It’s a famous legend that ‘Eskimos’ have tens if not hundreds of words to designate different types of snow. Aput is the word for snow in general. Snow in the form of salt particles is pukak. Light snow, akkilokipok. Soft, deep snow, mauja. Slushy snow, mangokpok. Bits of snow moving atop water, sikut iqimaniri. Wet snow falling from the sky, imalik. A patch of mountain snow, aputitaq. Wet snow on top of ice, putsinniq. Hard snow, mangiggal. Drifting snow, sullarniq.
This intellectual fable has a wide circulation, its emotional didacticism allowing the telling of a story: in the icy and desolate antipodes, a group of humans are enjoying language’s richness. Nevertheless, evidence has shown that the population known as the Eskimos is as deep as it is wide, that many of these terms are likely morphological derivations from a single root, that specific words might number as many as a dozen, but not tens and certainly not hundreds, and that one doesn’t have to go far to find examples of the language going over the same ground again and again.
The work of Delcy Morelos has seemingly inhabited every red to have emerged since the beginning of painting, and as in the infinite variations of white on white in the mythical vocabulary of the Eskimos, it is indeed possible to find in the work of this artist exhaustive variations of colour and paint.
What can we say when we stand before a painting? That we are looking at pigments spread across a surface – or to put it in technical terms, oil or acrylic on canvas. Anything else? Morelos’s works are an opportunity to experiment with the limits of these kinds of responses. It is enough to look without inventing new terms or critical (and cryptic) phrases that serve to name each of Morelos’s gestures. One must leave oneself to be enveloped in the atmosphere of her insistence, to look at the form and accept that, beyond the mythologies of words, the power of the colour speaks for itself.
Morelos has been exhibiting consistently since 1997, and her shows respond forcefully to the demands of the spaces in which they are mounted. Her emblematic series Color que soy (The Colour I Am, 1999–2002) was shown in its entirety, 60 paintings of 3 X 1.5 m, for the first time at the Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, in Bogotá, in 2002. Her works run from painting solid geometric blocks in different skin tones, to large-format industrial canvases, to sculptural structures with cords softened and bathed in red encaustic, penetrable paintings, textures, organic labyrinths.
During the mid-1990s, in one of the galleries where Morelos exhibited for the first time, the gallerists suggested that she leave out of her biography the name of the small town where she was born and raised; it seems that at that time exoticism was not fashionable. Now, when every artist uses supposed marginality to come up with a history that makes him or her interesting on paper, Morelos has elegantly avoided this path. Her work is poor in words, rich in images.
Translated from the Spanish by David Terrien
Born in Tierra Alta, Colombia, Delcy Morelos studied at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Cartagena. Since 1990 she has shown regularly in her hometown of Bogotá, most recently the series Agua salada organizada (2007–14), a body of work equivalencing the structure and stuff of the human body and the formation of paintings, at Alonso Garcés Galeria. Selected by Lucas Ospina, artist and professor at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá.
This article was first published in the March 2015 issue.