The Drawers - Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Work'n It

Working with images that unflinchingly examine the grotesque and painful alongside of the fantastical – Castillo moves forward with a steady and adept talent. The macabre content of his drawings on Mylar depict vague and extraordinary memories of his native country El Salvador where political unrest was a part of the daily diet of his childhood. Lately, the malignant imagery has been couched in a rainbow palette. The overall effect is one of wonder that the face of extremity can be so gloriously rendered as to become almost comprehensible.

Transformation myths help to explain the unexplainable and often irreconcilable opposites of good and evil. They allow ugliness to change into beauty, beast into man, darkness into light and inspire the hope of devastated peoples who feel they have been abandoned by their god.

Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo reinvents the Aztec character as a means of dealing with the violent imagery, born of memory and experience, that have made up his artistic output. From the dense black and white pain of  Shipwreck in Jucuapa, 2005, to the harmful in influence and effect of his imagined interior of Quetzecoatl in 2007, there has also been an artistic transformation. From grey scale or muted analogous color schemes to a full and lurid palette, his work has gone through a transformation that reaches further into the convolutions of his fertile mind.

Quetzalcoatl is an Aztec sky and creator god. The name is a combination of quetzal, a brightly colored Mesoamerican bird, and coatl, meaning serpent. He is the God of the wind and the air, part bird and part snake. One of the pantheon of deities that reigned over the consciousness of South America before the advent of the Spanish, he was a personified translation of the mysteries of survival made into a visual form. However, other than the flying horse, clarion crying rooster and gaseous atmosphere enveloping the serpent, there is not a lot of flight in Castillo’s rendition of the mythical creature. If the snake was the creator (phallic, truthful metaphor) - then the beginning was slithering into being rather than rising upon a spirit wave. There is violent indigestion in this hell-like process of birth and the element is fiery rather than light and airy. If these are Quetzalcoatl’s children in gestation, then all hell is about to break loose.

The violent memories of a people are often passed on in story telling, the intimate disclosure from father to son or mother to daughter of the trials and tribulations of their generation. The figures, fantastic and unreal to our Western culture where there has not been a war fought upon this native land, have a resonance for Castillo that was born of experience. This is the telling seed of the conceptual beginnings of Castillo’s work. It has been processed through his life and passed on from his parents who heard from their parents similar tales of transformation and change. This is the valuable insight that he is able to share and the result, foreign and horrific with exploding bodies, dog-men, soldiers, spikes and torture; is a cause for wonder. Only Castillo knows where, in Quetzacoatl’s Children, the ropes towards the sky are anchored. That he delivers this epic version of the Aztec god with the deft and clairvoyant mastery of an angel, renders the statement even more poignant.

Copyright © 2007,  Julie Oakes