“A man discovers himself on a journey. He knows not where he goes. He knows only where he comes from. He meets strangers in unknown places, and leaves a part of his soul atevery stop. Living day by day with the keenest sense of experience, solacing his solitude, he becomes ever more indomitable.Seeking his identity, he (Fernando Montes) moves from his native South America to Spain and on to distant London. At last, he should find himself again as a man on the highlandsof South America. Reminders of his homeland and the spirit of his disappearing people. Today, it is in these he will find the source of his expressions”
Takeshi Kanazawa, former Vice-Director, Hara Museum, Tokyo
Fernando Montes was born in La Paz, Bolivia in 1930. He lived and worked in London. His first professional activity in the arts was in films, as a member of the three men-pioneering group that made some of the first Bolivian films.
In 1959 the Spanish Government awarded him a scholarship to study at the San Fernando Royal Academy, Madrid. That year he also represented Bolivia at the 5th Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil. In 1960 he arrived in London and studied at St Martin’s School of Art.
In 1977 he won the Award in Painting at the IMBO Biennial in La Paz, Bolivia. In 1993 he was elected academician of the Accademia Archeologica Italiana, Rome. In 1999 he represented Bolivia at the 48th Venice Biennale. He also had a retrospective exhibition at the National Museum of Art in La Paz, Bolivia.
Montes has exhibited widely in Europe, the Americas and Japan. His work is represented in public collections in Bolivia, England, Portugal and the United States. He has been widely reviewed in the international press and on television and radio. The book “Fernando Montes - Obra 1957-1999” was published by Santillana in 1999.
Montes died in London on 17 January 2007.
Montes on himself
I found my inspiration in the High Andes where I was born.
There is a sacred connection between the Indian and Mother Earth. This has become the subject of a long series of paintings of figures in landscapes where I explore in many ways this relationship between Man and Earth that is so alive in the High Andes.
Then I continued working on the relation of the pre-Columbian architecture with the same landscapes and became aware that the Indian of today, as much as the Indian of the pre Columbian times, is a spiritual ecologist.
I hope that my work communicates an awareness of the great issue of our time and of the new Millennium: our attachment to this planet, this Earth our home.
(Photo of Fernando Montes by JE Collier)
The egg tempera technique
I first came across the technique in Bolivia in the 50’s. I was experimenting with many techniques described in textbooks including Cenino Ceninis famous treatise.
The technique simply consists in making a paste with water and the pigment and adding to this paste the same amount of egg yolk. The colour thus made is applied to the panel, which has been prepared with plaster of Paris and rabbit skin glue, or to the canvas that I prefer to prepare only with the glue. The result is a beautiful matt and durable surface.
The matt quality suits my work. Tempera allows me to build up numerous translucent layers of paint. The paint and the plaster preparation is reminiscent of the texture of a wall. This suits the forms I want to create. In my work I look for a primeval quality in my figures and In the ruins. I feel that tempera helps me to achieve this.
Egg tempera is a difficult technique that took me a long time to master, but it achieves a result that fully justifies the effort.
Organisation of American States,
Washington DC, (1967)
Modern Museum of Paris 1973
The Signs Gallery, New York (1981)
UNESCO, Paris (1980)
Sun Yu Khan Gallery, Osaka, Japan (1982)
Premio Cristobal Colon, Madrid (1984)
Salle Patiño, Geneva (1988)
Kintetzu Gallery, Osaka, Japan (1989)
Latinarica, Montreal (1990)
Azabu Museum, Tokyo (1994)
Retrospective in La Paz 1999
Gallerie GNG, Paris (1996/1999/2002);
Lineart, Gant (1997)
Retrospective, Kyoto, 2004
Bruton Street Gallery, London (2001)
Japan Art Forum, JARFO, Kyoto (2000/2002)
Shimada Gallery, Kobe, Japan (1989/1992/2002)
Retrospective at The Mall Galleries, London (2006)