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Reaching the heights: Martin Chambi’s pioneering photos of Andean people

The Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi is not a household name like his famous compatriot, Mario Testino, but his pioneering photographs of indigenous people were ahead of their time. Martin Chambi transcended his impoverished start in life to become one of the Andean country’s most prized photographers. Martin Chambi was born in 1891 into a Quechua-speaking peasant family in one of Peru’s poorest regions, Puno. The region, located to the southeast of the country, borders Lake Titicaca. When his father went to work in a goldmine in Carabaya province, Chambi went with him and it was in this unlikely place that he first experienced photography. He got to know the mine’s resident photographer, who taught him the basics of photography. This early brush with photography planted the seed that would develop into a lifelong passion. In 1908, Chambi headed to the more cosmopolitan city of Arequipa, where photography was more advanced and sophisticated. He became an apprentice in the studio of another photographer. Nearly a decade later, after a long period of training, he set up …

Ishiuchi Miyako and postwar Japan

The work of Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako lies at a crossroads between the personal and the political, the fictional and the documentary. She has been interested in the subject of postwar Japan, particularly the impact of American occupation and Americanization on her native country, for the past four decades. Miyako was born in 1947 in Kiryu. She grew up in Yokosuka, where the United States had set up a naval base just a few years before she was born. As a young person, she disliked the prevalence of American culture in the city. In the 1970s, nearly two decades are she first lived there with her family, the artist returned to her hometown armed with a camera, taking photos as a kind of catharis. The Yokosuka Story series of photographs that resulted speak of solitude, desolation, and pain. In another series, entitled Apartment, Miyako went in search of tumbledown apartment buildings, like the one her family inhabited when she was growing up. For this evocative series, she documented cramped living conditions and derelict buildings in …

Painting the inner life of nature: the beguiling work of Hilma af Klint

The elusive Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), the subject of a new exhibition at London’s Serpentine Galleries, is finally bursting into the limelight. The artist, today considered a pioneer of abstract art, was an obscure figure in the art world until very recently. But this was partly of the artist’s own doing – she herself stipulated that her abstract work should be kept out of the public eye for two decades after she died, out of fear that she would be misunderstood. Indeed, it was not until the mid-1980s that her works were seen publicly. Moreover, whether through geographical distance or deliberate intent – she had little to do with other artists working at around the same time, and who had similar preoccupations to her. Even though she worked at the same time as well-known abstract artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, she worked in isolation from the European avant-garde. To continue reading this article, please download the latest issue of The Kurios here. Photo: From The Ten Largest , 1907, by Hilma af Klint and …

An anthropologist from the future: Kapwani Kiwanga breaks with the ordinary

Canadian-born Kapwani Kiwanga was the Commissioned Artist for this year’s Armory Show in New York. Her on-site installation, The Secretary’s Suite, is an interactive installation that investigates the complexities of gift economies. The artist’s visit to the United Nations’ art collection last year inspired the piece. The Secretary’s Suite is composed of a single-channel video and a viewing environment inspired by the 1961 office of the United Nations Secretary General. Through the installation, Kiwanga played with concepts of fact and fiction to explore the practice of gift giving found in popular culture, religious ritual, and global relations. Kiwanga was born 1978 in Hamilton, Ontario and is now based in Paris. Trained as an anthropologist and social scientist, her unconventional artistic practice is characterised by the idea of herself as a ‘researcher’ in her own projects. Her varied practice takes the form of videos, sound and performance. Research areas that have informed her practice include Afrofuturism, the anti-colonial struggle, collective memory, belief systems, vernacular and popular culture. The artist’s work is characterised by a documentary mode of …

Art from elsewhere: Issue 5 out now

In Issue Five of The Kurios, we take you on another journey through art from elsewhere. From contemporary surrealist collage by Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck to the hallucinatory photographs of Tierra del Fuego tribes by a German pioneer, here are our highlights from this issue: –We’re in Buenos Aires to see uncensored photos of Mexican icon Frida Kahlo before she was famous, in a captivating show at the newly-opened FoLa. –Contemporary African art and design is under the spotlight at the Guggenheim Bilbao, as a complex continent emerges from the shadows – we give you the highlights of the show. –The bewitching photographs of Martin Gusinde are testament to one of Latin America’s lost civilizations, the Selknam, who lived for thousands of years in isolation at the southernmost tip of the world. The Kurios goes to the end of the world to check them out. –We profile the glistening landscapes and skilled portraits of Australia’s Tom Roberts, which reveal a trail-blazing creativity that helped to define a national consciousness. –Read our eyewitness account of a …

Art from elsewhere: issue 4 of The Kurios out now

Issue Four of The Kurios is out now. Here’s a selection of highlights from the latest edition: Australian printmaker Jessie Traill was as adventurous in her travels as in her art – but her genious is barely known outside of her country. Chilean photographer Leonora Vicuña’s lyrical images capture nightlife in her native Santiago as well as in Paris and Barcelona. Tarsila do Amaral revolutionised Brazilian art in the early 20th Century, forging a path for generations of Latin American artists to ‘go native.’ South Africa-born Oliver Kruger documents Johannesburg’s youth culture in his striking series of photographs Golden Youth. The Kurios pays a rare visit to the former home and studio of Argentine expressionist painter Raquel Forner, in the bohemian heart of Buenos Aires. The Kurios is available to read on iPhone, iPad and online. Subscribe here or search for The Kurios App in the iTunes store.  

Defining a nation

Olya Ivanova photographed some of Russia’s most traditional people for her evocative Village Day II series of photographs. She travelled to the small and remote Vologda region in Northern Russia to carry out the project. The photographer, born in Moscow in 1981, is interested in articulating Russia’s modern-day cultural identity, especially in the country’s remote towns and villages. Village Day takes place every year in August. Villages all over the country take part, inviting musicians, staging performances and drinking into the night. It is more than just a celebration of Russia’s traditional villages however; it brings together rural life, Soviet rituals and modern pop music, according to Ivanova. “My research is between photography and visual anthropology. I photograph people at village festivals to articulate Russia’s national identity and understand who we are as a nation. Village festivals are a great time to communicate with people, to find entire families ready to be photographed,” she said. Ivanova received a BA degree in literature in 1998, before graduating from Moscow’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 2014. She now lives and …