Updated: Jul 31
Sirena en el Mar de Rosas (2010). Cecilia Paredes. Courtesy of the artist.
The Peruvian art scene is a vibrant and exciting community that has significantly contributed to the art world. From the pioneering art criticisms of Juan Acha and his thought-provoking concept of Arte No Objetual (Non-Objectual Art) to the avant-garde experiments of the 1960s, Peruvian art practices have always provided an excellent stimulus for anyone interested in navigating the tension between being at the forefront of international artistic practices and local developments. Today, contemporary artists like Sandra Gamarra are continuing this legacy, bringing new perspectives and approaches to the Peruvian art scene. Gamarra's project LIMAC (Lima Art Museum and Contemporary Art Centre) has helped to promote and support the work of contemporary artists from the region, highlighting the unique cultural heritage and creative vision that make the Peruvian art scene such an exciting and vital part of the global art community.
For these reasons, Amalgama is excited to share with you a list of Peruvian women artists who have contributed significantly to this cultural development that anyone interested in the arts should know about.
Tilsa Tsuchiya's (1928-1984) artistic journey was not just about creating paintings but, as she once expressed, a path towards salvation, Her surrealist works were a fusion of various styles and cultures rooted in indigenous motifs and legends. Born in Supe, Peru, to a Japanese father and a Sino-Peruvian mother, Tsuchiya started taking art classes in Lima during her childhood. In 1959, she graduated from the Escuela Nacional Superior Autónoma de Bellas Artes in Lima, influenced by abstract expressionist Fernando de Szyszlo. She furthered her studies at the Sorbonne and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Tsuchiya's paintings, such as Canto de Paz, Mito de los Sueños and Ser Mitico feature supernatural female figures placed in surreal landscapes. These women, with solid bodies and often with no arms, are sometimes seen perched atop trees, high cliffs, and ancient ruins or flying through the air. For us, they represent the power and freedom of nature, as well as the dense volume of sacred stones, such as those of the Inca structures of Machu Picchu. Tsuchiya's works manifest timeless and archetypal feminine power. Despite her untimely death, her hauntingly beautiful and inspiring oeuvre continues to inspire.
Teresa Burga (1935-2021) is a pioneering artist who has played a significant role in the development of conceptual art in Peru. One of her most well-known works is Obra que desaparece cuando el espectador trata de acercarse (Work that Disappears When the Viewer Tries to Approach It), which consists of a series of coloured squares on a wall that disappear as the viewer approaches, leaving only a white wall. This work challenges what constitutes an artwork and explores the relationship between the viewer and the object. In her 1972 self-portrait, Burga depicted herself as data, using a grid format to portray her own face and listing medical records, ID cards, photographs, and other bureaucratic documents. She showcased this work as an installation displaying the information in a way that questioned how identity is constructed in contemporary society.
GLORIA GOMEZ SANCHEZ
Gloria Gómez Sánchez (1921-2007) was a key figure in the 60’s avant-gardes of Peru. In 1965, in an exhibition at Gallery Solisol, the artist created assemblages of used fabrics and waste. Old shoes, frog skeletons, insects and wire merged with paper-maché to establish a visual manifesto against the pictorial act of painting. A way of denying the contemporary relevance of the image and instead emphasising the power of the material itself. Another notable work by Gómez Sánchez is Corbata (Tie), an installation that consists of a large image of a woman on a wall with her legs wide open, wearing a gigantic tie that extends to the floor. The installation invites the viewer to walk on the tie, challenging gender roles in Peruvian society. Through her innovative use of materials and conceptual approach, Gómez Sánchez helped redefine the boundaries of art in Peru and paved the way for future artists to explore new possibilities in their work.
Cecilia Paredes (b. 1950) is known for her captivating self-portraits that explore themes of identity and belonging. Her works often feature herself camouflaged against intricate patterns and natural landscapes, blurring the boundaries between the human form and the environment. In Paredes' own words: "I wrap, cover, or paint my body with the same pattern of the material and re-present myself as part of that landscape. By doing this, I am no longer an individual; I am part of the whole." Paredes' work challenges traditional notions of portraiture and invites viewers to contemplate their relationship with the world around them. Her self-portraits are a testament to the power of art to communicate complex ideas and emotions in a visually striking and thought-provoking way.
PAOLA TORRES NUÑEZ DEL PRADO
Paola Torres Núñez del Prado is a contemporary Peruvian artist who offers a fresh take on traditional textile art. She incorporates technology into her work to intervene in traditional patterns and textures, creating pieces that challenge our perceptions of translation and misrepresentation. By using digital tools to manipulate and re-imagine traditional motifs, Torres Núñez del Prado creates works that speak to the intersection of traditional and modern and how cultural heritage can be preserved and transformed. Her pieces are deeply rooted in her own personal experiences and cultural background. Still, they also reflect a larger conversation about how technology changes how we create and understand art. Through her work, Torres Núñez del Prado encourages us to rethink our relationship with tradition and to embrace the potential of new technologies to create something truly unique and meaningful. Her pieces are a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries and connect us to our shared humanity. Click here to view her participation in Amalgama's 2021 Forum.
Elena Damiani (b.1979) is a contemporary artist known for her multimedia installations and works examining the relationship between art, science, and history. Her art often explores how we classify and categorise information, particularly in relation to images and archives. Her work delves into the complex relationship between history and geology, exploring the representation of remote landscapes in the Americas, such as volcanoes and waterfalls. Her work involves collecting and classifying physical and digital images based on their content and potential use. Damiani is particularly interested in archival images that fall under the categories of "geology and landscape," "expeditions," "landscapes of disaster," and "fractured time." Through her use of archival images and her system of classification, Damiani raises questions about how we perceive and interpret visual information. By re-contextualising these images, she creates new narratives and interpretations that challenge our preconceived notions about history and the natural world.
Olinda Silvano is an artist who creates stunning murals inspired by her indigenous heritage. Her murals feature Kene patterns, which are geometric designs that hold great significance for her people. Silvano defines Kene patterns as the unique geometric patterns that identify her ethnicity, the Shipibo-Konibo people. Her murals are enormous in size and often cover entire walls, making a powerful statement about the importance of her culture and history. Through her work, Silvano highlights the artistic value of indigenous art and brings it to a wider audience.
Born in Lima in 1949, Alma Laura moved to the UK at the young age of 19. In her early 20s, she took up her current painting practice in which she explores her own identity alongside themes of sexuality, race, the feminine, the body, the family, the imagined and the current. All from her own internal gaze. In her colour-filled works, Alma Laura distills memories and snapshots of life's moments and experiences, capturing human connection mixed with elements of nostalgia.
CLAUDIA MARTINEZ GARAY
Claudia Martinez Garay (b.1983) is an artist who challenges colonialist frameworks and official narratives that inform our understanding of pre-Columbian cultures. Her works, including Preguntitas a la Tierra / Little questions to the Ground, Chunka Iskayniyuq Pacha, and Ghost Kingdom, aim to explore and communicate the complexity of Andean cosmovision. In her own words, "It’s important to understand the very different civilisations that existed, one on top of the other, invading and conquering each other before they were conquered by the Incas and their culture erased by the Spanish”. In her work, history is not examined in a linear manner but instead jumps between past and present, exploring how media and information circulate over time. This approach encourages viewers to reflect on the impact of cultural erasure, violence, and colonialism from a new perspective.
Sandra Gamarra’s work lives in the liminal space between fiction and reality. One of her most significant projects is LIMAC, which criticises the lack of cultural institutions in Peru while also existing as an artwork that reflects on the commodification of culture. Thus, on the one hand, it proposes the creation of a virtual museum to promote contemporary art, with a collection that has gradually expanded to include works by other artists as well as Gamarra's own. But, on the other hand, LIMAC also lives in an imaginary space that reflects the commodification of culture. Gamarra’s work challenges what constitutes a museum, what makes an institution as such, and what gives it institutional weight. Likewise, in her series of paintings, Gamarra copies famous artworks from magazine prints, depicting viewers interacting with them in a way that resembles a form of worship. This almost ritualistic behaviour of the viewers challenges the concept of the original and the copy, questioning the authority and authenticity of cultural icons in contemporary society. By portraying the act of "worshipping" a reproduced artwork, Gamarra highlights the role of cultural institutions in shaping our understanding of art and the importance of challenging their dominant narratives.
Elena Tejada-Herrera is a transdisciplinary artist who creates hybrid forms of art by incorporating new media and participatory works in which the public becomes a creative collaborator. "They Sing, They Dance, They Fight" (2020) and "The girls train to fight" (2019) show diverse women performing alternative constructions of femininity. "In one clip, scenes in which a woman demonstrates her skills as a “scissor dancer”—a Peruvian vernacular dance normally reserved for men—are combined with footage of a group of women and girls fighting as part of their self-defence training. In another video, a trans woman plays the palla corongo, a typical female character in Peruvian folklore."
MILAGROS DE LA TORRE
Milagros de la Torre (b.1965) is a photographer whose work delves into the intricacies of history and cultural practices. In her series 'Diary of a Cure for the Evil Eye', she draws parallels between the ancient practice of cura del huevo, which involves using a raw chicken egg to absorb the evil eye, and the well-known Rorschach Test used in psychological evaluations. The shapes formed by the egg whites are interpreted much like the inkblots in the Rorschach Test, revealing the viewer's subconscious fears and imagination. Her work "Intervals" also draws historical parallels between 19th-century theories of physiognomy and anthropometry and modern-day biometric systems used for facial recognition by surveillance industries, corporations, social media, and the state. Through her photography, de la Torre highlights the power dynamics within these practices and their impact on society.
ANA TERESA BARBOZA
Through her three-dimensional textile art, Ana Teresa Barboza encourages us to reflect on our surroundings. She graduated from the Facultad de Arte de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and has exhibited in several cities, such as Lima, Nueva York, Barcelona, Houston, among others. "In my works, I engage with the natural world and the landscape; through laborious and detailed embroidery and weaving, I try to reflect its rhythms and constant transformation, and thus, force a contemplative look at our environment.
Claudia Coca's work provokes critical reflection on contemporary political and cultural matters: colonialism, racism, gender and citizenship. In '...de castas y mala raza' the focus on family plays a huge role as testimony. Claudia Coca references the series of 20 paintings of castes, which the viceroy Manuel Amat y Juniet (1761-1776) of Peru sent to Spain in 1770 in response to King Charles III's wish to build the Gabinete de Historia Natural. Based on depictions of families, these paintings were intended to classify the different mixtures between the races that, at the time, were considered pure: Spanish, Indian and black. The artist adopts a similar composition to present herself with her son and husband, imagining a fictitious continuation of the original series.
Peruvian painter Julia Codesido (1892-1979) was one of the most significant representatives of the Peruvian plastic movement, popularly known as ‘indigenismo’. In Lima, she first received classes at the painter Teófilo Castillo’s studio, after which she attended the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes and was part of the workshop of José Sabogal. She exhibited for the first time at the Academia Nacional de Música Alcedo in 1929. Upon entering the National School of Fine Arts (ENBA), Codesido formed a quintet with Teresa Carvallo, Elena Izcue (painting), Carmen Saco (sculpture) and Beatriz Neumann (artistic photography), who became the representatives of the artistic outbreak of the first women to join. Her bold art practice was constantly evolving. The relevance she had among Mexican muralists allowed her to enter the North American art market and exhibit at Delphic Studios gallery in New York in 1936. In 1943, Codesido was exhibited in the Latin-American Collection at the Museum of Modern Art.
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Want to continue to fuel your curiosity and learn more about the history of art from Latin America, with a focus on women artists? Sign up now to become of the founding members of our new Member's Club! For only £19.99 a month, you'll get access to a masterclass on a different artist each month, a reading list, discounts on our specialised courses and be invited to our members' only events. Click here for more information and become a founding member now!