Luis Carlos Tovar



Luis Carlos Tovar was born in Bogotá in 1979. He studied visual arts at the University of Los Andes, specialising in history and the theory of architecture and urban planning.
The photographer’s artistic explorations initially focused on questions of historical remembrance, through in situ installations, before gradually turning to a decentralised form of creation: an aesthetic act in motion, centred on the themes of land with both its perennial and short-lived borders. The work of Luis Carlos Tovar has been the subject of several exhibitions in Colombia, and in 2011 his series Chaise Rimax was displayed as part of the second edition of the Photoquai biennial photography festival. In 2015, Luis Carlos Tovar won the IILA Photography prize set up by the Italo-Latin American Institute. Through this, he was able to enjoy a residency in Rome and work on the initial part of his project Cartographies of Escape I, which was exhibited at the Museo Arte Contemporáneo di Roma in 2016. He is a nominee for the third edition of the Prix Élysée award and, in October 2018, began a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

Cartographies of Escape

2017 Photographic Residencies

Through his contact with African, Afghan and Palestinian refugees at the Baobab migrant shelter in Rome, Luis Carlos Tovar developed the Cartographies of Escape I project in 2015. Maps quickly emerged as his work’s main theme and the most fitting means of communication for visually expressing the stories of these uprooted men and women. By asking refugees to draw the map of their journey on the city’s walls using a chalk stick, he gave them the chance to temporarily make the urban space their own. Luis Carlos Tovar’s photographs, associating portraits of refugees and the maps they have drawn in the city, perpetuate this momentary presence within the city and explore the interim, transitional situations of these individuals.

The photographer wanted to take this project further through the Photographic Residencies by visiting the main gateways to Europe’s mainland, today’s key places of transition for refugees: Marseilles, Rome and Tangiers, as well as Melilla and Ceuta, Spanish enclaves in Morocco. His work then quickly took an unexpected turn. Previously focused on urban areas and outdoor settings, Luis Carlos Tovar’s photography now follows a logic of isolation, intimacy and anonymity. Both the space and model photographed have become unidentifiable and the maps formerly drawn on the surrounding backgrounds now appear directly on these individuals’ bodies and hands like indelible scars. The only pictures captured outdoors suggest a hostile environment bearing the marks of a fleeting transition.

The series produced as part of Photographic Residencies attests to the tougher stances recently taken in migration policies in Europe and the fear in which those migrating to Europe live. In the light of the photographs produced by the artist in 2015, these new shots express the anxiety and distrust of migrants, who are reduced to withholding their identities and concealing their own faces. This silence is also that of the ‘Ulysses syndrome’ among these travellers on the run, incapable of telling their tales of often traumatising, painful journeys, with faces that are, in most instances, hidden.

Series produced between 2017-2018.