A work in amber
Joaquin Restrepo’s works are like a piece of amber, which traps and highlights inside what happened once. The word “timeless” almost always precedes his pieces. Since it is a seductive idea, and it is to transcend beyond time.
This drive for timelessness is not a mere accident, the life and influences of the Colombian artist have become a body of work that directly reflects the need to create art which recognizes both past and future. Nietzsche speaks of amor fati, the realization that life is an inevitable cycle of repetitions where it is more advisable not to fight against fate but to learn to love it. You learn to love destiny because you trust that every new thing which comes along is, even if it is not what you want, at least, it is what it should be. When a person discovers his creative vocation at an early age, it is easy to understand how to develop that trust in fate. From then on everything becomes fuel and inspiration. From the artist’s trips to school to the time he spent talking with adults in his family (introvert and passionate about history since he was little), all of these undoubtedly shaped his approach to art.
In his adolescence, when he was already creating his first pieces, mentors began to arrive who would share with Joaquin not only their technical knowledge but also an appreciation for the artistic process. First was Débora Arango (1907-2005), with whom Joaquin Restrepo shared his afternoons after school. They struck up such a friendship and mentoring process that they even collaborated on the last painting of this transgressive artist.
Then came the American artist Ethel Gilmour (1940-2008). The time he spent attending classes with this painter not only broadened Joaquin Restrepo’s technical horizon (collage and land art) but also his ability to different perspectives. Not only in seeing how others would see, but also appreciating the ways in which other people’s eyes can perceive their own country.
One of the artist’s last mentors was David Manzur (1926). Manzur guided the young artist’s learning process and instilled in him a deep passion for drawing as a way of thinking. During this time in Bogotá, Joaquin was in the Faculty of Arts of Universidad de los Andes.
Learning to love destiny is a Sisyphean task. With destiny comes bad experiences, difficult moments, duels that must become, over time, inspirations. Again, and again, one must face situations that one would surely prefer not to experience. Throughout his professional life, Joaquin Restrepo has transformed various difficult moments both in the history of his country as well as his personal life into art. He has turned more than 10,000 knives seized by the Colombian police into a piece (ichthys) which restores the public’s ability to approach objects with curiosity that were once used to hurt others. The ghosts which haunted him as a child in his childhood home, alienation and school bullying when he was young, the death of his mother (who lives as a perennial influence in his life), the Colombian sculptor transforms sadness into timeless and iconic pieces such as Miserere, that obtained one of the highest prices of the night in 2008 at Christie’s Auction House in New York in conjunction with Fundación Corazón Verde.
Love of destiny is accepting gracefully the fact that the plans one had at the beginning of 2020, would not happen because a global pandemic would get in the way. People were unexpectedly forced to confront themselves and overcome fears to find a better version of themselves. Adapting to changes with curiosity is the reason why during his quarantine, the artist concentrated on one of his passions, technology (programming and its possibilities), something that he could not explore fully due to lack of time. Beating beneath his love for art and parallel to his artistic career, Restrepo had always harbored an insatiable curiosity about technology and how it could serve as a function of art. Sisyphus tells of an endless and arduous work, but it is in the space before the top of the mountain where artists can experiment with their creativity. Before the timelessness of his work, materials such as bronze, iron, wood were evident and imposed on its exposed structures in areas where they were installed. Today, he is able to create digital multimedia spaces which will live forever on the internet.
Joaquin Restrepo creates pieces that inspire viewers to confront their thoughts. They are structures on which can be hung, regardless of the time or the person who is observing. They synthesize the multiplicity of experiences that the artist has lived and present testimony to the stability which can be obtained when one is at peace with destiny.