Christian Bendayàn – El Paraíso del Diablo

March 20, 2012

I try not to write about shows that are already down but given that I’m in Lima and you probably aren’t, it’s a moot point, so I’ll go ahead. I had the luck recently to see a show by Christian Bendayán, a Peruvian painter from Iquitos. I posted about him last year and it was a real pleasure to see his large scale paintings in person. His work has been a huge influence on me in photographing in Iquitos. The paintings were on view at the Sala Luis Miró Quesada Garland.

El Encuentro del Amazonas by Christian Bendayán

The show is called El Paraíso del Diablo or The Devil’s Paradise and deals with the contemporary culture of the Peruvian Amazon, but also with the dark history of exploitation and the loss of memory and culture. The center piece of the show is a painting entitled El Encuentro del Amazonas. It’s update of a mural by Amazonian painter Cesar Calvo de Araujo which was destroyed in 2009 when the old city hall of Iquitos was (illegally) demolished. The mural depicted the discovery of the Amazon by Francisco de Orellana in 1542. In Bendayán’s painting, he follows the general composition of Calvo’s painting but updates the people with types from modern-day Iquitos. The natives become transvestites in native drag, a catholic priest becomes and evangelical preacher, and so-on.

Detail of El Encuentro del Amazonas by Christian Bendayán

I also quite liked this painting, Fila India, which combines two images from the turn of the century, the background of the Iquitos waterfront by Otto Michael and a photograph of girls from the Boras tribe by Manuel Rodriguez Lira.

Fila India by Christian Bendayán with Carlitos

I asked my friend from Iquitos, Carlitos, to stand in the photo to give a sense of its scale, although Carlitos is only 5′ 3″, so keep that in mind when judging the size. Here are the two source images which were on the wall next to the painting.

Muchachas Boras,by Manuel Rodriguez Lira

Iquitos waterfront in 1910, watercolor by Otto Michael

Also present in the show was this painting, El Curandero del Amor for which Bendayán used flourescent paints commonly used is bars and discos in Iquitos.

El Curandero del Amor by Christian Bendayán

In this interview, in Spanish, Bendayán talks about the link between neon painting in working class pubs (bares populares) and experience of colors and visions of psychoactive drugs like Ayahuasca. He also talks about the distinct culture of the Peruvian Amazon and  the historical cycles of exploitation and corruption.

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