I do not profess beliefs; the wonderful thing is to be alive.
Those influences can be perceived in your works, of which many are based on Andean mythology stories, as the well-known 'Inkarri'. Do you believe in myths and legends?
I don't profess beliefs, but I do love myths. I do not believe in God, neither in the 'other world', I only believe in reality and that the wonderful thing is to be alive. We have to do all the good we can here as besides that there is nothing.
I used to have an extreme catholic education in a Franquista Jesuit school, he adds smiling. We had to sing daily the Spanish Phalanx hymn 'Cara al Sol' before going to church (he hums a couple of lines). The last day of school was the last day I went to church and I never went anymore, except for unavoidable social engagements.
The myth of the Andean tradition “Inkarri” is especially beautiful and the painting I made from this inspiration was exhibited in the retrospective exhibition that MALI (Museo de Arte de Lima) organized for my 85th birthday. It was overwhelming to see almost all my works together and many of them coming from abroad. By then, I had decided to donate ten of my works to MALI and ten to MAC (Museo de Arte Contemporí¡neo). Well, I am still here and painting.
Certainly you have produced a broad range of art pieces. Do you find, like some other artists feel, that is easier to begin a piece but difficult to decide when it is finished?
Actually, it happens to me and many other artists frequently, he laughs.
I remember a funny anecdote from Pierre Bonnard, a painter from my time whom I admire. This painter had been invited to spend a weekend at Mr. Phillips residency (owner of The Phillips Collection Museum in Washington), to observe his fantastic 20th century art collection in which there were also paintings from Bonnard. Mr. Phillips tells very humorously that the morning after he was surprised to see Bonnard, who by then was around his 80's, retouching one of the paintings that hanged from a wall. Immediately Mr. Phillips shouted at him 'Don't touch my painting'¦!' and the painter yelled back “what if it is mine'¦!” Of course that is an extreme situation, he remarks laughing.
Paul Valéry also used to say that there were no finished poems, only abandoned ones and Jorge Luis Borges affirmed “I like seeing published the things I write, because then I don’t feel that I can retouch them”.
(Photo: Marco Simola)
You are known as a worldly person and have almost everything in life as love, friends and success'¦Do you still have something missing you would like to do?
One can perceive it as the reality but the thing is that I have also been through very hard experiences, the artist frowns and soften his voice. All of us come through hard experiences in life, but unfortunately losing a son is something insuperable, you can never get over losing a son, it doesn't matter how much time passes.
By then I was married to Blanca Varela, a beautiful person and poetess, that could not withstand the death of our son Lorenzo and she died from sorrow three years after…How could I believe in something superior or divine? Dostoyevsky used to say that the existence of a blind child is alone the proof that there's nothing supreme'¦ A long silence invades us.
Sometimes there are no earthly explanations for the hardest experiences, humans become more sensitive and may have to continue, as you did'¦ What is the most meaningful thing that you have learned from life that you would like to share with us?
The way is really the goal.
That is true. I have learned that perfection does not exist. That the perfect painting that I have dreamt of doing all my life will never come and that the goal does not exist as the goal is merely the way. I have learnt that the greyhound never reaches the hare, but what’s essential is to chase it'¦I used to think that one day I was going to work on a painting that would leave me absolutely satisfied, but it never happened'¦*all life goes by in the attempt.*
Do you still have dreams to be achieved?
Truly, I do not regret anything I have done, but regret what I have not done. There were things that could seem banal but I would have loved to do during my years living in Europe, such as to ski, but then I did not have the money. Later on, when I lived in the United States, I was economically able to do so but never had much time'¦ Another thing I would have loved to do is to drive a Formula 1, cause I am passionate about machines and speed, he says with a bashful smile.
A last but important question, how would you define art?
I have a very personal definition that the painting is the visible encounter of the sacred with the material; nevertheless, that definition would not be precise enough because that defines our loved ones too'¦
After finishing the interview, Szyszlo invites us to visit his studio placed in the upper floor of his house; a spacious room full of natural light that filters from its large upper windows and reflects on the plenty painting easels, canvas and brushes that are placed everywhere. There, the artist shows us the art work in which he is working on titled “Camino a Mendieta”, a colourful abstract oil painting inspired on Pisco south beaches. After a nice talk about the special sunset colours of Mendieta, we engaged in conversation on everyday topics, whose arguments also lead the artist to share with us some of his hilarious and endearing youth anecdotes.
By far to this point, we know that we have met the human being beyond the icon and it is certainly true that we feel wrapped in the masterful life lesson of this Latin-American art master.
(Photo: Marco Simola)
(Photo: Marco Simola)
Fernando de Szyszlo was born in Lima, on 5th July, 1925. He was the son of the Polish physician Vitold de Szyszlo and María Valdelomar, sister of the writer Abraham Valdelomar. He studied Architecture at the National Engineering University, but he did not graduate and, in 1944, he was admitted in the Fine Arts Academy of the Catholic University of Peru. At the age of 24, he travelled to the European continent, where he studied Fine Arts. His interesting autobiography 'La vida sin Dueño', has been released in Lima, Perú in December 2016.
Jessica de Pomar is an Art Consultant for art institutions, having worked internationally for The Art Newspaper (UK), The Museum of Art of Fort Lauderdale (USA) and the Museum of America (Spain), as well as La Molina Borough (Perú). As collaborator for The Art Newspaper, she participated in ARCO Madrid and Art Bassel Miami Beach in several occasions and she is an Art Writer for Living in Peru.
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