(Peru, B. 1932 – D. 2016)
Venancio Shinki was born in Supe, north of Lima, to Kizuke Shinki, a farmer and merchant who had emigrated from Japan, and Filomena Huamra, an indigenous Peruvian. The Peru of Shinki’s youth was marked by social unrest and anti-immigrant upheaval; at one point, his Japanese hacienda school was shuttered, and his father had to go into hiding for a time. From 1954 to 1962, Shinki attended the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, where his instruction was deeply influenced by European Informalism and American Expressionism.
Shinki’s work evolved during the 1960s from informal abstraction to representation, as he gradually introduced more formal elements. During this time, he moved from the creation of spaces that play with the horizontal line—filled with what appear to be fragments of Peruvian Pre-Columbian huacas ("sacred monuments")—to bigger, dreamlike scenographies integrating earth tones and marble-like sculptures; and (most recently) a series of prints illustrating Japanese haikus. In an interview, Shinki’s widow offers insight into his work, describing how it went back and forth thematically with respect to his Japanese heritage. Significantly, it was not until 1999 that Shinki paid his first visit to Japan, where he was able finally to meet the family his father had left behind. Nevertheless, his lifelong body of work reveals a harmonious balance between Peruvian Pre-Columbian motifs and colors and Japanese elements—such as his manipulation of the horizon line, and his stylized use of Gutai elements in his informalism.
In 1963, Shinki exhibited at the São Paulo Biennial and was introduced to José Gómez Sicre, founder of the Art Museum of the Americas. Impressed with Shinki’s innovative work, Sicre granted him his first-ever solo exhibition, which was held at the Organization of American States in 1968.