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Uprooted: A Journey to a Land in Abandonment

Uprooted: A Journey to a Land in Abandonment

Picture of Joséphine Gambade
Updated: 24 April 2017
Presented by ART in the Flat at Coya, London, Peruvian artists Sonia Cunliffe and Silvana Pestana open the doors to their new exhibition project: Uprooted. Based on the events following the Peruvian agrarian reforms of 1969, the two artists elegantly combine photography, collage, scrapbooking, and cinema in order to illustrate, in the glorious atmosphere of the restaurant, the relationship between the State and farmers of that time.
Courtesy of Isabel Buruma: Uprooted | © Silvana pestana & Sonia Cunliffe
Courtesy of Isabel Buruma: Uprooted | © Silvana Pestana & Sonia Cunliffe

Coya London restaurant opened the doors of its Members Club for the release of its newest ART in the Flat exhibition: Uprooted by Sonia Suncliffe and Silvana Pestana. In the elegantly decorated room, guests are served cocktails, while looking at the art in the room. A book of collages and newspaper pages stands by the door as an invitation to get lost in countless reports on the agrarian reform. Black and white photographs of a gigantic deserted mansion overlook the crowd of interested visitors, intriguing yet somewhat uncanny.

Silvana Pesta (1967) and Sonia Cunliffe (1966) grew up in Peru, and both exhibited individually in Peru and International fairs before this dual exhibition project. The Uprooted project started in 2013 around family anecdotes from both artists. One of these stories is featured in the exhibit, narrated through a thought-provoking video of a farmer. Facing the camera, his back towards the mansion, he recounts in Spanish his personal experience living in these colossal estates.

 

Courtesy of Isabel Buruma: Uprooted | © Silvana pestana & Sonia Cunliffe
Courtesy of Isabel Buruma: Uprooted | © Silvana Pestana & Sonia Cunliffe

The large prints hung unframed on the walls depict the discomfort and yet attraction felt by both artists, towards the world. The prints reflect the social and economic confusion that followed redistribution of rural property by the military government in Peru in 1969. The displacement of families went hand in hand with the desertion of properties. Images of the mansion as the paternal figure of the State, which no longer exists but continues to imprison, reflects the dismay of those people and takes a unique angle to the events following the political measures in question.

The heart of the show, however, lies around the fictional story “Cuando nos quedamos solos” (When We Were Left On Our Own) written by Soledad Cunliffe, Sonia’s sister. The story follows the lives of five children left alone in the farmhouse by their caretakers, while their parents are traveling and are forbidden to return to Peru. The artists cast their own children as the subject of the photographs, recreating the environment of the story in order to quietly capture their most natural reactions. Entering the realm of childish dreams, the farmhouse becomes the playing field for the children, who are faced with the immensity of the space at their disposition and, simultaneously, their entrapment within it. In the back room of the Lounge, the display of a dozen of unique installations – magnified glass boxes inside of which were placed a series of superposed images – expose the inaccessibility into the world of children, and a loneliness that cannot be soothed.

 

Courtesy of Isabel Buruma: Uprooted | © Silvana pestana & Sonia Cunliffe
Courtesy of Isabel Buruma: Uprooted | © Silvana Pestana & Sonia Cunliffe

The London exhibition also owes its distinct features to its host, Coya Restaurant. Divided into three distinct and individually managed areas – a restaurant, bar, and a members’ lounge. The ART in the Flat exhibition is hosted in the members’ lounge, as part of Coya’s new artistic collective for its Members club. The site hosts musicians as well as other exhibitions of interest. From Martin Chambi to Sandra Eleta, the interest, according to the Artistic Director, is to find a meaningful and artistically stimulating painter, photographer, or sculptor, who does not necessarily ‘fit’ in the space but intrigues the imaginative eyes of the members: meaning over beauty.

Luckily, the interior design and general ambiance is perfectly in accordance with the theme of this exhibition project. The chic walls of gold with wooden barriers are just the right fit for the art nouveau and colonial wooden couches and tables, and the warm atmosphere is perfectly balanced by the cool sweet and sour traditional Latin American Pisco Sour cocktails served by the welcoming staff.

Coya London, 118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, UK

 

By Josephine Gambade