by Lydia Webster (Museum Studies MA Student, University of San Francisco)
‘Be faithful to what you believe and keep your integrity as an artist.’
Born in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla, Colombia in 1967, Arturo Araujo joined the Colombian Province of the Society of Jesus in 1986 and was ordained in 1999. His artistic projects over the last fifteen years have spanned different media, though have predominantly taken the form of printmaking and ceramics. As he says on his website, ‘I work with these media that imply different aesthetic attitudes: from the exploration of a large-scale print to the intimacy of a particular narrative on a ceramic tile, or from an etched glass window to a seedpod.’
The four mentors about which he spoke in depth were Father Marino Troncoso, Father Josef Venker, Professor Yoshiko Shimano and Professor Gina Brobrosky. These influences were described as very different, but nevertheless all played an instrumental role in Arturo’s creative processes. A fellow Jesuit priest, who passed away twenty five years ago, Fr. Troncoso is credited with challenging Arturo’s way of understanding, seeing and celebrating life. In providing him with an introduction to literature, this mentor taught Arturo to always be joyful and ready to celebrate. Similarly, Fr. Venker was described as a compassionate, giving figure in Arturo’s life, best remembered for buying the necessary textbooks for Arturo when he was unable to procure them himself. It was Fr. Venker who taught him the valuable lesson that ‘I want you to succeed and I will support you,’ which he has carried into his own teaching. This notion that he will always support a student that needs help stems directly from his first drawing classes in which he had to save scraps of charcoal that other students had discarded. This imparted upon him the importance of material, and that he was ‘called to be generous and supportive of those who are artists but don’t have the sources to succeed’.
Another mentor that Arturo recalled was both ‘super strict but super-generous,’ was the printmaker Prof. Shimano, who he describes as a ‘difficult mentor,’ while still being one of main supporters of his work. In three years of study, Arturo states that she never gave him a compliment. These high standards were also instilled in him by another professor at The University of New Mexico, Prof. Brobrosky. This ceramics teacher taught Arturo the importance of precision, in a story he recounted, the professor asked him to bring to her a ‘first draft’ of a piece of ceramic he had been working on. Upon seeing it, the professor told him that even for a test it should be better and left, telling him to call her when he was properly ready. The notion that even a test has to be an already finished piece stuck with Arturo, who is still in close contact with Prof. Brobrosky and is even planning to teach a class with her some day. In closing, Arturo stated that with his current opportunity to be a good mentor to others, he feels he owes much to his own mentors.
In terms of artists whom he admires, Arturo produced an extensive list, only two of which will be mentioned here. The Japanese printmaker Shiko Munakata (1903-1975), best known for his involvement in the sōsaku-hanga or ‘folk art’ movement during the Shōwa period, and Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), the German printmaker and painter, active during both World Wars.
In turn, Minakata was inspired by Kawakami Sumio’s black-and-white woodcut Early Summer Breeze, which prompted him to create his own black-and-white prints. From 1928 onwards, Hiratsuka Unichi, another renowned sōsaku-hanga printmaker, taught Munakata wood carving. Kollwitz, as many young German artists of the period, was influenced by Max Klinger, a fellow German symbolist painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer.
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