Carnada Viva: a homage to Argentina’s fishing culture

A new exhibition at Coningsby Galley in London showcases prints inspired by fishing paraphernalia and Argentina’s Paraná River

Graphic artist Alan Berry Rhys has been fascinated with sport fishing since he was a child. He would often ask his parents to stop at bait shops on family trips around Argentina so he could inspect the products on offer – from live baits to charcoal and Yerba Mate (a popular drink made from the holly tree).

“Something that always called my attention were the large amounts of [bold] colours on the signs and on the packaging of the fishing products,” he explains.

He also developed a fascination with the Paraná River: a vast body of water that runs from north to south Argentina and flows through dense subtropical forest. The river has inspired tales of mythical creatures – stories of half-human, half-animal beings passed down through Spanish inhabitants and Guarani communities – and its shores are lined with colonial towns and cultural heritage sites.

Prints from Carnada Viva by Alan Berry Rhys. Images courtesy of Alan Berry Rhys & Coningsby Gallery

It is this mix of sights and cultures – of fishing shops and ancient rivers and colonial towns – that has inspired Berry Rhys’ latest body of work.

Carnada Viva (‘live bait’ in Spanish) is a collection of colourful screen prints featuring illustrations of serpents, fish and fishing products alongside hand-drawn lettering inspired by vintage signs.

Berry Rhys, who is also a professor of graphic design, describes it as “a graphic essay … in which I present all the elements that fascinate me about the culture found along the Parana River”.

Prints were created using a mix of screen printing, risograph printing and hand-painting and pay homage to small-scale production and lo-fi printing methods.

Prints from Carnada Viva by Alan Berry Rhys

Berry Rhys says he fell in love with the textures, colours and limitations of screen printing and riso stamps while studying graphic design. “What I love from them is what they symbolise … a small home-made production,” he says. “I kind of think we should tend to consume local products that a small producer makes with passion and respect for the products and the environment, instead of massive company products.”

Carnada Viva is a vibrant tribute to the visual language associated with fishing in Argentina and a celebration of the country’s diversity and rich visual heritage.

Imagined packaging for Yerba Mate by Alan Berry Rhys
Cocktail de la Muerte by Alan Berry Rhys

“I was born in Argentina and lived all my life there. As I grew, I felt we were always searching abroad for inspiration. I started asking myself which is our real identity as a country since we are always trying to copy stuff that comes from Europe or the US,” says Berry Rhys.

“Argentina is a relatively young country, in which all of us have at least one grandparent who wasn’t born in Argentina, so it’s [a] strange mixture between the native habitants and the immigrants. For example, my great grandparents were Welsh, Scottish, Italian, French and Mapuches (a native community in the south of Argentina). That’s the same with almost anyone in Argentina. We are a complete mixture and it’s hard for us to find who we are. I think deep inside, I’m trying to show everyone what fascinates me from this area of our country,” he adds.

Carnada Viva is on display at Coningsby Gallery until September 9. For details and opening times see coningsbygallery.com. See more of Alan Berry Rhys’ work at behance.net/alanberryrhys

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