Latitude 53


Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo | Catastrophe, Memory, Reconciliation

July 28–September 9, 2017

Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo 1.jpg

Opening reception: Friday, July 28 at 7 pm

Artist Talk | Saturday, July 29 at pm

Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo will construct a sawdust tapestry using methods from traditional religious celebrations in Central America. The El Salvador-born artist then asks visitors to participate in the tapestry's erasure throughout the exhibition. Ramirez Castillo sees it as an opportunity for viewers to subvert the power of political and cultural icons. The floor tapestry refers to ancient cultural practice and converging local tradition. Ramirez Castillo uses his personal experience to inform visual language that addresses identity, memory and violence. In turns, the exhibition speaks to collective memory and historical trauma in narrative form in a series of mixed media drawings and a stop motion animation.

Redrawing Memory as Resistance

The word trauma is bandied about with casual indifference in various social interactions. A bad haircut? Traumatic. Denied entrance to a new hot spot? Traumatic. Enduring a banal family event? Traumatic, traumatic, traumatic.

In our empathy fatigued society, the jarring tumult of what it means to experience the soul rearranging impact of trauma has been eclipsed by narcissistic posturing for simply getting one’s way. Enter Catastrophe, Memory, Reconciliation by Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo. Castillo works with themes of collective memory, historical trauma, and cultural identity within a global context explored through the possibilities of narrative. His intuitive construction of memory as a form of personal myth-making is a striking political commentary, which gives voice to modes of resistance. His recent work speaks eloquently to the process of reconstruction and healing. The use of white space gives breath to the new pieces. It feels as an opportunity to react before reacting.

Born in El Salvador during a ruthless civil war, the sound of gun fire outside his family’s home still echoes in his dreams today. He chooses to reimagine his memories through exquisitely emotive drawings that blend watercolour, acrylic ink, and pencil crayons on translucent Mylar paper. There’s inherent violence and aggression in his work, but it is not the final word, more of a portal into the vulnerable undercurrent that lies beneath fear and suffering.

For the exhibit at Latitude 53, he has added an extra layer of interactive work that promises to challenge the viewer. From the artist: “Originally inspired by cultural tradition, tapestry making techniques used for public display in religious contexts in Latin America is an ancient practice. I wish to explore this in new interactive ways.”

“I’m applying knowledge of ancient cultural traditions to explore my interest in social art practices in a contemporary context. Using sawdust for processing imagemaking techniques in the creation of large scale floor drawings onsite is a new development that aims to promote innovation, experimentation and dialogue with communities,” he explains. Other work includes a young soldier, populated with blooming lilies and orchids. Beneath a rickety bombed out shack, a child cowers within a protective floral cloud. A centaur guerilla wields a weapon, hybrid imagery that is rooted in his vivid imagination and creativity. These are fragmented people. Some have sticks for limbs. Perhaps it’s a way to deconstruct the monsters.

A procession comes together in forgiveness, making offerings to that which has been cataclysmic and intrusive. It’s further evidence of Castillo’s growth as an artist: violence met with tender communion. “I’m just reinventing memory,” Castillo says.

Catastrophe, Memory, Reconciliation brings us face to face with the demons of violence and oppression, guiding us to the places beneath, where the potential of full human experience resides. It requires deep attention, empathy, and a willingness to endure the horrific in order to connect to vast potential. At a time when inexorable self-interest can seem like a plague, Castillo’s work offers us an alternative that is rich, textured, challenging and deeply relevant.


Vancouver based writer Roberta McDonald aims to unearth the creative impulse through dialogue and immersion in the arts and social movements. In recent years she has shifted her energies to engaging in processes that highlight truths rather than statistical facts.