An important exhibition has opened at Artlink at Fort Dunree, Inishowen this month documenting the conflict in Colombia.
Arqueología del Color: Volver de la Guerra is the first showing of a significant new body of work – paintings, drawings, sculptures and videos – by Colombian artist Mario Vélez, curated by Adriana Valderrama López, PhD Researcher at Ulster University.
The exhibition is now running in the The Saldanha Gallery, Fort Dunree, from 14th April – 14th May 2022.
Adriana was inspired to propose the exhibition to Artlink after her first visit to Fort Dunree in 2020. Speaking of the appropriateness of Fort Dunree as a location for this work Adriana says “In 2020 I went to visit Fort Dunree with a friend. I am from Colombia but currently live in Derry, I am doing my PhD in Arts and Humanities at Ulster University, and I was amazed by the beautiful landscape, the history surrounding it and the interesting conjunction between cultural heritage, a museum, a gallery, and a memorial (the Laurentic memorial), in the same location. Furthermore, the location of the Fort itself, on the edge of the ocean, on the periphery of Ireland and at the same time so close to the border with Northern Ireland, gives a special uniqueness to the place. It was precisely all this historical, patrimonial, and geographical significance of Fort Dunree that I thought could be interesting in dialogue with the work of Mario Vélez”.
The exhibition raises concerns about place, geography, natural materials and their relationship to the human experience of the armed conflict in Colombia, in the wake of the 2016 peace agreement. The canvases, which resemble military camouflage fabrics, suggest garments which, through use and contact with the skin, acquire a strong personal bond.
Through this process a generic garment becomes unique. The camouflaged canvases mediated by Mario, are full of presence, evoking the marks of their wearer. Colombia is a huge country which has suffered from a protracted conflict for the last 60 years. Mario Vélez and Adriana Valderrama López’s home city of Medellin is one of the areas most disturbed by this conflict. In 1991 Medellín was the most violent city in the world with 6,809 deaths.
When Adriana was the director of Casa de la Memoria Museum, in Medellín, a museum dedicated to working with personal, historical memory of the conflict in Colombia, she discovered the work of Mario Vélez. Adriana says “We were visiting the studios of various artists who were working in Medellin during these violent years. In the course of the visit to Mario’s studio we found his student sketchbooks from the 1980s. The sketchbooks, made as a collage, with no pretence at being a work of art, gave an account of life in a very volatile environment. The sketchbooks were basically a reflection of the violence the people lived through at that time, expressed through the sensitivity of an emerging artist.”
Arqueología del Color: Volver de la Guerra continues to be strongly influenced by Mario’s early reflections as a student. The work appropriates the textures, colours and forms of camouflaged canvases, transformed through the application of natural materials such as plants, bark, oil, graphite, gold, rock, water. Mario’s interventions on the canvas create traces reminiscent of those left by war on the land, on the combatants and on all of Colombia as a society.