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Essay

by Stefania Doria

art curator museologist social communicator and journalist | Museum of Contemporary Art Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino Santa Marta, Colombia

To create a bridge between two worlds, implies linking two different elements under a conductive thread, allowing spaces of dialogue to emerge, whilst also introducing hybridisations that contemplate both scenarios. In “Amo a la reina”, Raquel Van Haver explores her roots from the perspective of her own aesthetic and academic experience in Europe. From this encounter, are produced images exhibiting the chiaroscuro of the Dutch School, in compositions where light attains a symbolic, psychological, even sinister value. Nevertheless, Van Haver utilises these tools to highlight the visual richness of daily life, whilst questioning the contemporary

moment and raising social concerns, namely the need to provide a platform for those who have not had their voices heard.

"I want to put down in present, that behind any colour skin, there is a human being suffering from discrimination."

- Delcy Morelos Sandoval

Thus, from the position of a contemporary artist, she makes both an aesthetic and conceptual

investigation of human recognition through a female gaze. Here, the artist manifests the necessity to move past the repetitive and century old archetype of the woman as a figure of passive power, to the stature of “Amo a la reina”. In this series, she portrays the women that

represent whole communities, the women that define, support and defend their territory and

those within it.

Another poignant observation embedded in Van Haver’s visual statement, is the role of the

cultural landscape and its ability to invade a person. The day-to-day happenings of an environment and locality forming and shaping a person, and thereby synthesising and moulding

an entire population. This can be said of each one of the women that enrich “Amo a la reina”, individuals that act as a mirror to their communities, inciting humanity in the deepest part of

their soul to find distress, joy, violence, sonorities and ancestral references amongst other universes. These nuances are expressed by Van Haver in her loud compositions, interwoven

between light and shadow.

It is also important to contemplate Van Haver’s work from a socio-collective point of view, despite the fact that her works are individual representations of distant identities. These identities, she approaches as an interpreter and not as an exoticising voyeur. Through this framing, we can relate her visual journey to the work of other contemporary Colombian artists. Resonating with the art of Libia Posada, who through installations, photography and cartography proposes a realm where different fields of knowledge such as medicine, science, tradition and social issues converge through the necessity to use art as documentation or a form of protest to the current political conditions of many communities in Colombia. Likewise, another artist that relates to Van Haver’s practice and foci is Delcy Morelos. Concerned with seeking out the country’s multi-layered stories and reality from a female perspective, Morelos harnesses her own perspective to look at sites of conflict, using shape to acknowledge the lands stained with blood, as well as her preoccupation with organic forms, corresponding to aspects of Van Haver’s compositions.

As such, Van Haver’s series and wider practice is realised as a part of the rich oeuvre and history of contemporary Colombian art, one which nurtures art as a means of visibility and compassion

to others. This is felt viscerally through the emotional exploration of the villages she visits, both visually and culturally. From there, the documentary aspect of “Amo a la reina” becomes transcendent, acting as a beginning, not to comprehensively understand or decipher the complexity of a society, but to raise a voice, to propose another kind of reading, to establish trajectories that promote introspection and the significance there lies in comprehending the other from its own perspective.

The collages that are a part of “Amo a la reina”, are altars to the memory, using the pretext of the pre-Columbian. Integrating the natural setting as a means to sustain the cultural landscape, scenic maps articulate a variety of expressions of the Colombian cultural sentiment, describing a constant struggle to preserve the innate values of the communities and their human essence.

As such, in this body of imagery, the artist reveals her interest in dissecting and disassembling the multiplicity of a culture to its many elements, the necessity to look deeper within. In

conjunction with this delve into the fabric of a culture, Van Haver also recognises the profound rejection of a system that tries to eradicate the identity of specific territories and subcultures.

“Amo a la reina” champions the necessity to incorporate and listen to female experiences, as a means to acknowledge the will of the people through a more sensitive, but no less powerful

gaze.