True to his creative intention to explore the meeting point of tradition and modernity, culture and instinct, ritual and history, Colombian visual artist Silvino González delves into a cryptic world of spirituality amid the mundane, of solemnity in the midst of the profane. Niches: The Parishioners is a photographic project that sets out to investigate traces of religious and cultural syncretism in a post-colonial, contemporary setting.
González employs a non-invasive stance, disclosing only partially the spaces and people he investigates; altars and shrines bear the weight of his shots, with human presence often cropped, fragmented, describing somehow the relationship mankind has always had with the divine: longing for it, yet holding on to humanity. The scenes are subversive in that they depict small tokens of traditional spirituality introduced among the signs of the conquerors' religious display. González sees this as a deeply moving form of resistance to the asphyxiating power of Western religion, a necessary act of remembrance, marked by the physicality of objects and the organisation of interior spaces.
The act of worship is one of the mind and soul that extends to the body, driving movement and directing posture. The imminence of the divine is articulated through faith, through tangible signs of belief; the ritual endows objects with new functions, leading to an elevation of spirit, body, and surrounding materiality. Enclosed in ritual and in dedicated spaces, faith is given a certain structure, durable through generations: the act of worship is at once individual and collective, it is a deeply personal experience paralleled by the looming sense of community. Singular acts of glorification of the divine draw on histories, traditions and collective experiences.
These altars in the houses of aboriginal people of the Nasa, Misak, and Kishú nations are enclaves both in space and in time; they expand the present moment of prayer and adoration over centuries of spiritual search. González brilliantly manages to catch with his lens the core of human spirituality, its source of power but also its weakness: darkness fills the place, waiting, hoping to be replaced by the divine light, while simultaneously resisting it.