Omar Castañeda (Bogotá 1978) is a controversial Colombian artist who has been studying at London’s St. Martins University for the past two years. His latest work, which also serves as his graduation thesis, is in display in St. Martin’s main building in Charing Cross Road until the 5th of September.
Omar is an artist extremely committed to the local culture of several countries, exposing their socio-political issues. To present his ideas, Omar works with concepts and materials related to food and animals, since according to him, that is the basis of the culture, of a people and their habits. He has worked with animal skin, bread and sugar. He photographs restaurant menus, talks about food brands and transforms food to convey a message. Through photographs, installations, sculptures and paintings, Omar recreates a reality inspired in the details that inspire great changes and their consequences. For a year now, Omar has focused on the development of a material that he considers one of the pillars of the Colombian culture: The panela; sugar cane grown in the Colombian fields. For many years, the cultivation of this product has dwindled significantly due to the rise of illegal cocaine plantations and the profitable bio-fuel crops. According to Omar Castañeda, it’s not only an essential product in Colombian’s industry that’s disappearing, it’s also a part of the country’s own identity. This last year, using one ton of panela brought directly from Bogotá, he has made a whole multitude of photographs, sculptures and installations. One has only to visit his Edgware Road (London) studio to see the scope and thought behind his project. In his thesis, now in exhibition, we can enter a world made of sugar cane. It’s a bar counter built with panela bricks, where we can taste aguapanela (panela water), and see the its processes: a video showing us the manufacturing of panela, and custom invoices and receipts to illustrate the transportation of the ton of panela from Colombia to London. Being in a room surrounded by panela is an immersive sensory experience, as we watch the video and feel the scent of that sweet material. It’s highly recommendable to check out this exhibition and learn more about this exciting new artist, who will definitely go far in the art world.
Text: Olga Pastor
Translation: João Duarte Silva
Photo: Mónica Rubio
Article written for Rooms Magazine