Olga de Amaral

1932 | Bogota, Colombia
Olga de Amaral — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Olga de Amaral

— Olga de Amaral

Colombian visual artist.

Maintaining subtle links between age-old craft traditions from her home country and western academic art, the works of Olga de Amaral – at once vividly colourful and deafeningly sombre, monumental, small and intimate – have a distinctive timeless and totemic character. Through familial and traditional connections, the Colombian artist O. de Amaral is deeply attached to the Antioquia region in northern Colombia where her family originated. After a childhood in a warm and reassuring family context, O. de Amaral studied architecture at the Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca before enrolling in 1954 in the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, United States. There, she explored the world of textiles for the first time. After returning to Colombia, she combined her training built on the modernist principles of the Bauhaus with her cultural heritage. Discovering the richness in the art of weaving and traditional works of natural fibres, she tirelessly observed weavers spinning. This led her to conduct her first experiments with raw wool, tinted by natural colours and creating geometric motifs, a way of reconnecting with this artisanal practice. In the following years, the relative mathematical rigour in her early works gave way to a less predictable rhythm based on the colourful entanglement of woven strips of fabric (Muros [walls] series, 1970s).

At the end of the 1970s, still in search of new textures and reinvented forms, O. de Amaral moved to Paris, where she discovered a more intimate language through the realisation of small format works. The series Fragmentos [Fragments, 1975] thus marks the beginning of a period during which her works were primarily monochrome, presenting almost austere surfaces in which colour dissolved the geometry imposed by the rigid grid structure. At the same time, her fondness for pre-Columbian Andean culture and the skill found in indigenous productions increased through her artistic explorations. Following the footsteps of the Guambianos and Paeces people, she travelled to Tierradentro, to the ruins of the San Agustín archaeological site as well as to Machu Picchu, discovering the splendours of gold, its evocative symbolic powers and its ability to condense and reflect light (Alquimias [Alchemies] series, 1980s).

Initially two-dimensional, her works freed themselves from the surface plane of the wall throughout her career, finally forming abstract and colourful sculptures (Brumas [mists] series, 2010s). Favouring a conceptual practice that borrowed techniques from painting, sculpture and architecture, O. de Amaral adopted large formats and gave volume to texture, notably weaving. Sandstone coloured linen became one of the primary materials in her creations, while the colours white, gold and blue also dominate. By exploring space with tapestries that exploit the possibilities offered by volume, and constantly experimenting with non-traditional fibres used for weaving, O. de Amaral is today regarded as one of the leaders in contemporary textile arts, for the richness of her influences and the artistic techniques that she has developed.

Marie Perennès

Translated from French by Katia Porro.

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