Outlaud, acrylic on silk organza, 39.5″ x 79.5″, 2018-2019
Our Wall, acrylic on silk organza, 39.5″ x 22″, 2018-2019
Swallow, acrylic on silk organza (double painting*), 79.5″ x 22″, 2018-2019
Glazing (Veladura), acrylic on silk organza (double painting*), 39.5″ x 39.5″, 2018-2019
Crossings I (diptych), acrylic and sand on silk, 22″ x 79.5″, 2018-2019
Crossings II (diptych), acrylic and sand on silk, 22″ x 79.5″, 2018-2019
The Other Shore, acrylic and sand on silk, 39.5″ x 39.5″, 2018-2019
* The work has been painted in two layers of silk. The first layer of silk organza allows the viewer to see the painting behind the first layer.
My work is a visual expression that comes from within, from my Peruvian roots. After a long journey, I have turned back in on myself and, vibrant with ambiguity, followed the invisible traces of a past that has never died: footprints from afar, immense deserts, high mountain ranges, the high seas, huge finely carved stones, mud, dust, and wind. My work stems from a need to decipher an enigmatic alphabet of a living culture that I recognize as mine and that gives me my identity. I try to recover the world to which I belong through lyrical and intimate compositions that help overcome the pain of destruction, as a way to regain and restore dignity. Many of my paintings find their inspiration in the timeless aesthetic legacy of pre-Columbian art and its strikingly modern vocabulary and grammar for exploring a narrative beyond time and space.
My work also represents an identification with the past in the form of a question, with the need to unveil the mysteries of a world in which the ancient Peruvians found their own identity as a culture and a harmonious relationship with nature and the “soul of the universe.” It is part of the never-ending quest for cultural identity of the Peruvian people.
At an exhibit I had in Switzerland, a Peruvian man approached me and said, “Your work makes me proud to be Peruvian.” That has deep meaning to my generation. I began exploring pre-Columbian art in the 1990s, years of tremendous political violence in Peru. Confronted with death in daily life, explosions of cars packed with dynamite, and the anguish of having a journalist husband covering the war made me paint with a frenzy paintings full of bright colors. Later, I realized that that was my answer to death: the celebration of life. The extraordinary cultural legacy of the ancient Peruvians can help, perhaps, to create a sense of unity in today’s highly divided Peruvian society.
When people look at works of mine inspired by the golden splendors and rows of precious metal squares found in the tombs of the ancient Lord of Sipan, they sometimes think they see traces of Klimt. Indeed, it was only when modern art became widely understood that we were able to see the “modernity,” the expressive simplicity, the playfulness, the economy, the stylization of pre-Columbian art. The Paracas and Chancay cultures remind us of modern expressionist and surrealist art; there are traces of primitive art in the works of Klee and Miro. The Huari designs recall the abstract geometric art of Mondrian. The Huari culture’s huge geometric designs divided into fields of vibrant colors also lead us to the so-called “color field” artists, like Rothko. One can see the suprematist Malevich and the pure celebration of geometry in Inca mantels.
When I paint, I can almost feel the mud friezes of the Citadel of Chan Chan, the threads of filigree of the Huari textiles, the stunning pectorals of the Lord of Sipan, the Nazca lines carved in the desert, the colors of the sacred vases of the Incas, the huge and perfectly cut stones of Machu-Picchu. These timeless works have taken me, with invisible threads, to color and lines, color and squares, and circles of a modern pictorial vision. But then, I have retraced my steps and filled those squares with primitive and outlined figures, traced hundreds of lines that took me back to woven filigrees, painted hundreds of gold and silver squares that claim to belong to an ancient king. The mud, stone, sand, gold, and threads have been transformed, however, have risen again to create a sense of unity, a simplified totality.
I chose silk as a medium in which to express my artistic vision after a period of experimentation. The rich colors and the splendor of the ancient Peruvian textiles achieved when the camelid fibers absorbed the dyes made silk the right fiber for me to celebrate sheer color and geometry. Silk lets the colors flow, shimmer, vibrate. Silk allows me, using metallic and silk paint to develop textures, to intertwine layers of golden and silver threads that seem to have a woven texture. With silk, I can mount colors in frames, play with light and shade. Silk also allows me to work as if I were painting on canvas or wood, making incisions and carving on a surface saturated with paint. I feel I can simultaneously express the beauty and the wounds of contemporary societies. I can use sand and gold and silver leaf. These allow me to express my pictorial vision through different techniques without constraints. I paint intricate compositions, inspired by nature, architecture, and music, as well as pre-Columbian art. Silk, a noble and strong fiber, has no boundaries.
“The roots are forged, defined and re-defined in a weaving together of reminiscences, an idea, emotion, the present, desire, and fiction. The fabric unfolds as a metaphor for social, autobiographical, imaginary structures in which the thread unwinds a living trail, mixing, hiding, revealing, opening up the spiritual, emotional, and rational transitions and breaks proper to what is deeply rooted.
“Borrowing from pre-modern cultures, the artist weaves together subtle compositions eliciting intimate looks, casting doubts, and longing for the closeness needed to bare the secrets beneath the layers. Nebiur looks deep inside the present, searching for the resonance of the surroundings in translucent interior universes where material sprouts in vertical and horizontal lines that give shape to the aesthetic reflections of a deep love of place triggered by re-encounter.
“After establishing herself as an artist outside Peru, Nebiur Arellano has returned to her roots in a new presence in which her lyrical vision battles with the gravity of the written word. Inescapable illusions are wrapped round those words, oppressing, demanding to be confronted and answered, against a backdrop of displacements, losses, rupture.
“Nebiur’s silks unravel before you, the observer, like sensual layers on layers and brittle patches of solar fabric in a landscape of meditation on the harmonies and fissures in the narrative of a Peruvian identity in which the here-ness of the past creates memory, the present-ness of what is here calls for vision and the now-ness of the beyond beckons you to wait.”
* Written by Sissi Hamann Turkowsky for “ArtLima” (April 2019); translated by Jonathan Cavanagh
About the Artist
Nebiur Arellano, who was born in Peru, studied sociology and art in both her native country and the United States. She has spent 25 years developing a personal language that combines her vision of the world with a plastic art and aesthetic in which substance and form merge to reflect the influence of pre-Columbian art and of contemporary masters that have had an impact on her. We can glimpse in her work traces of Klee, Mondrian, Miro, Hundertwasser, and Klimt while “traveling” from the pre-Inca citadel of Chan Chan through to the cities and celestial bodies of a modernity that breathes and lives through the artist’s eyes.
Many of Nebiur Arellano’s works find their inspiration in pre-Columbian art — see, for example, her series Homage to the Lord of Sipan, which depicts pectorals made of tiny squares of gold, silver, and copper — resulting in vibrant, city-like compositions. Her series Homage to the Ancient Weaver is Nebiur Arellano’s own tribute to the extraordinary beauty and modern designs of ancient Peruvian textiles.
By layering colors and intricate lines of metallic paints, Nebiur Arellano creates timeless and contemporary compositions using her unique technique, which makes her viewers wonder what medium they are looking at. Is it glass, paper, enamel, or woven? And, as many critics note, it is difficult not to want to touch the richly textured surfaces of her paintings.
Nebiur Arellano has shown her work in Europe (France, Germany, and Switzerland), the United States (New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Rockville, Maryland; and Washington, D.C.), and her native Peru (Cusco and Lima). In 2002, she represented her country of origin in “Europe’Art,” in Geneva, Switzerland, where she also had a solo show, “The Modernity of pre-Columbian Art,” Municipality of Neuchatel. In 2007, the painter was part of a two-person exhibition at the Christiane Peugeot Gallery in Paris, France, and had a solo show in 2011 at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, D.C. In 2019, she exhibited at “ArtLima” in Peru. In addition, Nebiur Arellano has exhibited her work in the top juried fine art and craft shows, including those of the American Craft Council (Baltimore, Maryland), Architectural Digest (New York City), Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian (National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.).
Paintings by Nebiur Arellano can be found in private collections in Australia, Brazil, Chile, England, Germany, Holland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. In addition, her work is in the permanent collection of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, as well as the Contemporary Museum of Cusco, Peru, and the Peruvian Consulate in Washington, D.C. Nebiur Arellano is one of only four women in the United States to be honored by the Peruvian Embassy. More than 100 of Nebiur Arellano’s paintings appear in the book Celebration of Color, published in 2006.
Since 2017, Nebiur Arellano has been spending her time between the United States and her home country.