exhibition at the Glendon Gallery, Chez le disquairerecord jackets and video loops, featuring the work of Manitoban artist Kevin Ei-Ichi de Forest, will run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 30.

By Marika Kemeny, Glendon communications officer