The Colombian artist Johanna Calle lives and works in Bogota. She is a master of drawing, but not just in the classical sense. After her art studies at the Chelsea College of Art in London and her bachelor’s degree in art history at the University of the Andes in Bogota, she at first did oil paintings before deciding in 1994 to exclusively dedicate herself to the media of drawing. Her work experimentally deals with the concept of drawing. The “drawing” in the form of a graphic gesture is not only practised with ink and pencil, but also with copper cable, galvanised metal lattice, iron sifters and letters or typewriting on paper. It is not uncommon for the artist to sew or stitch her “drawings” on canvases. Her creative process often has a destructive compositional character – she cuts, replaces, covers, disguises, compresses and erases. The formal aim of the artist is to break geometric structures, to imitate and stage a graphic motion with the aid of the material.
In terms of the content Calle focuses on concrete issues of the Colombian everyday life such as gender roles, violence, abuse, malnourishment, environmental topics, urbanisation and communication. Graphic characters, respectively language, are frequent elements in Calle’s work and always represent a linguistic convention, a social arrangement, which entails disguised power structures. Despite the often socio-critical heavy-hearted themes and cool geometric structures, Calle’s pieces appear incredibly delicate and touching. The drawings “Imponderables” (2009/10), for example, are formal compressions, deformations and fragmentations of charts resembling outdated cash account books of rural regions. “Submergentes” (2010/11), portraits made of galvanised wire mesh, focus on the change of the male behaviour in times of economical crisis, unemployment and female emancipation, which also affect the family system. “Perspectivas” are crushed bird cages – deformed, shapeless and reduced to a purely visual adornment. Beautiful, yet bereft of content they share a fate similar to the one of the pet birds, which the cages maybe once housed. With her compositions the artist repeatedly achieves to enrich allegedly “poor” materials with socio-critical aspects in a breathtaking way and transform them into spiritual vibration for the mind and poetry for the eye.