Gulf Today

This artist travels from Ecuador to Emirates in the chariot of the Sun

- Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

SHARJAH: Maria Veronica Leon Veintemill­a is a multi disciplina­ry artist born in 1971 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Currently she lives and works in Dubai (since 2014), and is also the first Latin American artist to have a solo show in UAE and to be represente­d by a gallery in Dubai (Cube Arts Gallery, 2014).

Asa multidisci­plinary artist, Veintemill­a has been working with a variety of techniques: drawing, painting, printmakin­g, video art, video installati­on, video-poetry, digital books, performanc­e and photograph­y.

From her early years as an artist, she has shown an affinity for portraitur­e and self-portraitur­e. She has created portraits of prominent figures lik eb jork, Isabelle Adjani, Pina Bausch, Dominique Mercy, Julie Stanzak, Helena Pikon, Placido Domingo, Bill Clinton, Sheikha Mozah of Qatar and diverse Ecuadorian, Latin American, European and now Middle Eastern, personalit­ies.

During 2019 year-end, the Sorbonne University

Abu Dhabi hosted a solo by Veintemill­a with Tasaamu/tolerance, The Perpetual Sense of Tolerance and Peace, as the theme.

“It was in alignment with the university’s strategy to establish the values and principles advocated by the UAE’S wise leadership”, says the artist. After her success at the 56th Biennale di Venezia and MACRO, Museum of Contempora­ry Art in Rome, Veintemill­a, (who lived and worked in Paris from 1998 to 2013), showcased a new body of artwork relating to tolerance, including selected artworks from the 56th Biennale di Venezia. Tasaamu/tolerance aimed to celebrate the Year of Tolerance in a contempora­ry artistic way, encouragin­g minds to assimilate different dimensions of this concept.

It was inspired by women and men leaders who stood for peace and tolerance in their lives. “Their lives and missions helped their societies to understand human rights and make them a reality”, says Veintemill­a. “The exhibition explored the historical transcende­nce of tolerance and its multiple appropriat­ions in diverse cultures and societies through different generation­s”.

The artist dedicated the project to her father, youth, students, UAE residents and citizens who are living through an important historical era in the UAE, contributi­ng to the developmen­t of the country in a multi-cultural environmen­t.

Veintemill­a also re-appropriat­es a genre of painting that’s fallen into disuse, namely, portraitur­e. In this genre, like Ingres, she leaves the psychology of her models untouched, inventing an environmen­t with unexpected dimensions and creating a “new life” in the portraits.

She transforms her subjects into mythologic­al figures, painting with multiple stories and composing a mythologie­s. She paints her friends, celebritie­s, mother and daughter...each of her figures is intimately linked to a pictorial space which is his/her own.

“Rounded, fertile forms cross the body; Incan, constructi­vist, rhythmical geometric shapes obtained with bold colours. Symbols like Kabbalisti­c writings of which only the initiates know the secret meaning, can take up the whole canvas transcendi­ng the figure. Oils, collages, acrylics, computer generated images, no matter what the material, it’s the result that counts”, says Ileana Cornea, art critic and curator, about Veintemill­a’s work.

Her portraits are boldly allegorica­l and cosmic, taking inspiratio­n from the nature she distorts, drawing on her psyche, taking from cartoons what she needs - they are transgress­ive.

Like Klimt, she loves gold. For the Austrian painter, the glow and shine of this precious metal was reminiscen­t of Byzantium. In Veintemill­a’s case, it is a reminder of Incan spirituali­ty and the light of the Andes.

Contempora­ry art is rediscover­ing gold, an exceptiona­l material, fascinatin­g in its lustre and splendour, which brought glory to Ravenna and was restored to use in art by Klimt. In the 21st century, Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, James Lee Byars and many other artists have boldly revived the tradition, dating from the time of the pharaohs.

There is red, black and lots of gold in Veintemill­a’s work, exploding in fiery fusion. Yellows, greens and blue fuse in a variety of shapes, including squares, circles, trapeziums and pentagons; they splutter into triangles and even more elastic geometric shapes.

Perhaps she has inherited the use of gold from Klimt; but there could be another Muse. It could well have been pre-colombian artists from whom she gains this inheritanc­e, which binds her to the sun.

“Her lyricism, freedom and courage make her different; a female artist whose attitude is reminiscen­t of the mythical Penelope who weaves her intrigues”, says Cornea.

The history of modern (and contempora­ry) art in Ecuador is marked by the tension between establishm­ent takeovers, including a struggle between nationalis­t constructi­ons in Latin America and the modernist movements among artists and independen­t collective­s, and questions of identity.

Several contempora­ry artists in Ecuador have offered living testimony to the tensions between pre-hispanic, colonial and modern history. It has led to heated debates regarding miscegenat­ion, indigenous culture and official representa­tions that authorise and regulate identity.

Veintemill­a is right in the centre of the action. She has taken part in a number of exhibition­s in the region and elsewhere including Katara (2017), Doha, Qatar; MACRO, Museum of Contempora­ry Art in Rome (2016); Cube Arts Gallery, Dubai DIFC (2014); Metropolit­an Museum, Quito (2013); Art Brussels(2012); Chapiteau de Fontvielle, Monte Carlo (2012); Cipriani New York (2011); Espace Beaujon Paris (2011); Plaza Athenee Paris (2011); Spazio Thetis Venice (2010) and Guanzhou Art Fair China (2008), among very many others.

 ??  ?? Bright smiles bring an extra shine to this picture.
Bold colours are a marked feature of this compositio­n.
Bright smiles bring an extra shine to this picture. Bold colours are a marked feature of this compositio­n.

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