Born in Lima, Peru
Ursula Vargas lives and works in the UK and completed a Fine Art Painting degree at the University of Brighton in 2020. She previously attended the Pontificie Universidad Católica del Peru to study Visual Arts. She has been involved in exhibitions in Peru, South Africa (Port-Elizabeth, Humansdorp and the Grahamstown Arts Festival) and now has a developing career in Europe with numerous shows in the South East, including London, plus a forthcoming event in Paris.
“The road is always been a fascinating place for me... the drone of the tyres against the asphalt... becomes this hypnotic chorus taking me back to places I rarely go... places where my imagination goes wild while having all my senses in that place creating memories... realising that we cannot paint what we don’t see but we can paint the in-between.” (Ursula Vargas)
Vargas’ current engagement with pictorial narrative is clearly contemporary, presenting often eccentric and sometimes bizarre magic-realist scenarios. But the ‘contemporary’ of course is a symptom or consequence of the past and Vargas taps into a rich heritage from her cultural South American routes, plus her own childhood. The carefully selected visual material, assimilating characters, artefacts and landscapes, invented, appropriated, real or mythical from past and present cultures consolidate a pan-historical vision when presented within a story-like visual framework. After all, human societies have thrived on tales and fictions across millennia whether spoken, written or visualised. As a contemporary practitioner with an acute awareness of the challenges that face the planet today her bold visual narratives reference climate change, the human exploitation of natural resources and its effects on populations. In this sense the work is futuristic too, though maybe in the sense of a ticking time bomb given the possible consequences of environmental issues.
Her subject matter is characteristically personal and shared by many. From a family history, which included many extended motorway journeys and recollections of ancient archaeological sites, she is able to utilise various narrative sources into a kind of play for today, where “all the world’s a stage”. Yet the players can include often-humorous visual references to Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons or figures from pre-Columbian art. Landscape scenarios and often-repeated ingredients (mountains, tunnels and roads; San Pedro cactus and road signs) are principal ingredients in Vargas’ neo-surrealist scenes that invite and provoke personal readings and translations from the viewer. But this apparent playfulness, where visual engagement might feel direct, easy and uncomplicated, transforms into a conduit leading to a cinematic, cut and paste, sense of time and place of both experienced and imagined ‘reality’. Vargas is fascinated by and curious about the relation between what we see and what we think we know. Coercing a creative response that may never be settled or certain, her various works often challenge the viewer to suspend routine judgments to allow the imagination to play awhile.