Life-giving and elemental natural forces shine forth in Arvilla’s Encáustica Contemporánea tondi. The sun, the moon and water are represented, as forces essential to our life on earth. Arvilla melds multiple ideas and influences from his own life, and each painting results as a unified whole.
The ‘tondo’ or circular disk form has a long history in Western art and was a popular Renaissance compositional shape. On visiting the Uffizi in Florence, Arvilla was struck by Raphael’s tondo painting The Madonna of the Chair (1514) and felt compelled to paint his own tondi. The circle has universal significance as a symbol of totality, wholeness, timelessness and the cycle of time. Arvilla was also painting with Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian stone spheres, ‘Las Esferas de Piedra’, in mind. Unearthed in the 1930s and 1940s, over 300 perfectly rounded stone spheres were found on the Osa Penninsula. Ranging in size from a few centimetres to over 2 metres in diameter and weighing up to 16 tonnes, the spheres were created between 600-1000 CE by people of the now extinct Diquis culture and are thought to have been placed in patterns following the transit of the sun and other heavenly bodies across the sky, marking significant times of the year.
The circularity of the tondi mirrors the roundness of the spheres and remembers Costa Rica’s diverse pre-Columbian culture which has Mesoamerican and South American influences. Furthermore, Arvilla uses words from the Mesoamerican Nahuatl language for the titles of the works to name them Atl ‘water,’ Tonaltzintli ‘sun,’ and Metztli ‘moon.’ The Nahuatl language was spoken throughout Mesoamerica prior to Spanish colonisation and continues to influence Costa Rican culture; and derivatives of Nahuatl words such as ‘xocolātl’ or ‘chocolātl’,‘tomatl’, ‘āhuacamōlli’ are in use across much of the world today. Arvilla remembers this history through the series. Yet, contemporary life also comes to the fore here. Arvilla paints the colours of today as he experiences them in the streets – in the fluoro vests of workmen, the eye-catching brights of advertising and the clashing hues of fashion. In this way, the Encáustica Contemporánea tondi speak of a timelessness which remembers the past and looks forward, Janus-like, to the future.