Art, Science, and Soap Bubbles, According to Santiago Betancur Z

On his website, the Colombian artist Santiago Betancur Z lists directly under his name, “Art is the science of beauty”—a line that encapsulates his approach to art making. This ethos animates his paintings, photographs, and videos, which could be said to be focused principally on form. Working at the intersection of art and science, he analyzes, scrutinizes, and experiments with two forms in particular: the human figure and the soap bubble.

Betancur Z’s paintings are populated by human figures—in states of prayer, consorting with animals wild and tame, and in the throes of sexual pleasure. They emerge from dark, expressively painted backgrounds and the roughly wrought surfaces of his compositions. In his “Rawness” series, for example, he twines sex and anatomy in images of amorous couples whose translucent flesh gives way to the skeletal and muscular systems beneath. He has also made himself the subject of his work, in a series of black-and-white photographic self-portraits, in which he covers his face and head with repeating images of his hands to create an ornate, elaborate, and almost animal-like armature.

The artist also uses photography to bring us close-up views of the extraordinary, fantastical patterns created when light hits the surface of soap bubbles. He has been enchanted with these patterns for more than a decade, capturing and celebrating their seemingly endless variety and their chance resemblances to orbiting planets, butterflies, angels, and even, amazingly, to Edvard Munch’s iconic painting, The Scream (1893). All this, and more, dances on the surface of these most delicate and fleeting of things, which live on in Betancur Z’s art, long after the inevitable “pop.”

Karen Kedmey

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