Two interesting Peruvian watercolours, by Marvi

Peruvian watercolours by Marvi

I met Marvi in Pisac (near Cusco) where she has a stall to sell her own work, and the work of some friends. She lives in Cusco, and also studies art there. I could find a lot of enthusiasm for her work, finding a lot of deep subtleties and meaning to it, but strangely she doesn't see these things at all in her own paintings! It can only be that she paints purely intuitively, and does not understand even afterwards what exactly she has been expressing. I'll give some of my own interpretations lower down the page.

Marvi told me that she had made the pigments for these paintings herself. When I asked her why she had bothered, she showed me some other paintings that she had done with bought pigments, and the effect of the colours was very much less vivid. In fact, the physical paintings themselves are a lot more vivid than the scanned computer images, although we have done our best with the scanner adjustments to give a good representation of the quality of the colours.

I've presented the pictures below in two different arrangements, as to me the subtle effect of the pictures in combination seems to be different depending on the order they are presented:

Peruvian watercolour by MarviPeruvian watercolour by Marvi

To me, the feeling of the two pictures is radically different. For me, the left picture has a feminine quality, and the right one a more masculine quality. Certainly, the left one is more enclosed, and everything in the picture feels gently rounded or bent. The women are huddled together, gossipping I suppose ... or conspiring. The houses are warm and friendly, but in a way they also feel like they are subtly invading the street. The effect is slightly hallucinogenic with the distorted shapes all around. By contrast, the one on the right has a very straight and masculine quality to me. There is a lot more space -- the houses aren't crowding you at all. Everything seems much more ordered, but this just has the effect of feeling surreal in another way. The women have turned to face you, and to me feel like three strange beings focussed on, but not actually looking at, the observer. Their clothes in both paintings are represented by strange hallucinogenic swirls, but in the right painting, the effect is almost sinister. Are these really women, or some other entities? The world they are inhabiting feels both right and wrong at the same time.

Peruvian watercolour by MarviPeruvian watercolour by Marvi

Now let me paint a slightly more altered-state interpretation of these pictures. I was attending Ayahuasca ceremonies whilst visiting Marvi, and I was talking to her a lot about my experiences, although she never seemed to fully grasp what I was explaining (consciously), and didn't attend any ceremonies. But still, maybe some of my ramblings did stimulate something in her art. Certainly, she did try to paint a stylised impression of a ceremony from my descriptions at an earlier stage.

To me the paintings have very strong qualities related to these altered and meditative states. You could say that about much of the traditional and tourist art from Peru, but the difference here is that most of the surreal art of Peru seems more like copies of copies of things half-forgotten from the past. The difference here, for me, is that the surrealness is alive. For me, the swirls in the clothing say "Ayahuasca" right away (even though I've never seen anything like that during an Ayahuasca ceremony); the surrealness seems very much more connected with the worlds available through Ayahuasca than with normal perception. It is not the real world that we are dealing with in these paintings, but rather the other worlds, the magical worlds that can be accessed through Ayahuasca and other medicine plants. Well, that is what I think, anyway.  ;-)

I hope you enjoy looking at them!

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