This October will see the launch of RUYA MAPS, a new initiative that will work with visual artists interested in global areas of social or political conflict. RUYA MAPS will work with artists from countries across the globe and will launch with an exhibition by Venezuelan artist, Pepe López at the Fitzrovia Chapel, London between 14 – 26 October 2018.

The overall aims of the programme are to enable artists working in areas of discord to participate in the international cultural exchange and to encourage a wider understanding of global challenges through the testimony of real-time, creative witnesses. RUYA MAPS is designed to address specific needs, identified by the Ruya Foundation whilst carrying out its unique work in Iraq applied internationally.

Tamara Chalabi Portrait, credit Ahmed Moussa

For his first solo exhibition in the UK, López will present Crisálida (trans. chrysalis), an 18 metres long installation composed of 200 objects wrapped in polyethylene film. Originating from the artist’s family home in Caracas, the objects include a car, a motorcycle, a piano and an urn, as well as books, tools, toys and maps. Their methodical arrangement suggests an imminent move or the need for storage. Examining notions around cocooning and mummifying, the work explores the powerful emotional charge of being uprooted or exiled and references the particular social drift extant in Venezuela, a country that has experienced near consistent political instability since the 1980s. A hybrid work, incorporating sculptural, pictorial and interactive elements, Crisálida also sees the meta-artistic inclusion of a number of López’s own artworks, alongside works in the artist’s personal collection by well-known Latin American artists such as Rafael Barrios, Rodrigo Echeverri, Adrián Pujol and Jesús Soto. In addition, personal objects originally belonging to López’s grandparents are included. They reference another exile in López’s family history as they were brought to Venezuela when his grandparents fled Spain during the Civil War more than 70 years ago.

López is particularly interested in exploring notions of collective memory that can be identified by a specific place and the arrangement of the objects are also intended to suggest a cartography, both physical and narrative, of the collective memories of the citizens of Caracas. The exhibition in London will also include a new performance whereby individuals wrap themselves in the same polyethylene film, whilst moving through the installation.

The Ruya Foundation, a sister organisation to this new initiative, is the only organisation working with contemporary Iraqi artists on the ground in the country and it seeks to continue developing Iraq’s contemporary cultural landscape hindered by years of military and political unrest. RUYA MAPS will examine the impact of military and political unrest on culture in territories internationally. The full programme for 2019 will be announced this autumn.