Born in El Salvador in 1978, Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo immigrated to Canada in 1989 as a result of the 12-year civil war in El Salvador. He attended the Ontario College of Art and Design (Toronto 1998-2001) and received an MFA from Concordia University (2004-2007), and he currently lives and works in Montreal, Canada.
Castillo’s allegorical drawings explore issues of collective memory, cultural identity and historical trauma. Using the body as a symbol and site for trauma, his work is engaged with the possibilities of narrative manifested in personal iconography.
Below is an interview during his residency at the Serie Project in the summer of 2012:
How would you describe the imagery in your print?
“I’ve developed a personal repertory of imagery over the years. My idea has always been to fuse my cultural background with my personal background. I’ve revised this imagery, and I keep recycling my own imagery – I’ve arrived at a personal iconography, in a way.
I’m combining historical drama with aspects of cultural memory, and aesthetically, my work is influenced by North American pop culture, namely graffiti art and other street art forms that exist out there.
Metaphorically speaking, I use my art work to explore the theme of war and memories of violence. Namely I use the human body for that.”
What have you learned from your experience with the Serie Project?
“I’ve learned a lot about serigraphy. It used to be the one medium in printmaking that I ignored – I thought it was kind of boring and flat. But I decided, why not challenge myself with serigraphy under the guidance of a master printer, and that has helped me a lot.”
Who or what would you cite as some of your main influences?
“Oscar de las Flores, he’s also from El Salvador. There’s a a performance artist from Guatemala, Regina Jose Galindo. Also, the medieval engravers such as Albrecht Dürer. Hieronymus Bosch. Francisco Goya is a big one. And Jacques Callot, the French engraver.”
What are your upcoming projects?
“I want to keep exploring my stop animation and keep on drawing.”