Beyond the drawing. A glimpse into the artist’s work

For some time, Gustavo Emé has acquainted us with an aesthetic that makes his work recognizable: the recurrence of patterns, the clear pre-Hispanic reminiscence, as well as cartographic designs with Lima as its axis are all elements that are leitmotif in his artistic proposal. On this occasion, he continues along the same path, but today he reveals something from his previous work that is beyond ludic, critical, and ironic, something that “AnIMaL: 7 districts” (2014 exhibition) already anticipated: a form of cathartic exercise that conceals interior mysteries that the artist has yet to explore.

Taking Peruvian artists such as Fernando de Szyszlo and Elena Izcue as an example, whose interest in pre-Hispanic themes applied through different techniques he admires, as well as the work of Colombian artist Nadín Ospina, whose pop aesthetic also feeds off pre-Hispanic elements with an obvious critical and ludic tone, Emé has created a work that is influenced by elements from his generation: videogames and the technological world. The practicality of replication provided by technological applications –which lured him at first– is what guided him to the manual/handmade work as an artist. This is how, remembering the maps he made as a child, where he recreated cities, continents, and ideal worlds as a means of escape, he now re-creates the districts of Lima.

“LI-43” is the name of his sixth individual exhibition, where he gathers drawings from the years 2016 and 2018 that portray Lima and its districts. He takes postal codes as reference to name them and includes the sequence number in which they were elaborated, according to the affinity and knowledge Emé feels and holds for each place. Identifiable elements from each area –such as monuments, squares, cemeteries, or meaningful dates– are blended with surrealistic details, with quotes referring to experiences that occurred in each place or with simple words that emerged automatically and unconsciously, all this through his desire to portray the “ideal” district.

The drawing, in all its splendor, represents this selection and is the perfect pretext for the cathartic surge that manual work provides him and is a means of reflection where the obsessive repetition of graphics and written speech (automated and meaningless), become response to an unconscious inner exploration.

“Lima is a difficult city”, Gustavo Emé tells us, but there is more to it than the city itself and its problems, there are experiences that affect the artist, that make that urban chaos unconsciously transform into a reflection of his interiority. Instinct, fear, gratitude, melancholy, indignation, are all combined in an obsessive layout of images and text that delineate, perhaps unintentionally, a clearly intimate proposal.

This new series introduces works of various formats, elaborated on paper and pencil, ink, and colorpic, technique that allows the artist to achieve effects and textures that perfectly complement with the visual vibration generated by the texts. Suspended works, unconventionally mounted, and modular elements that can change location due to the observer’s intervention.

The artist matures and his work with him. His methodic character and apparent calmness burst on paper, the unconcern in his earliest drawings transmutes into an obsessive and planned order. The manual work´s healing and relaxing effect make of his work a showcase for the spectator to reflect, experiment, and create.

Far from rhetorical curatorial discourses, I invite you to ask yourself: In which city do you “live”?

By Silvana Vargas-Machuca Barrantes.

Gallery view