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Inauguration of paintings by Ricardo Canalli, NCA, Lahore,, 21 Dec 2011
Speech at the inauguration of paintings by the Argentianian Ricardo Canalli,National Coollege of Arts, Lahore, 21st December 2011.



Your Excellency Ambassador Rodolof J. Martin-Saravia and Senora Suzanna

Senor Ricardo Cinalli

Distinguished Guests


I am deeply grateful to the National College of Arts for this invitation to inaugurate this exhibition today. I must confess though that I am standing-in for Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan. He is the one who should have been here to speak to you today. He asked me to deputise for him, and as you can imagine I could hardly refuse a man who had restored the Chief Justice to the Supreme Court.

His Excellency has spoken about the parallels between Argentina and Pakistan and of his endeavour during the past seven years of his ambassadorship to act as the bridge between our two separate cultures. Let me dilate on this theme. 

As in the Indian subcontinent, during the 19th century, the bourgeoisie of Buenos Aires were determined to bring European style to Argentina; they imported decorations, sculptures, paintings and even architects to design their mansions. Halfway through the century Argentinean artists had learned to copy what their foreign peers were creating, and they took a particular interest for Romanticism.

It was the 20th century that finally brought with itself the creative explosion needed to jumpstart Argentina’s artistic identity. The Boedo group, also named after the street they gathered on, this group was made up of leftist intellectuals who belonged to the working class in Buenos Aires.

By the 1940s the Florida group had grown into a more abstract style.

The 1960s brought a fresh whiff of artists, most of whom gathered in a particular block in the city called manzana loca (crazy block) and developed their art in the cafés and galleries of the area. Following the coup d’etat of 1966, the manzana loca experienced censorship from authorities, which left artists without venues of inspiration.

In the 1970s a new Argentinean artistic style emerged called “New Image Painters.” The premise of this trend was to use quotidian objects in unusual settings in order to create a curiosity in the viewer who would then think of an explanation or a story as to why the object was in the picture.

Currently art in Argentina is being reevaluated through the foundation of art institutions. Places like Centro Cultural Recoleta (renovated as such in 1980), MALBA (inaugurated in 2001) and of course the National Museum of Fine Arts.  Unfortunately, art in Argentina is still largely based – as is the situation in Pakistan, in the capital, though there are museums and galleries in other major cities.

Let me know place our guest artist in this context.   

Mr Ricardo Cinalli was educated at the University de Rosario, where in 1966 he graduated with a degree in Psychology. He undertook further studies in Philosophy, which probably explains the strong element of Humanism in his works.

In 1977 he qualified from the Harrow School of Art and from 1978 to 1980 he studied at the Hornsey College of Art.  

 When Ricardo Cinalli graduated from the University of Rosario in Argentina, a mentor offered to introduce him to Salvador Dali, if Ricardo was prepared to travel to London. In 1973, travelling by boat across the Atlantic to Barcelona in anticipation of encountering his hero, Ricardo was unfortunately delayed by two whole weeks and when he arrived in London, Dali was gone – but instead he discovered a whole new life.

At a party, Ricardo met Eric Elstob who was buying a house in Fournier St, opening the door to a surreal world of an entirely different nature. “We came to Spitalfields on a very depressing day. My God, it was a dump! I said to Eric, ‘Are you crazy?’ It was overwhelming – the market, the rats, the prostitutes and the meths drinkers outside the house. [Now you can see why I noticed the parallel with our own Lahore.]

It has been said of Ricardo that while he was London, ‘his washed-out T-shirt made him more like a footballer than the typical Spitalfields architectural academic’.

Ricardo’s work is on display in numerous galleries around the world. One of his major pieces done in 1989 is in the British Petroleum Head Office, Hemel Hempstead (U.K.), which is not far from Berkhamsted where I myself was educated.  

Ricardo is at heart a Classicist. He derives his inspiration from Greek Mythology, Christian symbolism, Clinical Pathology, and Dali-esque surrealism.

His work bridges over 20,000 miles. As a native Argentinian he is far west of the West and yet artistically within it, as we are far East of the West, and yet artistically within it.  

On occasions like this I regret that Christopher Columbus did not have his compass repaired before he went on his famous voyage. Had he done so, then instead of taking the wrong turning and sailing across the Atlantic to the West Indies, he could have turned left and come to the East Indies, as he had planned to do.

Had that been so, I would have been speaking to tonight in Spanish, not in English, and we would have welcomed Ricardo here at Lahore not as a guest artist but as an artist coming home.

So, welcome home, Ricardo.


10 March 2012
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