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Sair García
Sair García - Magdalena - Galería Duque Arango

Sair García

Magdalena

The work of Sair García, like all art valid works in this era of fake news and skepticism, it is susceptible to several approaches, but, although figures rarely appear in their representations, it is clear that all of them are oriented towards the consideration of the avatars of society and contemporary man. The direct protagonist of its production is the river, which has constituted since ancient Greece the natural metaphor of life that flows and becomes an inevitable and continuous process of birth and destruction. But, it is the Magdalena River, the Colombia River, and the context in which it is presented, as well as many of the considerations it raises, extend beyond its banks leading to reflect on aspects of current life and also, at recognition of the perceptive acuity of the artist, his aesthetic achievement and his virtuosity. The Magdalena, has been the main fluvial artery of the country since immemorial times and in particular since the Conquest, when the advice given to Spaniards who took a risk to come to these lands, went to the mouth of the great river and penetrated the continent; so “the great river” has been one of the permanent protagonists of the history of Colombia. Baste remember that it offered an extraordinary resource for Europe to move into South America, it will reach the mountain ranges, settle in the mountains, and so that in a beautiful and strong miscegenation of Amerindians, blacks and whites, populated the national territory especially the areas surrounding its course, but also those more distant to which, in any case, the river facilitated its access. That is why it is so difficult to observe García’s work, without the observer being transported downstream, until it ends in nostalgic, or moves, upstream, to converge in introspection on the contributions of the river to the social, political and cultural present of the country. That content, or those suggestions, are clearly transmitted through the pictorial union of realism and contemporaneity, a conjunction that have fruitlessly pursued artists, and that has had in its production one of the most outstanding exponents. Garcia knew mix nature and industry, tradition and the unexpected, and more importantly, knew use this enriching expressive alloy of seemingly adversarial concepts, such as axis of the argumentation that originates their images.

The Magdalena, its channel, its banks and contiguous agriculture, have been the main reference for the contents of García’s paintings, both on canvas and on metal. In the first ones the loneliness and the infinite silence that they transmit and that leads to think about the increasingly acute isolation of the individual in this globalized and indifferent world; and in the others, in those where a steel or copper surface assumes the support role while contributing to the sense of the image, because both, the sky and the river not only emit reflections that can be assimilate, for its intangibility, with visions; but allow parallels with life itself since they acquire a mysterious, profound dimension, which is sometimes read as placid and serene and other times as recondite, enigmatic and even dangerous. In these last cases it is evident the domain of the painter’s craft that manages to make the river run wherever the observer wants it, allowing glimpse what under his meek appearance circulate currents that can be destabilizing and dire. Well, the work of Sair García encourages to evoke both sides of this great paradox since, If the attractiveness of his images underlines the beauty of nature, celebrate the benefits of water and refers to the contributions of the river to the colombian society, it also encourages people to look at the river with contemporary eyes, that is, to place it in the context of today and its relevance to the today’s society. That is why Garcia not only proposes an art that attracts for its impeccable execution, for its chromatic appeal and for the singular achievement of its experiment with pigments and metals, but also motivates to weigh the values that society has projected on the Magdalena to evoke with the only name: pain and beauty, loss and light, decomposition and innocence. Sometimes Garcia deviates from the course of the river to get inside of its arms and bends to reach, including, the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta where he found New Venice, a population of approximately 2,000 people built on water, with stilt houses of great attractive by the strong colors of popular rooting that they show in its facades. Some canoes or some heron survivors of pollution complement the Serene and multicolored landscape that is reflected in the water. But as in all his work, in the paintings of New Venice is also impossible not to grasp if only for a moment, certain halo of sadness, since the bright and cheerful colors of its buildings are reflected in the metallic water with that inaccuracy that characterizes memories. Sometimes on the opposite bank of the observer and other times wanting to enter the waters of the river, banana plantations are presented whose broad, oblong and especially green leaves, besides attracting attention by the atmospheric intertropical fidelity in the representation, infuse an infinite gratitude with the nature for its generosity and its splendor. Occasionally, however, as by making use of a poetic license, the leaves are red, a color that gives them a certain dose of surrealism, but not because they seem dreamlike but on the contrary, because they seem to be (or are they?) a strange but natural variety. As Heraclitus warned, looking at a river, the foundation of everything is in constant change. And following this line of thought, the Magdalena by Sair Garcia not only has history and makes special sense in today’s world, but it could be considered as an announcement of future transformations in Colombian art and society, as well as the same river said”.

– Eduardo Serrano

THE HOUSE IN THE AIR

The history of art is the history of the image that remains as a testimony of the defeats and epics of time. That is why it is not strange, much less reprehensible, to find such a vast repertoire of images that violently rub our present condition without mercy. After all, there are more defeats than victories that are now commemorated. Our time will be remembered in images as the era of a global drama in which the human being is stripped of his territory by a myriad of motives that go from the same city of man for the earth, the forces of nature revolted and unleashed, the treatment of the leaders towards the rulers, simply the intolerance and that old bad habit that the human species has to catalog, divide and marginalize the other. In our constant failure to humbly assume as a simple cog in that everything that is an ecosystem – the ego is undoubtedly the condition of the human species – only standing out in one thing, in the creative capacity, in the possibility of giving testimony and in the search for poetics that solve the attacks of life with recursion. In the series Magdalena de Sair García seems to converge all these concerns. And converge cannot be but the most precise word when the largest river, most important and full of history of Colombia is involved.

The simple fact of being born in Barrancabermeja, on the banks of the Magdalena Medio, already gives clues as to why García operates as a chronicler and why his gaze cannot be detached from historical memory. In that place that was once a peaceful settlement of yarigüies Indians penetrated the explorers since the end of the XIX century in search of the precious black gold. As the machines entered the region, the thousand-year-old settlers disappeared, the village became a city, and prosperity brought civilization, progress, prostitution, gambling and death from the hand of civilization. To the great river came the first bodies of those who defended their territory – and they would never cease from then – floating in the opposite direction of steamships, ferries and ships that supplied petroleum products for their different uses as throughout the modern nation. For García, being born there implies being part of those historical tensions where the territory acquired a new dimension, where the passage from the natural to the industrial world -with all its fortunate and unfortunate consequences- was the best option of success and transcendence of some humble generation, well-meaning and hard-working.

The role of the Magdalena River in García’s work has already been extensively described, the same one that adopts the name of the woman whose tears accompany the Passion of Christ, and whose name, by becoming an analogy of the lament, became by extension in a poetic license given by the Spaniards to relate the mighty access road to the interior of the continent with the overwhelmed sadness of the disciple of Christ who mourns his absence. It does not therefore cease to be overwhelming but its title that the name of the river refers to mourning, violence and resignation, a historical burden that the Magdalena has taken seriously as a silent witness of the death that has sailed. But we must make the clarification, Garcia’s work coexists with that paradox of a river bank with a dismal historical memory but at the same time with a marked cultural, folkloric and human burden that in its images is celebrated with an implicit reference to life. Not only the defeats are recorded in the work of García.

The architectonic is in my opinion the most intriguing and exciting element of his work. The Magdalena’s ambiguity – life and death, wealth and poverty, reality and fiction, progress and retardation, wonder and precariousness – make sense in the presence of the palafitos, those archaic and yet dreamlike constructions that the inhabitants of the Ciénaga Grande, fishermen innate, they raised on the river flow. One of these settlements, with the name of New Venice, as assuming the dream of resembling the city that emerges on the Adriatic, is a floating population that disconcerts before its undeniable poetics of suspending itself just a few meters from a current that is in perpetual movement There is no quiet or full silence, the time of a novoveneciano takes place in an everlasting dynamism where food, life and shelter are one, as being a challenging and intelligent proposal to own the territory without it being static but always evanescent, fluctuating and fast. It is in that quality of speed and movement where the reflection of the metal in García’s work presents an allegory to that look of life that does not stop. The photographs of the works do not do him justice because in front of his works the look is lost in the movement of the reflection, which in turn gives him the impression of the constant course of the waters. In the photographs, the reflection not only stops and flattens, it also becomes blurred. A viewer who knows the work of Sair García for the images that are published in the press or in the catalogs of his exhibitions takes an incomplete impression. As if once again the natural and the industrial could not be disassociated, the water of the river becomes a presence and not a representation thanks to the metal that complements it. And that audacious selection of the material reaches its maximum expression when García replicates the houses as architectural models, palafitos that are supported on a brilliant golden pedestal causing reminiscences of the sunset on the river. The exercise, between the sculptural of its archaic and oneiric presence, and the pictorial of its happy colors brings to our presence those houses that float on the Ciénaga.

In any case, and in spite of his poetics, it is evident that neither the real construction nor the sculptural exercise of García are sustained precisely levitating as described by the legendary vallenato of Rafael Escalona written not far away from there: “I’m going to make you a house in the air only for you to live … “ The basic principle of this architecture makes it suspend at least four supports that have their base directly on the unstable background of the water. The conditions of habitability produce the variables of dimensions, bases and foundations, structure and ornamentation. With a greater number of inhabitants, greater dimension and, therefore, more supports. The fisherman-inhabitant-architect is in principle a recursive creator and goes to the synthesis to meet the basic needs: privacy and shelter. Nature provides the mangrove, the wood that emerges firm from the water and whose characteristics of hardness and ability to withstand constant humidity is perfect for the structure, and the final touch is a colorful, distinctive and identity makeup of the facades, which in turn will become the distinction of the others and therefore in the basic nomenclature of direction. Although all this description may seem to our minds as a recursive recent invention before the displacement that challenges the jurisdiction of territoriality, the records of its existence go back to 1847 when the existence of any of the three palatitic populations of the Ciénaga is already testified of the Magdalena.

The poetic resolution of the fishermen displaced from their land was planted directly on the river, on their source of food and work, where they could not be banished again if the problem was land. This is the background, the poetics of survival, the resolution of the villager and the human problem that Garcia’s work addresses. And they underlie this many more complications that constantly threaten their condition of life. The ecosystem that gives friendly lodging and food is in danger of individual greed, which alters the landscape to take advantage of it regardless of the impact these actions have on the environment. The illegal construction of dams to artificially direct the water to industrial emporiums, farms or agricultural complexes leave their ravages downstream, the flora and fauna lose their balance and disappear.

García as a chronicler is an observer, narrator, architect and mourner of this violent history of the country, which has cost us the lives of our brothers – one of his and one of mine, a tragic coincidence that I share with him – and which inevitably marks his need for creation, and also, reveals the origin of his duty by witnessing a parallel reality that hidden among the thick geography is not invisible to his eyes.

– Christian Padilla