Artist Olga de Amaral creates multimedia fiber works that are neither canvases nor tapestries. They look like artifacts from an ancient age, but steeped in the modern tradition of abstraction. Instead, these unclassifiable pieces are a personal expression made of fibers and tissue embellished with paint, gesso and precious metals—woven works that explore the history and culture of her native Colombia, as well as South America’s material wealth and the various implications that come with it.
In her latest exhibition, “El Dorado Thread,” on view at Paris’ Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, the artist’s compositions hang from the walls like precious tapestries, textiles or even armor from an unknown time and place. But while her works have a timeless quality that begs the viewer to contemplate their origins, there are in fact no precedents for what she has created in the history of pre-Columbian art. Given this pseudo-historic, almost archaeological quality, it is fitting that the exhibition opened during during the city’s annual “Parcours des Mondes” celebration of tribal art.
De Amaral studied fabric art at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and her works push the boundaries of textiles to the very limit. Her elaborate technique blurs the lines between art, craft and design, and tradition and innovation, as she transforms the two-dimensional into three through her highly personal alchemical process.
In the works on display, the geometric surfaces are a pattern play of positive and negative space—as in Lienzo B (2014), a piece with a black rectangle on a gold ground and its companion that reverses the color relationship. Here, de Amaral has said, gold evokes the feeling of the sacred. Along with these fluid works clad in gold leaf, the artist uses a rich palette of deep blues—in the aptly-named work Azul,(1996), which calls to mind a setting sun or red moon against the night sky—or thick white acrylic, as in the work Montaña 30 (2012).
“I like painting the thread instead of dyeing it because it is a much more controlled and intimate process,” de Amaral has said of her work, which she has also likened to “painting in space.”