2017 Artist in Residence Blog #2
By Talia Peckel. Talia begins her residency at The Haven at the end of March.
Last time I mentioned that I am currently in Colombia, partly to see family and partly to travel by engaging with projects of personal interest, such as the Eco Hostel in Medellin. I just finished working with in the department of Antioquia. This place is no typical backpacker hostel, but a full permaculture farm and Spanish school for travelers nestled right into the temperate mountains neighbouring the coffee-growing district of Colombia.
What I want to bring attention to, however, is actually the town most closely located to the farm. A town called Guatape. And by “town”, I mean the most overwhelmingly colourful and exceptionally ornamented town ever. Well, at least that I’ve ever seen. I had already taken note of the impressive murals lining the streets of Bogota, but this town was like walking down cobbled streets of buildings and houses that have been designed by rainbows. Even the buses and rickshaws are elaborately painted in every possible colour.
I can hardly find a better combination of words to describe this place than “Magic Realism”. Magic Realism is a literary genre that was prominent in Latin America in the mid-to-late 20th century (don’t worry, this is a short history lesson and I promise it’s going somewhere). Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges and Isabel Allende are amongst the most renowned authors emerging from this genre, characterized for incorporating elements of fantasy into realistic settings, as the name describes.
Now, a place like Guatape has helped me understand where and why magic realism has roots in this part of the world. To see, essentially, where those authors may have drawn their inspiration from in order to merge fantastical stories into the reality surrounding them.
As an artist, I found myself doing the same thing. Experiencing and noticing the magic with which reality (and at times quite a harsh reality) could be infused. This differs from retreating into a separate world of fantasy, in that it actually involves fully plugging into the environment and the fantasy that it has to offer. Since then, my intention and hope has been to channel this nourishing combination of reality with magic, and feed off of it like an umbilical cord of cultural heritage straight into my own practice (how’s that for some vivid imagery?).
And as I journey back up to the northern lands of Canada, I hope to bring along and share some of this South American magic infusion into the realities I am proximate to inhabiting (and painting).
So for now I say adios to Colombia; and Canada, I’ll see you very soon.