T O T A L A R T W O R K
IPCNA Gallery. Miraflores 2018
Between Modernity and the Original Worldviews
It was not only the European avant-garde that incorporated non-Western art and culture into the modern artistic imagination. As early as 1855, the Peruvian artist Francisco Laso (1823-1869) had painted El habitante de la cordillera (The Inhabitant of the Cordillera)—also known as El indio alfarero (The Indian Potter)—infusing the subject with a dignity rarely found in depictions of marginal classes in the visual culture of the nineteenth century (1). The problems of Peru’s early years as a republic are captured in Laso’s paintings, in the artist’s efforts to integrate the public and private spheres, highlighting the noble qualities of Indians and blacks, who were still excluded from society. Later on, in the early twentieth century, the historic European vanguards opened a window into the knowledge of other cultures, creating a break with tradition and attempting to eliminate the hierarchies between different categories considered up to that point to be unartistic or secondary (2). Special note should be made of the approach to non-European cultures taken by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and his Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) movement, which tossed out all academicist prejudices. As in Laso’s case, these manifestations of encounter and connectivity with the Other were rendered invisible by the history of modern art.
Emerging proposals for the revision of canonical history seek to address the numerous forms of expression excluded from the values of modernity. They are based on political and theoretical grounds, such as cultural and visual studies. In this construction of a collective identity and a new cultural model, the field of painting has been the setting of constant struggle. Jorge Miyagui, well aware of his Western heritage, investigates and echoes plural cultural identities. The works on display in Tinkuy cósmico (Cosmic Tinkuy) constitute a decolonial manifesto through which he attempts to forge visions of community among different cultures conditioned by colonial patterns of power, based around the disposability of their lives and the consequent attempt to destroy their worldviews (3).
In the context of globalization and interculturality, the artist’s ethical aesthetic and political approach are an invitation to move through a present laden with emotional bonds and reciprocity, toward the conservation of our cultural diversity and the recognition of the identities of different ethnicities who, for a long time, were considered threats to social harmony (4). There is no worse critical fate than to be a megadiverse country that fluctuates between the celebration and undervaluation of its cultures.
For a New Imaginary
Since ancient times, nature and culture have coexisted as an open window through which different original worldviews have shared the idea that all the elements in the world are animated; that they are not just things or resources, but sentient beings with their own will. Plants, mountains, animals, stars: all of them coexist with our dead and us.
Experiencing life as part of this great community demands an openness based on affection and reciprocity, a vital dialogue that Miyagui began in his 2015 exhibition Manifiesto (Manifesto) (5) with his work Butsudán/Pagapu, an offering with elements of the pagapu (the Pacha, or earth, in the Andean worldview) and the butsudan (a Japanese altar found in homes and used to pay tribute to the family’s dead). In a kind of personal ritual, this offering captures the artist’s roots in both Andean and Japanese culture, sharing—together with the public in attendance—in the celebration of his bonds to life and all the beings in the cosmos.
Tinkuy cósmico is a critical narrative that reveals Miyagui’s humanist commitment to the worldview of our original cultures. Using his own contemporary strategies of appropriation and hybridization, he constructs a discourse using painting—which, during colonial times, was a tool for evangelization—to create a space for our Andean deities. Based on a reading of the Manuscrito de Huarochrí (The Huarochirí Manuscript), the philosopher Zenón Depaz asserts that a god can be one, dual, or multiple, a diverse god, because diversity is a characteristic of the real. There is no one true god; all of them are true, whether here or there. (6)
Deities such as the apus; water in the form of a sea or a river; ancestral beings from our popular, Pre-Hispanic imaginary, whose tales we know thanks to oral traditions rescued in readings of creation stories; as well as figures from our more recent history stand out among the icons of the serpent and the stairway, depicting the connection between heaven and earth. They all encounter one another in paintings that reveal a great love for life, detailing the similarities between the symbols, knowledge, and traditions that have traveled through space and time to the present day.
Jorge Miyagui appropriates these traditional, religious, and social signs, incorporating them into contemporaneity in an encounter between a wide range of beings and objects from the globalized world. To achieve this, he makes use of art history, archive images, religious icons, images from popular culture, the internet, and books, turning his paintings into a bridge between the academic and the popular. A political attitude of visibility and pictorial strategy.
1) Majluf, Natalia. Más allá del texto: Francisco Laso y el fracaso de la esfera pública. Buenos Aires, 2009. Available online at
2) Grenier, Catherine. “Le monde à l’envers?” (“A World in Reverse?”). In: Modernités Plurielles 1905-1970. Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2013.
3) Pérez Rubio, Agustín, and Giunta, Andrea. Verboamérica. Colección MALBA. Buenos Aires 2016. For a more in-depth examination of postcolonial theories, see Quijano, Aníbal. “Colonialidad del poder, eurocentrismo y América Latina.” In: Globalización y diversidad cultural. Una mirada desde América Latina. Pajuelo, Ramón, and Sandoval, Pablo (eds.), IEP, Lima, 2004.
4) United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report: Cultural Liberty in Todays’ Diverse World. UNDP, 2004. Available Online at
5) Ccoyllo, Issela. “Activar la memoria y el corazón.” Catalogue for the exhibition Manifiesto by Jorge Miyagui. Fundación Euroidiomas, Lima, 2015.
6) Interview with Zenón Depaz Toledo by Gustavo Flores Quelopana, on the Manuscrito de Huarochirí. Online video: “Cosmogonía Andina y vida potencial,” published on September 9, 2016. Available at:
Cosmic Tinkuy: A Manifesto on the Good Life
The project presented by Jorge Miyagui under the name Tinkuy cósmico (en el español está sin tilde) (Cosmic Tinkuy) is an organic conception of life and the world in an era desperate for reassuring ideas. Settled ever more securely within the mold of Andean/Amazonian civilization, he redefines meanings and resituates the creations of other peoples, starting, of course, by highlighting their common ground with the Japanese worldview under which he was raised at home. The decolonizing critique found in his work transitions from the merry rebelliousness of his previous protests to a dense and life-affirming action focused on self-improvement. Indeed, were he asked about the newness of the themes, the messages, and the aesthetic execution of the work on display here, the artist might well be tempted to respond by appropriating Mariátegui’s famous quote: “I’ve matured more than I’ve changed.” Because it is the celebration of life and the propagation of merriment in the enjoyment of our shared efforts as humans that are at the very core of what the artist proposes to us. The exhibition is, for this very reason, a manifesto on the good life.
In a clear critique of the ethical and aesthetic conception of Western modernity, Miyagui begins by reclaiming mystery as the primordial human experience—as attested to by the title of one of his paintings—and the inceptive potential of darkness—of the yana (black) and the tuta (night)—to trigger the explosion of life’s diversity, its shapes and colors. Thus it is proclaimed by the polyptych of his poetic art. The artist insists that humans’ primordial awe cannot be snuffed out by the fear or panic that have fed, and continue to feed, the hierarchical power of the colonizing churches. That awe also feeds the cosmic sentiment of life with which peoples, since time immemorial, have developed the myths and rituals that have played a primordial role in the creation of civilization, through song and dance, accompanied with musical instruments and spirits, leaves such as coca or vines like ayahuasca. Cerquita al corazón (Close to My Heart), the painting that reveals the fertile fingerprint of Chalena Vásquez, speaks to us about the age-old production of joy. As does the painting Medicina (Medicine), in which a Sacred Heart—along with Supay, the Incan god of death—wash the sick.
In their awe at the primordial mystery of infinite life, these peoples have forged a grateful reciprocity. And this “thankfulness for life” is not merely transmitted in song. It is offered up to sacred beings and places. The artist offers us several pieces in which the Andean tradition of the pagapu (tribute to Mother Earth) and Japanese butsudan temples mutually nourish one another. The artist calls on us to mobilize, so that we might recover or strengthen our fraternal bonds with all other living beings. It could be said the entire exhibition is one big offering. A gratefulness for life. A blossoming chant.
What the artist proposes here is not to cut out or exclude everything the other peoples brought with them or offer us now. The decolonization that he calls for requires a redefinition of the meanings and the location of what is handed down to us. Because even Gregorio Condori could not manage without Santiago Mataindios—Saint James, the Slayer of Indians; nor could Mariano Larico, Mariátegui’s newsboy, do without the technology necessary to commune with all the living beings in the universe. Liberating oneself in order to bloom, to flourish, is to multiply those bonds to infinity.
The blooming of our artist can be seen in his treatment of Illapa, one of the oldest—if not the oldest—deities in the Andean pantheon. In his exhibition from 2008, one of the paintings depicted an energetic young woman, along with laborers situated in an urban landscape peppered with lightning bolts and the phrase “Illapa reposición” (“Replace Illapa”). The extirpation of the deity was equated with the firing of workers. One was led to wonder just what the replacement of Illapa might be like. Continuing with the schema of Andean/Amazonian civilization, the precedent set by Guamán Poma de Ayala. Miyagui’s decolonizing struggle redefines the function of the Christian saint whom the Conquista and colonization equated with Illapa: he is carried, but not on a platform; instead, he is strapped to the back of Gregorio Condori, who smiles discretely but placidly. The old, fearful Saint James is now the humorous little Tayta Shanti who accompanies him. The humblest of characters carries and dominates the terrifying saint. A wonder wrought by the healing Andean Pukllay ritual.
The painting El camino (The Path) brings Illapa’s process to a close (for now). He has been “replaced,” just as demanded a decade ago. The cosmic serpent erupts into the impressive painting of a brilliantly dark night to recommence one of its ancient tasks: illuminating the immensity of the house where we live, and unleashing the water—converted into streams—that fertilizes fields and forests and gives life to all the beings who live there. The rebirth of a civilization in the Amazonian Andes signifies the revitalization of the civilizing schema, inseminating it with the contributions of peoples from all over the planet in a celebration of life, so that we may live in love without hypocrisy. And in this way, it is much the same as other worldviews from all over the planet.
 T.N.: Tinkuy is a Quechua term for the “harmonious meeting of opposing forces.”