Paisajes ilustrados - Galería de la Oficina - 2011
Carlos Arturo Fernández U.
Theory and History of Art in Colombia Investigation Group
Universidad de Antioquia Arts Faculty
Perhaps the fundamental strategy behind Camilo Echavarría’s Illustrated Landscapes has to do with the links and juxtapositions that can be established between photography and painting. It of course deals with an age-old problem which has received more or less conventional responses which, despite the growing importance of photography, did not represent a profound implication within the development of artistic production. In its beginnings, photography was understood as a technical tool which far surpassed all of the other arts, in the zeal to accurately capture realistic appearance. Thus, the formal aspects of painting, such as composition, spatial management and its approach to the subject, could be taken advantage of, in order to aspire to the metaphysical category of “work of art”. Painting, for its part, had to face the challenge of knowledge and truth that came from photography. It was no easy feat for the academic arts to absorb the impact of the new media, which is apparent in its constant prophesy of imminent death, against the overwhelming advance of photography as contemporary art’s fundamental medium.
Nevertheless, in the traditional discourse, the path of least resistance predominated, reflected by the acknowledgement and defense of the specificities of each of the arts; what seemed most convenient was to avoid pictorality in photography, as well as the quest for accuracy in painting, which was based rather on the domains of expression or that of figurative criticism.
Furthermore, just as in the traveler’s images, these landscapes are the product of a process of construction which is, beyond the naked truth of what has been seen, much more interested in presenting the truth of observation, that is, the truth of what has been experienced. In consequence, the result achieves a special type of conviction; it is as if these photographs were more real than reality itself. When we perceive these photographs in this way, we recognize these landscapes go beyond being more or less interesting, picturesque or sublime representations of exteriors, and as the landscapes that they are, they intensely manifest the idea of a sweeping pass through time, in the deepest sense of the concept. They are not just nature, but history: a history which is experience and culture, where things do not spontaneously occur, but are an effect of the development of meaning.
And finally, if you like, the strange relationship between photography and painting is again exposed, surpassing the conventional debate. The old conviction regarding the veracity of the photographic document, nowadays almost empty and meaningless, is questioned by these images, in order to revindicate, in opposition, a total freedom belonging traditionally to the domain of painting. Faced with these Illustrated Landscapes, it makes no sense to ask about the exact location or technical process which has been applied. What matters most is, whithout a doubt, to live them as a historical and cultural experience that allows us to understand the validity of the landscape, something which is not an exterior reality but a manifestation of the connections that we establish with the world that surrounds us.
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