Ramiro Arango (1946 - )

Venus (1992)

Pastel on canvas
height: 118cm
width: 147cm

Donated by Josefina Durini 1993


Arango's Venus is a startling reworking of Titian's Venus of Urbino, in the Ufizzi Gallery, Florence, with the figures replaced by gourds. In the background the woman-gourd supervises the servant-gourd as she looks in the long chest, while in the foreground the Venus-gourd reclines on her white pillows. At her feet she even has the sleeping dog-gourd, symbol of sleeping desire, although more explicitly suggestive here than in the Titian.

The forms of the gourds are like those of the poporos, the vessels traditionally used to hold the lime used in conjunction with chewing coca, so establishing a visual link with the indigenous culture of Colombia as well as Renaissance Italy. Arango's transformations of Old Master paintings are more than mere parodic quotations; he engages in a dialogue with Titian and with the viewer's memories of Titian.

The translation of Titian's oil paint into pastel gives the forms a peculiarly velvety sensuality. The lighting is different too, brighter and more limpid: Arango's window lets in airy daylight from a pale blue sky instead of the shady, private space suggested behind the Titian. Instead of the cool gaze of the erotic young woman we see the neck of the gourd. Without this direct eye contact, without the naked flesh and implication of voyeurism, the spectator's gaze is less mediated, less constrained, freer to enjoy the soft curving form on the bed.

Originally published in Cuerpos, Redes, Voces, Tránsitos: Horizontes Cambiantes (Madrid: Casa de América, 1999)

Valerie Fraser, 2008

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