Durán is one of those artists that has evaded the promotion of her work. For her, the main things are painting, drawing, planting, being with her children and meditating in a small house in the countryside. So her work is yet to be discovered. Her exhibition invites us to think about the failure of modernity and the questions we ask ourselves about the so-called progress. For what has it been useful, if every time despite the ways of communication, the human being is more isolated, and in his desire of being superior, has destroyed nature and today the wounds may not heal.
The exhibition is divided into three sections. At first we found the I Ching series inspired by the Chinese oracular book. Then, in the second division, there are the triptychs of animals, and the landscapes made from an oriental technique and in the third part, we observe the drawing scrolls that extend between the wall and the floor originating from a single line with cosmogony and new worlds themes. The exhibition makes us think of the extinct beauty and encourages us to breathe, to slow down our gaze. It leads us to contemplation, in such a dramatic moment for humanity, even children around the world are feeling stress from climate change, the extinction of hundreds of species, the melting of the poles, the scarcity of water and the lack of food.
Despite wanting to hide from the art world, Liliana Durán has a very important place in Colombian art. At the age of 9 she lived in London and met the Bolivian painter Fernando Montes, who made a portrait of her mother. In this workshop she approached brushes, oil, the rabbit skin glue technique, tempera, and she made two still-lifes that are now hanging in her house. There she knew that her thing was art. Montes was her first Master, then Juan Antonio Roda with his teachings in the University Los Andes, and in her Master of Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore, she met Salvatore Scarpitta, one of Leo Castelli's favorite artists, who taught her to feel the work, where intuition prevails before concepts.
Durán was one of the pioneers of environmental practices in the country, just as the artist Alicia Barney. In the 1980s she performed various art actions with her students from the Instituto de Bellas Artes of the city of Cali. With her students, she covered with gauze the trunks of the Ceibas, an emblematic tree of the city, to demonstrate the fragility of nature and the importance of watching the trees and taking care of them. The material she used she then utilized it as a premonition of the wounded nature. On another occasion, she hung large banners on the roads of the city exit in which she painted small trees in their black bags. Up the banner and next to the road she left these trees so that the drivers would not run them over, but adopt them and understand the need to plant. Then, she made a performance in which she copied a hundred times by hand the phrase from a stanza of ‘Money’ one of the Pink Floyd songs: “Money, it's a crime / Share it fairly, but don't take a slice of my pie / Money , so they say / Is the root of all evil today.” The hundred sentences were sent by fax to one hundred companies in Cali, emphasizing that what is essential is blurred by exacerbated materialism. However, she did not get any response.
At the end of the 80s, her figurative neo-expressionist drawings and paintings were influenced by the Italian Trans-avant-garde movement, named by the critic Aquille Bonito Oliva. This movement promulgated a return to painting with a language that was characterized by its historical eclecticism and responded to the conceptualism of the time. During these years, Durán freed the feminine world and paid tribute to the artist Käthe Kollwitz, getting deeply into the human pain. After this came the time for her Apocalipsis series.
At that time, besides working as a teacher, raising two children and observing the mistreatment of nature, she decided to set up an animal shelter. This experience turned out to be traumatic because she had to face animal abuse. She went back to Bogotá where she became a professor at the University Los Andes. Simultaneously, she began to create a peaceful work, in which she combines slow and fluid movements, inspired by the great oriental scrolls of Taoism, which are drawings that are rolled up and unrolled with drawings and minimal lines with the sumie technique that comes from China. This technique is more closely related to her way of life, to meditation and to the two practices that she performs: Tai Chi and Chi Kung, the latter is based on the control of breath. A year ago she also traveled to a monastery on Mount Quincheng, a place that is considered to be the birthplace of Taoism. While being there she deepened with a Tao Master into the spiritual and the feminine.
Her interest in the East has led her to make a series regarding the Book of Mutations, the I Ching. In this book, Chinese ancient wisdom is articulated through hexagrams and their relationship with nature. In ‘Silence’, we observe a version of the 64 hexagrams in which Durán, through her abstract and other figurative paintings with themes of nature, offers some answers from her exploration of the oracular book.
In ‘Homenaje al planeta’, a series composed of 365 paintings made in a small format combining the technique of oil and sumi-e. The artist reflects on the disappearance of species, which is directly related to human behavior. In addition, as part of the exhibition, Durán organized a planting in the eastern hills of Bogotá. This way, to whoever brings a tree to plant to the gallery, the artist will give one of these paintings. So, in a parallel way an exchange is made for our planet.
From the previous series, the artist began to make triptychs, in which precise and delicate drawings of animals appear in the first panel, in the second panel the details of each animal are diluted and in the third panel, the animals fully disappear. She also began painting landscapes made with soil, charcoal, gold foil, and acrylics. In them one can see the mountains and recognize the moors. When using the gold dust we can think it is about the cosmogony, the Andean myths, the Dorado in our territory. However, these imaginaries of abundance are also translated into one of the plagues, one of the great curses for nature, first the Spanish gold fieber, and today, the great scourge: mining. Despite this threat, the landscapes that have been deprived of minerals, of animals and vegetation are presented naked, like paradise without clothing, with a disturbing strangeness. Perhaps they indicate that nature is restored without the presence of human beings.
Her interest in the landscape is reflected in the manifesto written in a diary at the beginning of the millennium, where she expresses: “The natural landscape is not only my record, my cry, but it is also my tool. It is the reality of change, of the timeless, which is subject to chance, just like life itself. The landscape is that space that we capture in the distance, or in the proximity. It is a real ensemble but it can be the most abstract image, and if we learn to observe it, it becomes the true teacher. Is there where we learn that when we see a flower its beauty does not lie in the adjective we give it, but in the flower itself, we become part of it.” Just like that, her painting operates with intuition, with the creative forces that are obtained with the disciplines that she internalizes every day. In other words, the spirit of art was identified with the spirit of the universe.
The artist proposes that we remain silent, perhaps because of the extinct animals, perhaps so that we can slow down the acceleration of day to day, perhaps so that we contemplate, perhaps to return to nature. Perhaps the silence is to apologize to Mother Earth for penetrating her, for annihilating her, for dumping tons of garbage and mercury, for destroying the forests, for pouring medicines into the oceans without taking into account this is where the food of the fish is, for injecting cows with antibiotics in order for them to give more milk, or for continuing to use plastic, or for building sheds where they kill more than a million chickens daily. But especially, silence to give us a pause and return to the essential. This is a subtle and silent exhibition, to turn off cell phones and let yourself be carried away by your breath seeing the lines of the drawings that have no end, to read the I Ching, and to think that artists can make a timeless work without labels.
Curator: Maria Elvira Ardila