BOGOTA – Six political events that shook Colombia in recent decades have provided the inspiration for artist Jorge Julian Aristizabal to create paintings whereby he hopes to tell the stories of these events to his countrymen and prevent them from being forgotten.
The six historical occurrences include the telephone wiretapping scandal by the now-defunct DAS administrative security agency, the “Proceso 8,000” investigation of former President Ernesto Samper, the guerrilla takeover of the Palace of Justice, the so-called “false positive” extrajudicial executions and the El Aro and Bojaya massacres.
The latter two works are currently being exhibited at the ARTBO Bogota International Art Fair.
“I wanted an easy, attainable work, that can reach the people without any strong conceptual baggage,” Aristizabal, born into a family of artists in Medellin 55 years ago, told EFE.
Just as Picasso portrayed the horror of the Spanish Civil War in his famous “Guernica” mural, Aristizabal does so for the Colombian conflict in works that begin with a pencil sketch that he later fleshes out with different colors and, ultimately, to which he adds clippings from daily newspapers and album sheets.
“This takes a lot of time, it’s a work requiring at least six months,” the artist said as he was displaying his “The El Aro Massacre” – carried out by paramilitaries in 1997 – to ARTBO visitors.
This work and “The Bojaya Massacre,” the latter perpetrated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in 2002, round out his exhibit on these themes and each is comprised of three rectangular elements including a type of gigantic map of the incident, along with a description of the event.
He says he draws information from a “gigantic archive” he maintains, but the inspiration to create this kind of artistic work came five or six years ago when he returned to Colombia and spoke about Proceso 8,000, the investigation launched in 1995 of Samper, who was accused of using money from drug trafficking to finance his election campaign.
“A niece of mine, 20 years old, asked what that was and it pained me greatly to know that all these events are being forgotten” despite being relatively recent.
“If there’s no history in Colombia, we have nothing. The people need to know that this occurred,” he said.
Aristizabal emphasized that his exposition this year at ARTBO is also designed to pay homage to the Galeria de la Oficina, which he said is going to close due to the death of his friend, the director of collections, Alberto Sierra Maya.
ARTBO, which is aimed at consolidating Bogota as a reference point for Latin American art, in its 13th edition is the venue for displaying some 3,000 works by more than 350 artists and 75 galleries from 18 countries.