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A Northern Celebration of Chile at the Glendon Gallery


If you can’t travel to South America to explore its longest country, the next best option at the present time is visiting the Glendon Gallery’s first exhibition of the academic year, Chile al norte del mundo (Chile at the Top of the World), which opened on September 16th.

Left: (l-r), Jorge Gonzalo Fernandez with Glendon Coordinator of Cultural Affairs Martine

The exhibition displays the work of Chilean artist Jorge Gonzalo Fernandez, whose 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.

Gonzalo Fernandez comes from a family of painters and sculptors, who emigrated from Spain to Chile. He hails from Vi˝a del Mar, a beautiful seaside resort in central Chile and has lived in Brampton, Ont. since1986.

Right: Pachamama - Mother Earth

The 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 MachÝ 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: Magic of Chiloe sculpture

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 humor and surprise to the evening, when its subject, Rolando Vasquez – a close friend of the artist - stood next to his image at the opening.

Right: Spirit of Macuchi

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.

Left: Traditional musician/shaman

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 his table, writing, surrounded by features of the country’s landscape: the Andes, the ocean and its bounty, a semi-transparent muse playing his harp, Machu Picchu, which was 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 great man who contributed so much to it.

Right: Rolando Vasquez, the model for the hurdy-gurdy player in the painting

The gallery opening on the 16th of September welcomed a huge attendance of students, faculty, staff, Chileans who came to celebrate the anniversary and the artist, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, who represented numerous South-American countries in Toronto. Glendon’s coordinator of cultural affairs, Martine Rheault expressed her thanks to all those who provided their support and contributions, making this event such a success.

Left: An allegorical painting of Pablo Neruda

A very nice touch: excellent typical Chilean snacks, such as ceviche, artichoke and olive mousse, octopus, sea bass, and salmon tidbits were offered by Jose Labra and his company, Flo Trading of Oakville, enhancing the Chilean experience and providing great enjoyment. The wonderful Chilean wines, generously donated by the Consulate of Chile complemented this outstanding experience.

Right: Cueca traditional dance

The gallery opening of Chile al norte del mundo was the initial event in the 19th Festival of Images and Words – Festival 19 de la palabra y del imagen – currently in progress and encompassing a whole series of Latin-American cultural events, under the direction of Spanish professor emerita and director of Antares Publishing House (located at Glendon), Margarita Feliciano. The festival features talks, movies, art exhibitions and much more. For other events in the Festival, please contact Margarita Feliciano at 416.487.6787 .

Left: Cueca traditional dance

Following Jorge 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 is on display at the Glendon Gallery until October 2nd. For gallery hours and directions, please consult the gallery’s website.

The next exhibition of the Glendon Gallery, Chez le disquaire – record jackets and video loops, will feature the work of Manitoban artist Kevin Ei-Ichi de Forest, from October 25 to November 30.

An article by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on September 30, 2010