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Jade Rivera - Native Gaze

Words:

Edd Norval
July 29, 2019

Jade Rivera's art has been pulled through the wringer of his formative years, indebted to his ethnic roots and formed in a world where societal issues and politics are inescapable. Reflecting on old Andean mythology, Rivera wonders how life could be if we looked at our past and used it to help define our present and future.

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Having moved to Lima, Peru, as a child, Rivera has been shaped by the city, considering 'home' to be there and, more specifically, the Barrancos neighbourhood to which he has recently moved. Barrancos is the cultural part of the city, where life is still decidedly bohemian, somewhat untouched by the vastly and rapidly changing landscape of Lima. Paradoxically, it's also emblematic of the change, particularly in art and its place in the country.


Depicting mainly children in melancholic or inquisitive poses, the surreal-reality of Rivera's works comes rife with symbolism; masks, outlines, animals and seemingly random objects. In each of these, we are able to tie it together with the folklore of his home, or mythology as a larger phenomena. Understanding the images doesn't seem to be the 'point' in them though, instead, their often huge scale exists as part of a dialogue with the city and its people.


It's a reciprocal relationship - street-art and its audience, although this reciprocity is sometimes more pronounced, other times, more reserved. Where Rivera's artwork engages is through its connection to his Andean roots and how it's both something proudly held by Peruvian people, yet incidentally something becoming increasingly worn away.

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Coming from the Peruvian Highlands, Rivera retains his close ties to family there and has followed his own path of understanding his native culture through them. Aspects like clothing, lifestyle, cuisine and geography are key facilitators of identity and in Huancayo, are all still very much a part of everyday life. These experiences have appeared in his work, throughout its development as part of Rivera's continually evolving aesthetic lexicon.


Unsettled and uninspired with school, Rivera chose to paint, and it is through artistic means that he has long since expressed himself. Due to his influences, like the world around him, but also his own history, the paintings are all somewhat biographical - each one revealing a little more about him and the life he's lived.


Ultimately, Rivera's work is not just a dialogue, but a statement. Art can open your eyes, like it did his, and galvanise people to explore places and ideas for themselves. It's a tool, a path, a route. It's not just a way to express something visually - but more than that, it is freedom itself.

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