Nicholas Arroyave-Portela’s work deals with space and time and, like the Maya turtle-as-world image, it invites big shifts in focus, where the universal and the individual are mutually interdependent metaphors. As the overall title of the series, Todo sobre mi padre, indicates, all this work refers, in different ways, to Arroyave-Portela’s father, whom he remembers as “Dr Fernando”. A distinguished and charismatic Oxford-based psychiatrist, Fernando Arroyave-Portela’s life was cut short in 1987 at the age of 53, following an unsuccessful heart-transplant operation. His uncommon death was matched by an uncommon early childhood. He was born in Spain in 1934, son of a Colombian, Ezequiel Arroyave Roldán, who had come to Spain to pursue post-graduate studies in medicine at the University of Cadiz, and Mari Carmen, daughter of the rector of the Medical Faculty. Ezequiel, however, returned to Colombia before the birth of his son. It was only seven years later, in 1941, after Mari Carmen had taken the young Fernando to Argentina to escape the aftermath of the civil war in Spain, and when Ezequiel travelled from Colombia to collect them, that father and son met for the first time.
Fact may be stranger than fiction but transforming the fragments of strange facts that comprise an individual life into something that will reverberate with those who know nothing of the person or life in question is what art can do. These fragments of clay, these unfamiliar continents, pockmarked with craters and scarred with reefs and river beds, are a sort of creative re-imagining of his father’s travels. And they are also a record of the artist’s personal journey of exploration into his memories of his father, and of his own sense of identity.
Taken from the essay, Transitions, translations, migrations by Professor Valerie Fraser, Director of the Latin American Centre and Co Director of the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art. April 2010.
A full version can be found in the accompanying show catalogue.
The exhibition catalogue also has a Spanish translation by Andres David Montenegro.
Celebrating 200 years of Colombian Independence.
Nicholas is also featured in the latest CRAFTS magazine, please follow the link to view the article.
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