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Armando Varela, born in Lima, Peru, studied sculpture at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes. Upon graduating in 1960, he was awarded the Gold Medal, the school’s highest honour. In 1963 he won a French Government Scholarship to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. As a founding member of the pioneering Peruvian art movement ‘Grupo Arte Nuevo’ he spent the next few years developing his avant-garde style and exhibiting throughout Latin America. In 1972, he continued postgraduate studies in sculpture at St Martin’s School of Art, London, where from 1979 to 1998 he was a full-time staff member in the Sculpture Department. His work has been exhibited widely in both Europe and the Americas and has been selected on several occasions for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. In 2001, one of his sculptures was chosen as a permanent exhibit at the Burghley House Sculpture Park in Lincolnshire. In 2004, he was commissioned by Essex University to create a sculpture commemorating its 40th anniversary. It is now part of their Latin American Art Collection. His last major solo exhibition was at the John Harriman Gallery in Lima, Peru in spring 2009. In 2010 he won the Sculpture Prize of the National Society of Sculptures, Painters and Printmakers. His work can also be found in numerous private collections around the world.

Rhythm and Circles in Space 1999 Welded Steel 88 x 71 x 16 cm

The Portable Gallery The Embassy of Peru 52 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9SP Telephone 020 7235 8340 Exhibition 30 June – 22 July 2011

Armando Varela Sculpture retrospective

Opening times Monday to Friday 10.00 am – 1.00 pm & 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm Exhibition supported C. A. Muller Euphemia Dickinson Curated Opi Bell Design Adams Associates Photography Scott Wishart Printed Red Dot Cover Musical Expression

1999 Mixed Media 50 x 30 x 21 cm armandovarela

Love Encounter

1966 Mixed Media 120 x 45 x 41 cm

the judge

1999 Welded Steel 66 x 25 x 25 cm

Embassy of Peru

Henry Moore once said that the most important thing about sculpture was that it should have an inner vitality, not a reflection of the vitality of life, but ‘a pent-up energy, a life of its own’. This, for me, is what is most characteristic of the work of Armando Varela: it has a life of its own. In some pieces this vitality may derive principally from the arrangement of the different shapes: the interdependency of the various pieces of metal builds up a complex volume that moves, almost breathes, with the spectator’s shifting gaze. In other works the vitality comes from the sense of the sculptor’s intense physical engagement with the creative process. The twisted and curved forms, the pock-marked surfaces of hammered iron imply the artist’s hands, arms and body twisting, curving

and hammering in an extended dialogue with the material. And yet another sense of vitality, this time with an ironic edge, can I think be identified in the works Varela constructs from scrap metal from the factory floor. Nuts, bolts, cogs and spindles are at the heart of machines that have their own sort of vitality but the remains of the sheets of iron or steel from which these elements have been cut are, for the manufacturer, inert detritus. Varela retrieves these miscellaneous fragments and brings them to life, welding them together into witty sculptures that play with ideas of found objects and industrial waste. Armando Varela’s work crosses geographical as well as artistic frontiers. Trained in the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Lima, he came to Europe

to study first in Paris and then at St Martins School of Art in London in 1972. He returned to St Martins in 1979 to work as an expert in the welding department, transmitting his delight at the possibilities of shaping and welding metal to successive generations of students. What I find particularly interesting about his work is the way in which the constructivist sort of sculpture he was experimenting with in Lima in the 1960s chimed so well with the abstract tendencies of those working in the sculpture department St Martins when he joined it in the 1970s. This was a period when national boundaries were in some ways less rigid than they are today, and when art, artists and ideas about art moved back and forth around the world in unexpected ways. Two important figures in Varela’s artistic development, the sculptor Joaquin

Roca Rey in Peru and Anthony Caro at St Martins, represent different strands of this very transnational constructivist tendency. Occasionally, at an earlier date, it can also be seen in the work of Henry Moore, to whom both Roca Rey and Caro acknowledge a debt. Perhaps the continent-hopping vitality of this stylistic tendency contributes to the inner vitality which Moore believed to be essential for sculpture. It is certainly very much a part of the work of Roca Rey, of Caro and of Moore himself, and, as visitors to this exhibition can appreciate, in the sculptures of Armando Varela. Prof. Valerie Fraser, Chair, UECLAA

TU Y YO 2004 Welded Steel

Sound Detector

Latin American Art Collection, Essex University


2009 Steel 67 x 66 x 36 cm

1995 Steel and Slate 30 x 27 x 24 cm

Undulated Form

1991 Mixed Media 96 x 46x 30 cm

The Night

1994 Mixed Media 45 x 37 x 16 cm

Vertical Form

1998 Welded Steel 623 x 25 x 18 cm

Rectangular Form 2009 Steel 72 x 63 x 33 cm


1999 Mixed Media 26 x 13 x 14 cm

Idea from a Monstrance 2000 Stainless Steel 37 x 15 x 15 cm

Corrugated Roof

1999 Mixed Media 40 x 44 x 21 cm

Armando Varela 2011 - Catalogue  

A Retrospective Exhibition of Armando Varela's Sculptures The Embassy of Peru, The Portable Gallery, 52 Sloane Street, SW1 London, United Ki...