KUALA TERENGGANU: The best of Argentinian decorative painting, ‘filete porteno’, was showcased ‘live’ to Malaysians by artist Marcelo Sainz, recently.
A leading filete porteno artist in Latin America, Sainz used his masterful hand and deft skills to demonstrate the traditional painting technique, which became ever popular in Buenos Aires in the 19th century.
“I have been involved in this artistic painting very passionately for over three decades and it has brought me a lot of joy and contentment, (and) seeing the large following (for it) everywhere I went.
“I am proud to be part of the generation that still believes that filete porteno is very much alive and in demand, not only in Latin America, but elsewhere, too,” said Sainz, 51, a native of Buenos Aires.
Sainz added that filete porteno was declared an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” by Unesco last year and, thus, had its place preserved in the world of art.
He explained that filete porteno was made popular in Buenos Aires as a traditional painting technique used for ornamental designs that combined brilliant colours with specific lettering styles.
“It was initially a form of decoration on horse-drawn carts that transported meat, vegetables, milk, bread and other groceries in the early years.
“Later, when horse-drawn carts were banned in the city in 1963, filete porteno adorned urban buses, trucks, taxis and other public vehicles, before it became a hit for store signages and increasingly, home decoration,” said Sainz.
He added that with time, filete porteno became popular as murals and as a strong presence in murgas (bands of street musicians and dances at carnivals).
Filete refers to the lines in the fileteado style, which uses long-threaded brushes and are usually full of colored ornaments and symmetries complete with poetic phrases, sayings and aphorisms that are humorous, roguish, emotional or philosophical.
They have been part of the culture of the portenos, or inhabitants of Buenos Aires.
The filete was born as simple ornaments, becoming an emblematic form of art for the city.
Many of its initiators were European immigrants, who brought from Europe some elements or art, that were mixed with local traditions to create a very typical Argentine style.
Sainz said that today, filete porteno images are used to relate the Latin American heritage incorporating social and religious elements, acting as a form of collective memory.
“Popular designs include icons representing saints, admired politicians, musicians and sports idols. Sayings and proverbs are sometimes also incorporated in the designs,” he said.
Sainz added that the technique begins with a drawing, which is then transferred to a support material. Synthetic paint, coloured varnish and special longhaired brushes are then used to complete the work.
“Formal education is not required to develop the skills needed, which represents an opportunity for some young people in the community who are at risk of social exclusion.
“In the last few decades, a new generation of craftswomen have participated in filete workshops and the practice in general, producing a new aesthetic for the artform,” said Sainz.
Famous filete porteno artists include Ernesto Magiori, Pepe Aguado, Miguel Venturo and his father Salvador Venturo, who was captain of the merchant Navy of Italy.
Sainz is also helping spread the influence of filete porteno to Malaysian shores.
He was invited to take part in the just-concluded Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival, where he tried his hand at batik painting.
More recently, he held a workshop for the Latin American fraternity here organised by the Argentian embassy at Hampshire Park, Kuala Lumpur.
The event was hosted by Guadalupe Cernusco de Balaguer, wife of the Argentianian ambassador to Malaysia, Manuel Balaguer Salas, who provided guests with the traditional drink ‘mate’, the famous Latin American infusion that symbolises friendship and trust.
Sainz said that he wants to impart his knowledge to budding artists, especially the younger generation, who are fascinated by Latin American heritage.
“I started (creating) oil paintings on tin material, and have moved on to other mediums like ceramics or canvas,” he added.