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A Shared Glance

To Don Jaime Navas.

A cemetery of grayish marble tombstones, protruding like coins stuck in the ground, rose inclined on a short lawn shrunken by the cold. The cawing of crows, perched discreetly in the trees, marked the rhythm of the path to the wall. Four Colombian artists, hardened in the streets of Bogota, were braving the cold of a spring that refused to start. Estefany, Santiago, Sebastián and Ricardo, every morning for a long week, distracted their pace by reading the names of the dead and inventing their endings and beginnings. The famous team of Mientras Duerman Crew, after Estefany's departure to France, came together again to paint their first large format work in Europe. The enthusiasm, day by day, mimicked the vertigo that the first times always bring. The goal was simple but relevant: to tell a different story of Colombia and its inhabitants.

The chosen image, which reverberated for months in the artists' imaginations, was intended to extend a bridge between time. To invite a conversation, on the eve of unraveling, between two generations. The old and the new. Experience and experimentation. The known and the loved. They were manifested in a simple drawing: a child and his grandfather, with their backs turned but united, sharing a gaze towards a window of fluffy clouds and blue horizon, which fulfilled the dirty work of abstraction. (Incidentally an intended homage to the Belgian master of surrealism, René Magritte). Even before leaving Colombia, the artists had decided to move away from the easy and always festive representations of the country. The old man and his grandson, arrested by the stillness of the painting, suggested a scenario of contemplation and thought. They also, of course, questioned with the nostalgia that came with evoking the grandparents who followed and who left. As it would happen with Don Jaime, three years later.

Street artworks easily cease to belong to their artists. They are happy victims of the emotions of their spectators and in some cases, they are transformed by the shocks of the world. None of the four graffiti artists could have imagined that a couple of seasons later, that old man and that child would be the representation of two generations that would suffer deeply from the arrival of a pandemic. One by premature and accelerated death; the other by confinement and boredom. The world changed and the mural was still there; curiously, both, ceasing to be what they originally were.

Hopefully, the days ahead and the hundreds of works in the streets of the world, which tried to explain the madness of the recent months, will serve a greater and punctual utility: to understand that man's time is an alliance between the past and the future. Neither the old can be pushed aside, nor the children made responsible for an uncertain future. Only a shared gaze, such as the one that the inhabitants of Antwerp in Belgium witness every day, can ensure that life reveals its own meaning. Tying together common horizons that depend, like an inexperienced juggler, on a flimsy balance that cannot prevent a fatal fall if one of the ends comes loose.


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