“Sins and Virtues”

Carmen Aldunate

Carmen Zita Aldunate Salas, was born on 10 February 1940 in Viña del Mar (Valparaiso), Chile, although she is closely linked to the Argentine artistic scene due to her role within the Argentine New Figuration group.

Her studies began at the School of Fine Arts of the Catholic University of Chile, then continued at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Chile. She later worked as an assistant in the Department of Art at the University of California, USA. Throughout her career she has worked as a drawing and painting teacher at the Catholic University, and in various private academies and schools.

The artist works mainly with oil on canvas and on wooden boards, but also with pencil drawings and collages.

With a clear influence from 15th-century Flemish painting, Aldunate combines great technical skill with a narrative rich in psychological and symbolic content. The human figure, in particular females, is the protagonist in her work.


The series

The Sins and Virtues (Pecados y Virtudes) series from 1993 is made up of fourteen lithographs with watercolour highlights in which the Chilean artist represents the seven deadly sins – pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy and sloth – along with their opposing virtues – humility, kindness, chastity, patience, temperance, charity and diligence. In them we see her characteristic female figures dressed in voluminous robes, tunics and coifs, transporting us to medieval times.

The predominance of line and rationalised drawing, along with the composition and use of vanishing points consciously reminds us of Flemish painting. Aldunate thereby tries to retrieve the canons of beauty that once defined classical beauty. Alongside this, the use of colour in her work gives it the appearance of enigmatic atmospheres and psychological states that we see in these lithographs.

In contrast with the subtlety and delicacy of colour and line, she represents severe and harsh faces which appear masklike, and the clothing turns into a kind of armour that hides the human being that resides underneath.

Aldunate’s work, with an amiable presence but critical content, uses sarcasm and humour to denounce the oppression of the female sex that suffers and has suffered for centuries. She therefore depicts female figures with idealised faces and forms under elegant and flowing clothing, in reference to the demanding and irrational canons of beauty to which women have been subjected throughout history.

The exploration of individual psychology and states of the soul are also a recurring theme in her work. This series, Sins and Virtues, precisely reflects on the power of religion and the dominance of society, and of the role of women within it.