Santiago Montoya, Tally Sticks, Press Release

19 Sep 2014

Halcyon Gallery is proud to present Colombian artist, Santiago Montoya’s latest project: Tally Sticks. Using wood sourced, carefully chosen (only trees were taken which were naturally uprooted or already decaying) and masterfully carpentered from the Cerro de Armas region of the Colombian rainforest, Montoya has created four monumental structures which stand at an imposing three meters high. Mimicking the interior skeleton of a skyscraper, these monolithic wooden towers stand strong, yet are held together at every join with monetary currency tied into knots; fortified only by shreds of paper. The title, Tally Sticks, derives simply from the root definition of the term. A tally in archaic English meant an identical match, or a duplicate of something that could be copied multiple times, while in more recent history the word referred to a piece of wood, scored with notches to serve as a type of early accounting system. Today the term is widely accepted as a way to ‘keep score’ – a way to measure one’s success or equally as such, one’s failures.

Curiosity, research, information, trial and error, all amassed over the past three years, the Tally Sticks project represents a culmination of Montoya’s views on the sustainability of society and the fragility of our financial and socio-political infrastructure. Underlying concepts and realities from Montoya’s previous series, The Great Swindle and Improbable Landscapes, come together with this project emphasising the notion that even the most perfected landscape, inescapably artificial in character is the most fragile and improbable landscape of them all – and arguably, we are exploiting it.

Deeply personal to Montoya is his connection with his roots – both metaphorically given his Colombian heritage and also physically, as his family have been entrusted with a section of the Cerro de Armas rainforest to protect and preserve, which has been passed down through his family for generations. Of the project, the artist states:

The Tally Sticks project establishes the relationship between the exploitation of natural resources and the structure of the financial system, particularly revolving around the use of paper money. The use of wood from centenary trees that have died of natural causes within their life cycle in primary forests, to be ‘reconstructed’ using sections of bank notes, gives rise to a series of metaphors about the passage of time, the immediacy of the system in which we live now, and the eagerness to have ‘the future’ here and now; at any price.

An additional seven new works by Montoya will be launched surrounding the Tally Sticks Project, exhibited at Halcyon Gallery, 144-146 New Bond Street the 8 – 25 October 2014. The Tally Sticks Project maquette, first exhibited at the 5th annual Latin American Art Fair, PINTA in London, June 2014 will also be on display.

To mark the exhibition, a comprehensive monograph of Montoya’s oeuvre dating from 2008 to the present will be published, including texts by Justine Ludwig, Curator at the Contemporary Arts Centre in Cincinnati, Ohio, Robin Greeley, Professor of Modern & Contemporary Latin American Art History, UCONN, and edited by Professor Jose Luis Falconi, Art Forum Curator at the David Rockefeller Centre for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. The publication will be for sale during the exhibition.