The painter is not the artist

By Eduardo Serrano

Nadín Ospina and the demystification of art.

Although at first glance the exhibition of Nadín Ospina presented in the context of the Luis Caballero Award at the Planetario Distrital seems detached from his best known works, it is an exhibition that is coherent with the arguments of his entire production and that allows us to specify some of the priorities of his work. The exhibition also has the merit of directly involving the viewer and making him or her a participant in the artist’s designs.

The initial impression produced by the show is that of a conventional exhibition, composed of abstract paintings and drawings installed on tables. The truth, however, is that it is a tough questioning, precisely, of conventional exhibitions and, in general, of the principles of artistic modernity. For Ospina, the quality of a work is more related to its effectiveness in clarifying some aspect or circumstance of society or life than to the creation of a style, the singularity of a form or the invention of an image.

For example, his fake pre-Columbian ceramics are made in clay by experts in the techniques of the different aboriginal cultures, and represent Bart Simpson, Mickey Mouse, Goofy or Donald the Duck, in a sacrilegious symbiosis that could not be more explicit about the cultural penetration to which Colombian society and mainly the child population is subjected. But apart from relying on forms and figures widely known in the areas of archeology and entertainment, the artist refrains from intervening in the elaboration of the pieces, contesting the importance of both originality and craftsmanship in artistic work, and insisting that the validity of a work depends on the correctness of its approaches in relation to the being and to society, and not on the singularity of its elements or on the skill in the handling of a certain plastic medium.

The exhibition consists of paintings that are not original either, since they come from drawings made by the artist’s daughter when she was a child and from sketches that an anonymous artist has been sending him in response to a call to participate in the exhibition. The public visitors to the Planetarium are also invited to elaborate a work to be submitted for the consideration of the artist, who chooses from these sketches -like a curator- the works that interest him to be part of the project, and finally hires a professional painter -who is not an artist- to transfer them to the canvas. The exhibition has a certain air of parody, but it makes it perfectly clear that the artistic profession can be carried out by anyone trained in the field because the important thing is to concretize an idea or visualize a reasoning by any means, without having to renounce all kinds of aesthetic considerations.

The exhibition, like the ceramics, demystifies the artist as a hero capable of producing something inimitable and renders obsolete concepts such as “Santa María’s brushstroke” or “Obregón’s trace” that came to determine the validity of artistic work. The exhibition leads the viewer into the realm of questioning in order to free art from all the stylistic and egocentric baggage that accompanied it during the modern era, and to extirpate the mystery and reverence that surrounds exhibitions. Only in this way can works such as Disney’s characters in the Muisca, Quillacinga or Tairona style faithfully fulfill the cultural and social tasks entrusted to them.