Raquel Van Haver’s work is driven by a desire to connect, its spirit of togetherness, lending itself to people, communities and on a monumental level, transcontinental dialogue. In returning to Colombia, where she was born, Van Haver’s investment in her native country, its people, culture and ancient mythologies, sees her practice eclipse an individual pursuit for knowledge and belonging, becoming a living archive of Colombia’s extraordinary communities. Resisting genres, Van Haver reimagines the field of documentary on her own terms, her approach instilled with an inclusivity and expansiveness, elevating often unheard and unseen voices.
“Amo a la reina”, translated as “I love the queen”, pays homage to the women Van Haver has met on her travels, many of whom were social leaders enacting huge change in their communities, at times, endangering their own lives in a quest to do so. Made significant not only by the stories, characters and experiences that make up this compelling narrative, the series is also a poignant breakthrough in Van Haver’s own artistic practice. A conscious move away from painting as a monolithic medium, to an interdisciplinary embrace. Spanning painting, architecture, film and collage, “Amo a la reina” is a powerful testament to the artist’s aptitude for experimentation, seamlessly blending her practice with the stories of her muses, collaborators, friends and acquaintances. In its intricate depiction of everyday life, the viewer is unable to discern where stories end and artistic autonomy begins. The blurring of real life, a product of Van Haver’s genuine connection to her subjects. Branching into new mediums, this ambitious vein in Van Haver’s expression is dynamic, all-consuming in its constant pursuit of new possibilities to embolden and enrich the conversation around the themes and issues she is grappling with. The incorporation of different mediums then becomes the next iteration of the artist’s signature impasto. Looking back on Van Haver’s muralist paintings, made three dimensional by thick oil paint and found materials, “Amo a la reina’s” architectural structures built from brick, films illuminated by singing and layered collages construct a new kind of bricolaged impasto, one without limits.
History is uprooted by Van Haver in this series, postcolonial realities, gendered social issues and mythological tales displayed in the artist‘s own loud artistic vocabulary. The excavation of identity at the heart of this series, becomes a desperate bid to reclaim a people’s history, one not dictated by the coloniser, but told instead by the marginalised. In its intuitive telling, Van Haver’s work is led by a sense of legacy
and an unerring altruism, that sees her own voice as one of many, enmeshed into a powerful narrative of Colombia today.
Written by Lauren Gee, catalogue Amo a la Reina, Artco Gallery, Berlin (GE)
I want to put down in present, that behind any colour skin, there is a human being suffering from discrimination.
- Delcy Morelos Sandoval
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.
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.
Written by Stefannia Doria, catalogue Amo a la Reina, curator Museo Bolivariano, Santa Marta (CO)