Frieze week in London is always a breath of fresh air that brings new and established artists to the British capital. In this rich international scene, visiting all the exhibitions offered during the week is often difficult. However, if the fusion of rich cultural traditions with the mastery of classical inspiration is what you are looking for, Fatima Ronquillo’s Amore: An Ode to Love at Dorothy Circus Gallery is for you.
In this eagerly awaited showcase resulting from a long collaboration that began in 2019 with the gallery owner Alexandra Mazzanti, Ronquillo presents a stunning collection of five brand-new works, each of which transports us to a realm of serenity and charm.
Fatima’s classically inspired imagery develops from a strong influence of literature and poetry. The artist defines words as the “spine or underlying thread that weaves a visual narrative”. In her paintings, we find visual imagery that encapsulates mysterious stories in which personages come to life through the narration of symbols and metaphors.
Fatima Ronquillo, Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all, 2023
Fatima Ronquillo, The Nightingale and the Rose, 2023
The symbols and metaphors in this series of works become a distinguishing mark of this production. The 16th and 17th-century European tradition combines with features typical of magical realism rooted in folk and Latin American culture.
Examples of this convergence are Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all (2023) and The Nightingale and the Rose (2023), two of the new five paintings. In these two works, the depiction of hands and eyes capture the gazes of observers that remain enchanted by the ambiguity they create.
The symbol of the eye has had a disruptive force since the Magrittean and Dalinian Surrealism: it can speak to the conscience and touch what is hidden, concealed and forgotten. The role of the hands takes on an extensive valence of this secret language that often spills over into the sphere of love, as happens in Amore: An Ode to Love.
Fatima Ronquillo: “The narrative can be simple and easy to behold, but of much greater interest to me is the ambiguity that is possible. The ambivalent gaze attracts me more, precisely because the emotion can go either way. In my paintings, hands act as a vessel presenting different symbolic objects. The hand and the eye together act in concert like a dual portrait: one holding the other, one present and the other hidden.”
Amore: An Ode to Love is an exhibition full of lyricism that creates juxtaposed narratives: the poses, the gazes of the people and the nature that the artist portrays communicate a feeling of nostalgia that does not refer to the portrayal of perfect love. Instead, it is a romantic feeling full of sadness and suffering.
Therefore, This new series takes us on a journey that explores the intricacies of love, finding great inspiration from characters drawn from literature, theatre and opera.
Fatima Ronquillo: “When I have an idea (this is usually because I have seen a picture that moves me, or read something interesting or inspiring) I begin by researching and sketching, and making sense of it. I make preparatory drawings which are then transferred to the panel. I employ a classical layered technique beginning with a grisaille, which I call the ‘lavender’ stage because I add a bit of cool venetian red to the black and white. Then the picture gets warmer as the layers progress. The flesh gets to the ‘carnation’ stage–kissing the painted surface with a warm earth red. I find the construction of layers fascinating, and I am always learning each time I pick up the brush.”
Fatima Ronquillo, The Troubadour, 2023
Over the years, Fatima has learnt that in her artistic process, it is good to “remain true to the drawing in order not to get lost in the middle”. Indeed, in the works of her latest show emerges an extraordinary quality of synthesis between the everyday world and the inner world of the imagined subjects portrayed. In the series of five paintings developed from The Troubadour (2023), which set “the tone for the rest in the series”, there is this constant authenticity that the artist tries to maintain in the visual dialogue that evolves from each of the paintings. Thus, the “stillness” and the “absence of expression” invite the viewer “to respond to it through their own personal references and experiences”.
Fatima’s elegantly realised works will undoubtedly not go unnoticed by collectors. Amore: An Ode to Love is a true testament by Ronquillo to the eternal theme of love, longing and desire, in which through great skill, we are confronted with the “other reality”, made of untold and mysterious feelings in the most authentic way.
Fatima Ronquillo’s “Amore: An Ode to Love” runs until 4 November 2023 at Dorothy Circus Gallery, 35 Connaught Street, W2 2AZ, London. For more information, visit: https://www.dorothycircusgallery.com/exhibitions/157/works/
Lidia Militerno is currently working on an MA in Modernism After Postmodernism at The Courtauld Institute of Art. Her fascination with art spans across various eras and styles, but she has a particular affinity for contemporary art and its evolving forms of expression.