“Two worlds confront each other: on the one hand, nature, where the white horse prances, symbol of freedom, on the other hand, the different powers that found the structure of the world”
Garance Cappatti on the work of Gamarra
Through the practice of art he expressed his emotions.
Gamarra is an internationally recognized artist and engraver who has lived and worked in Arcueil, France, since 1963.
‘El Maestro’ Gamarra was born on February 12, 1934 in the city of Tacuarembó (Uruguay). He spent his early childhood in the city of Tacuarembó in the Ferrocarril neighborhood. Son of José Gamarra of military profession and housewife Renée Macedonio. He is the second son of a family of three boys; Adan, José Artigas, and Roberto. Gamarra remembers when he was 5 years old and his father would arrive on horseback with his assistant. His father was chief of the Tranqueras detachment in the department of Rivera, Uruguay. He was often away from the family because of his work. The children helped their mother with the housework. They would go to the barracks cooperative to do the weekly shopping. Adan, the older brother, supervised the shopping. From five to seven years old he attended public school in his hometown. The family lived near the Sandú stream in Tacuarembó. When his grandmother María Francisca Macedonio came from Montevideo to see them, she would go to wash clothes at Sandú Creek. When she returned, she would bring back a large fish from the river. The old woman of the water, whose scientific name is Plecostomus plecostomus.
From an early age Gamarra was attracted to art. He used to go with his father to all the cultural events that took place in the barracks of the city of Tacuarembó. He remembers attending a show that made him enthusiastic and shocked him when he saw how fast and desterity the guest artist drew animals and landscapes on a blackboard. When he was 7 years old, his parents sent him to his maternal grandmother María Francisca Macedonio’s house, on Instrucciones and Camino Mendoza. He attended the “de Maye” elementary school surrounded by vineyards.
1945 – Flores – Oil on cardboard – 26 x 34.5 cm
Gamarra changed schools, starting a new experience at School Piloto No. 129 full time, in the morning with classical subjects (mathematics, Spanish…) and in the afternoon (music, painting and handicrafts). Teachers Maria Mercedes Antelo and Bell Clavelli took into account the child’s sensitivity, encouraged him to explore and understand the materials, colors and everything that contributes to awaken the interest of the viewer. His first works, portraits and drawings from 1945, made when he was only 11 years old, the child Gamarra shows his interest in the plastic arts.
Through the practice of art he expressed his emotions. His drawings and portraits are the testimony of his observation. Curiosity led him to leave his house when it was dark to observe the sky and then paint the moon. At a very young age he attended concerts, went to see ballet, observed, then drew movements and expressions of the dancers. All cultural activities were explored by the child Gamarra. The concerts at the SODRE of pianist Witold Malcuzynski, in June 1947 and the piano concerts of Pierino Gamba who conducted the orchestra of the SODRE (concert hall in Montevideo, Uruguay) at Gamarra’s age. These experiences enriched his sensitivity and creativity.
His first exhibition together with other schools was held in 1945 at the Subte Municipal de Montevideo, Uruguay, then at the Ateneo de Montevideo in 1947.
In 1953 he creates a new pictorial language: signs. He creates paintings that represent signs, pre-Columbian symbols.
The French government grants him a scholarship that takes him to Paris.
He studied painting and engraving at the School of Fine Arts in Montevideo.
In 1959 he obtained the Itamarati scholarship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil to study engraving with Johnny Friedlander at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro and at the Institute of Fine Arts in Praia Vermelha with Iberé Camargo. In 1961 he settled in São Paulo for two years as Professor of Painting at the Art School of the Penteado Foundation. In 1962 he participates in the III Biennial of Young Painters of Montevideo and in the III Biennial of Young Painters of Paris he obtains the “Painting Prize”, the French government grants him a scholarship. In 1963 he arrives in Paris and decides to settle in France. Settled in France he begins with his oil paintings of landscapes of the Amazon jungle.
He exhibits in all continents with works in the most prestigious museums.
Gamarra has had more than sixty personal exhibitions and has participated in numerous group exhibitions on all continents, a career full of triumphs.
His works are part of collections in the most prestigious museums. One of the few Uruguayan artists with works in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, in the MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art of Paris, Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires, etc.
During the military dictatorship in Uruguay, Gamarra will not visit his native country, in 1985 when democracy is restored, he returns after 14 years of absence.
The artist denounces in his work all forms of oppression, from the Spanish conquistadors to the multinationals.
Art critic Garance Cappatti talks about Gamarra’s work: “Gamarra’s work makes us reflect on the notion of identity. Symbols and myths are in perpetual mutation. Two worlds confront each other: on the one hand, nature, where the white horse prances, symbol of freedom, on the other hand, the different powers that found the structure of the world: money, profit, possession and political power, synonyms of threats and aggressions. Gamarra’s painting is a hymn to freedom”.