Visionary Art of the Amazon
The Usko-Ayar School of Amazonian Painting
“The pictures themselves have messages and teachings that train the mind to see what could have happened in the past and what can happen in the future. They open up other ways of seeing, which you could call sacred or divine. I would like my pictures to inspire a different idea of religion, one that is not given in exchange for something but is free.” Pablo Amaringo.
The city of Pucallpa and the surrounding Ucayali River region is not only one of the most ecologically rich areas of the world, but also has a vibrant cultural heritage of art, crafts, and music that is based on thousands of years of tradition from the diverse indigenous peoples that call it home. One such artistic movement is the tradition of visionary art of the Upper Amazonian Ucayali region that has emerged directly out of the passion of Pablo Amaringo, a self-taught artist and curandero (shaman/healer). In 1988, he opened a small art school in his home , the Usko-Ayar (Shining Prince) with support of anthropologist Luis Eduardo Luna and his wife, Sirpa Rasanen. Amaringo was recognized by Luna for his remarkable visionary paintings, describing magical realms of depth and complexity made visible through his experiences with plant medicines. His richly detailed images reveal an Animistic universe where all of nature is ensouled and a source of knowledge and wisdom, came to be an endless source of inspiration for other local artists
Today, many years later, original students such as Dimas Paredes Armas and Mauro Reatigue Perez have continued their practice and many have become teachers for the school that now boasts more than 700 students. Students learn how to paint from nature and how to identify the most important medicinal plants of the rainforest. It is interesting to note that Amaringo never encouraged his students to make “visionary” paintings or work with plant medicines such as his as he believed the world of the shaman to be fraught with peril for the untrained. However, the sheer mystery and richness of his works attracted many young artists to the path and a new visionary and vibrant artistic style began to develop, under the influence of Amaringo’s esoteric art.
The success of Usko-Ayar has brought in other funding for schools in the Amazon, and the United Nations honoured the project in 1992. Since that time, hundreds of artists have had their training there and have returned to invest their time and money to their community, working to promote sustainable agriculture and education in the region. Both Mauro and Dimas are friends and colleagues and are frequently seen at the center. For more information about their work, please contact us at Santuario.