Painting exhibition

By Camila Quiroga

When visiting the Abarth Works Museum, you can additionally enjoy the beautiful collection of paintings by Camila Quiroga. In a most passionate way, Camila provided the museum with a dozen paintings based on Abarth cars and Abarth history. With her collection, Camila truly sees to a tribute to Carlo Abarth and his legacy.

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Painter and visual artist

Camila Quiroga (°1966) is a painter and visual artist from Santiago, Chile. She graduated in 1991 from the School of Fine Arts at Universidad ACIS and has since explored painting and installations.

Her pictorial references articulate her work, which are impregnated on the canvas through cross-references: the everyday appears in theatrical scenes that quite or refer to images from other contexts and times. They manipulate oil, and are stitched and embroidered, and in this way Quiroga’s art pieces take over something alien through a variety of elements that are loosely sewn.

In 2008 she was part of Lineart, and in that same year she met the Abarth Works Museum in Lier, Belgium; That is where she became part of the Abarth world, and where she developed a true aesthetic passion for designs and colors from Squadra Storica dello Scorpione.

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“My first impression, when I saw Camila Quiroga’s work, was that I was struck by the passion for Abarth that shines out of her work. It is the same passion I feel but from a totally different point of view: I see how attracted she is by Abarth cars as I am, but she expresses these feelings in brush strokes and colours, where I do it in words and by restoring cars to the original ones.

The background in her work is also different: I like the historical and architectural references she uses in her work, I see them in a context of design, reconstruction and performance.”

~ Guy Moerenhout

This is not a car

~ By Mario Fonseca

I love sports cars, even though I don’t drive. I also love René Magritte’s painting that depicts a pipe and below it a phrase that reads: “This is not a pipe”. The official title of that picture is “The Treachery of Images”. Quite a biased name for something as large and complex as the problem of pictorial representation. This painting’s various shades allow us to call it from ‘deception’ to ‘illustory images’, but also to ‘convention’ or even ‘colluding images’ due to their relationship with those who observe them.

I do not mean to dwell on the issue of representation. In fact, it suffices to reflect a little upon the interpretations and subsequent actions that unfold from the perception of any visual signal, such as a photograph or a film of a white horse galloping, or a given triangle at the corner of a street. In the first case, we tend to let a freed emotion come down from our mind, and in the second one, we will be alert and will eventually come to a stop. Here the horse is not an actual hore, but a photo or film of a horse, and the triangle is simply a geometric shape that does not show any car collision or pedestrian run over. It is us who make the interpretation: the sign is just a stimulus.

With this review I am not discrediting in any way Magritte’s painting, which is in fact key crucial in the process of understanding contemporary arts and its development. What I mean to do is only question the violence of the painting’s title, which can even dilute and confuse the meaning of this work and its momentousness. In my mind, the versatility of the pipe and the sentence underneath it that denies the image it accompanies does not deserve the inclusion of the word ‘betrayal’. (I remember a time, when I crossed a footbridge in Santiago, that I saw a step with a stencil image showing the silhouette of the famous pipe and a phrase saying: “this is not a stencil".)

Such is the case of Camila Quiroga’s artwork, which is an accomplice of many things, but it does not betray anyone. Her paintings are essentially epical but, unlike other artists that are part of this genre, they are not at the service of history let alone of ideology: they exude instead a very personal passion for the automobile and, here in this series, of Carlo Abarth’s epic (1908-1979). The variety of race cars that this Vienna-born Italian pilot and engineer produced over three decades - or to which he contributed key developments - allow Quiroga to deploy the most diverse metaphors about art and its object, its representation, and its illusion. The brand symbol, a scorpion segmented in red, also contributes as a source of meaning.

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Camila Quiroga’s treatment in het paintings is more expressive than precise, which emphasizes the evocative and emotional option with which she addresses the subject. It generates at the same time a rich counterpoint not only with mechanical engineering and its implicit rigor, but also with works by other authors, such as painters like Velázquez and Rembrandt, or Renaissance sculptors.

Quiroga pays tribute to paintings like ‘Venus with a Mirror’ and ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp’ with a freed brush, and includes them with ease in the environment of Abarth models in a kind of mutual aesthetic, cultural and conceptual demystification.

I even dare point out a connection between the Renaissance’s evocative sculptures and Fiat Cinquecento (500) - a car mode that Abarth developed fully - as a confirmation of her iconoclasm.

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It’s important to note that her attack on accepted beliefs that she deems wrong or superstitious is based on affection: this is not a car, not a Velázquez, and not even a painting: this is a feeling. It is the representation of feelings both rooted and uncontained that the artist revels in her rectangular formats, reversing the order of the mind-heart-hand triad by hand-heart-mind, which is the way art develops after all. Her images do not betray us, they do not betray herself: on the contrary, they give her the freedom to express underlying meanings that we do not know, and gives us the freedom to interpret them with our own imagination. This is the great prerogative that provides pictorial representation both to artists and those who watch their works: nothing is necessarily as it is, but as we feel it can be.