Altos de Chavon

“Savages” by Dominican artists Joao Rodríguez and George Heinsen invites us to remember our ancestral ways

This post is also available in: Spanish

The Gallery in Altos de Chavón is one of our favorite places to go when we want to immerse ourselves in some spectacular artwork and meet new artists. Throughout the year, they host various exhibitions with local and international artists, giving us just a small insight of what each artist was thinking at the moment of creating the collection. Last week, the Gallery presented the exhibition, “Savages” by Dominican artists Joao Rodríguez and George Heinsen.

The exhibition had originally been scheduled for September 7th, but due to Hurricane Irma it was rescheduled. Even though the day was cloudy and rained a bit, Casa de Campo community members and the Chavón School of Design faculty and students came together on Thursday, September 14th to see this new exhibition consisting of 40 works of mixed media in small and large formats, 23 by Joao and 17 by George. Joao was present at the exhibition, interacting with guests and answering any questions they had, while George is currently in Barcelona studying Animation and VFX at ESCAC after winning a scholarship. Though he wasn’t able to come to the opening, we were able to talk to both of the artists and ask them a few questions about the exhibition:

Why the name “Savages”?

Joao: Because we feel that we need more contact with the natural environment, to return to a life more in touch and respectful of nature. It is a call to remember the ways, customs, and techniques with which our ancestors survived the elements.

George: The name “Savages” is related to the method of work employed, obviating many of the already established processes for creating artwork, and much rather guiding ourselves more by instinct. Another relevant aspect is the exploration of nature, working both intuition and observation as it was important that the works were filtered by the artists.

Joao, we noticed that your work focused a lot on the flamboyant trees. Do you have a favorite?

In English, they call are called “Flame tree” and what’s wilder than fire? Besides that, they blossom in these times as you are able to see throughout the resort. I was also looking to present something very usual and say “typical” of us for the public who normally visits the Gallery in Altos de Chavón, which is mainly tourists. As for a favorite, I do; it’s the one called “Flamboyanes”. I love drafting with good speed not to say fast. The rest of my pieces are part of an exploratory process which was good and nutritious. But working big and using my whole body to generate a stroke gives me an adrenaline rush. That’s why it’s my favorite. You can feel the strength and the wilderness.

George, does your work have a common theme? Do you have a favorite piece?

I work the unconscious, understanding that the result is nothing more than a reflection. My desire to work with trees on this occasion was brought forth by my interest in the psychological evaluation where the patient is asked to draw trees. I do not have a favorite piece, they are all part of a whole, a process and path, the goal is only the culmination of this.

A few years back the two of you presented “Holistic” together in the Gallery, how do you think your work has changed from then?

Joao: It’s odd. Sometimes I think like a designer when I start an art project. I develop it with drafts, missions, and objectives. In “Holistic,” we presented something similar. Local fauna, but speaking of the foreign intervention in its genetic manipulation. For my part, my proposal as a member of the collective was aimed totally at the content using cleaner techniques and with some technology involved. As I said before, I always work thinking about the concept that we want to bring forward. The change is significant, but it is totally intentional and this is indeed it. A walk through the complete opposite to current contemporary art. Traditions are being lost, as well as natural traditions; for example, brushing your teeth with some aloe vera, knowing how to light a campfire, how to make knots, etc.

George: From “Holistic” to now when I work, I look to discover something new; I look for nothing in specific. 

What are your thoughts on contemporary art?

Joao: I love contemporary art. I understand that you can work any project if it is developed in stages. Definition, research, testing, and refinement. The result will always be effective. This time around we worked with the traditional since we were thinking about a target and audience as well as we wanted to portray something specific. Contemporary is usually less understood by the majority. 

George: Contemporary art is what is being done now, nothing else. That’s why it’s important; it presents what currently exists and is happening.


“Savages” will remain open to the public until October 1st, so take the time to visit these remarkable works if you haven’t done so already. The following photos were taken by Mariana Heredia during the opening cocktail on Thursday, September 14th:

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