Paloma Crousillat (1980 - )

Chair in Taquile, Peru (2002)

Mixed media on canvas
height: 270cm
width: 176cm

Donated by Paloma Crousillat 2002


This is a painting of many layers, literally and metaphorically – layers of paint, layers of meaning, layers of tension and contradiction. The island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca is a popular tourist destination, famous for its fine woven woollen textiles, but here the focus of attention is not traditional craftsmanship but a modern chair, a pink plastic chair placed out in the bright highland sunshine. At nearly 4000 metres above sea level, the thin air and surrounding water mean that on a clear day in Taquile colours can appear almost painfully brilliant and here the blue, blue sky seems as artificial and out of place as the pink chair, but both are true. Behind and in contrast to the chair is an old building, perhaps of adobe, with an uneven tiled roof and a bleached wooden door. Underlying the whole composition is an image of a crucified Christ repeated over and over again, like a litany. This is the miracle-working Cristo de los Temblores, the Christ of the Earthquakes, and the original statue stands in Cusco cathedral but its widespread popularity means that cheap reproductions are everywhere, as they are in this painting. Crousillat describes how she made a silkscreen version of a postcard of the statue which she then printed in red ink all over raw canvas. Once the ink had set she stretched the canvas and primed it with a transparent emulsion over which she then painted the chair and the building. So the most powerful religious image in Peru becomes in effect wallpaper, a stand-in for clay roof-tiles, a backdrop to nothing more significant than a chair. But what is interesting about the technique is that stretching the canvas after the application of the silkscreen image means that the repeats are not exactly aligned but undulate across the surface of the canvas to suggest a woven rather than a painted pattern, a subtle evocation, perhaps, of the local textile traditions; and also a reminder, of course, that canvas is itself a woven fabric. There is a further textile echo in the apparently uncompromising modernity of the pink plastic chair. Very bright, almost psychedelic colours are popular among Andean textile weavers and although visitors often see this as western influence, in fact well over 2000 years ago the ancient Peruvians were highly skilled in the use of natural dyes. In particular they made use of cochineal to produce vibrant reds and pinks, still among the most common colours in contemporary Taquile fabrics. The modern may after all be ancient; the ancient can still feel modern. Peru is a country of contrasts, as Crousillat so effectively demonstrates.

Valerie Fraser

browse the collection

artist a-z > work type > advanced search >