From “El Comercio”, Lima, Wednesday 21 August, 2002.
Page A14 – “Trazos, El Color En La Sangre”

According to his genealogical tree, the self trained artist Vito Loli Narváez is grandnephew to artist Paul Gauguin. He might not have inherited his talent, but his imagination is there.


By: Patricia Castro Obando.

Vito Loli’s partner in love is convinced that Paul Gauguin’s spirit doesn’t let him sleep. “I believe that his grand uncle gets in his body at night. He wakes up at 1am, he enters in an inspirational state, twists his tongue and sets it aside, chews it and starts painting as quickly as he can, until 6am.”

The real deal here is that Vito’s curly genealogical tree points at him as the grandnephew of the french artist. The Tristan’s branch divides in brothers Mariano and Pío. The first one was the father of peruvian writer Flora Tristan, Paul Gauguin’s grandmother. The second one was an interim viceroy in Peru and directly related to Vito. When branches cross, the french artist is undoubtedly related to the peruvian artist.

However, it was former Peruvian President Fernando Belaunde Terry and not Paul Gauguin who figured out Vito’s destiny. When he was eight, he drew the Rizo Patron family’s residence with such perfection and detail that Belaunde, close friend to Vito’s father, was really impressed. Between the two adults, they decided that the kid would become an architect. Vito was interested only in creating his own comic books where he was the superhero. When he was 18, he began studying Architecture because his father hoped that Belaunde’s predictions would come true, “That boy will be a better architect than I am.”

Instead of finishing his career, Vito dropped out to ride the Hawaiian waves in 1979 and threw away such good predictions. When the waves came down and he ran out of money, he knocked on a constructing business’s door in California. Until, in 1987, he dared to ask a restaurant owner whether he needed a muralist to decorate his business. “It’s a long way from hammers to brushes” he answered skeptically. But, given Vito’s stubbornness, he tested him. “Draw a bandit running away in his horse,” he asked. Vito, fond of heroes and villains, never thought they would be giving him a job.

Since then, and until 1987, he painted and designed about a hundred murals for restaurants, hotels, stores, college buildings and luxurious californian houses. “I get scared when I see white walls,” was his explanation when he was asked about his artistic motivation.

The comeback

Vito had never gone back to Peru between 1979 and 1994. Everytime he Streetd, worried about some terrorist act that he had just found out about, his family would tell him not to even think about coming back. But in 1994, his divorce crushed his bohemian artist life. He stopped seeing his children and felt how his empty house was beginning to eat him. Without further adue, he came back to Peru after fifteen years to find a caged city. “Everyone lived behind bars, safety had made him become birds in cages. They told me not to complain, that I had electricity, water and even that I could flush the toilet.”

During the following years, Vito used his creativity widely. He explored graphic design, advertising, television set decoration and interior design as he did earlier with the sea. He learned to paint murals in the time it took him to ride a wave, and even copied himself. “They always wanted me to do television sets on the last minute. I had a group of “vampires” that I had trained to work overnight. While I was drawing in a wheeled ladder, they would be cheching lights and shadows. We ended up on time, but doped by the materials we used. Like vampires, we flew away.”

In the last two years, night has began gaining time to daylight in Vito’s house. His overnight raids have increased and defined his artwork. His paintings, sold here and internationally on a fairly good price, encouraged him to prepare an exhibition. However, his self trained condition has closed Lima’s galleries doors for him. His partner, Erika Schaefer says: “I studied art for seven years at Universidad Católica, but I will never paint like him. Vito has a scale meter stuck in his head, a very intuitive way for color mixing and a special talent for composition.”

But the artist can’t explain in detail how he learned to paint. He acquired his technique by buying products and reading their directions. “Watching, asking, and wandering around”, he says. He has experimented in his pallette like a mad scientist. “But until now, when I work with solvents and other strong products, I still feel uncomfortable with wearing a mask to work.” He assures that the rest is pure common sense and that the art of painting is an eternal and marked search.

He also has no problem in satisfying his customers’ weirdest requirements. “I have a request from an american Walt Disney Fan who wants to see Mickey, Donald and Goofy in a single painting. Behind them, there’s the Castle of Dreams”, says the artist looking to the roof.

In the genealogical tree that relates him to Gauguin, Vito is just a little branch. He is not a coinosseur of Gauguin’s life and work. He also has not studied his paintings and doesn’t know them by name. However, what gets his attention is that, just like him, Gauguin was a huge admirer of native beauty and had a strong inclination towards the opposite sex and was, curiously enough, a big fan of the sea, even though Gauguin couldn’t surf.

Vito Loli
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