Edwin Erazo’s ‘Rare Book’ Exhibited at Alianza Francesa Gallery

Alejandra Fernandez
Alejandra Fernandez

In the Alianza Francesa Gallery, in the city of Cali, Colombia, it is being exhibit a work that is set as an alternative to the art that the city is used to see, ‘Rare Book’, which is a collection of fifty drawings of a strange nature, of the emerging artist Edwin Erazo, graduated from the school of Bellas Artes of the same city.

This work is a compendium of peculiar stories that come in the familiar nucleus, stories marked by a religious eccentricity, revealing in his childhood the catholic practices of his grandmother. She, who during the day, prayed in the church, and at night, guessed the fortune of people using the ashes of the tobacco (tells the artist while he gives us the tour by the two rooms of the gallery).

That image of his grandmother never vanished, if anything, it woke up in him an enormous curiosity by the hidden practices of the religious rites in his home, like praying to an only God during the day and at night, evoking spirits that answer all kinds of questions that were received in the house.

The artist remembers that he found among his toys a jar full of blood of mite, an element used for black magic, he does not remember why the jar was in his room, but he does remember that it was immediately taken out of the house. Eventually, he discovered that his father also makes rites related to soul cleaning.

The artist understood that it was not a coincidence that his family was involved in occultism, since they always lived in a neighbourhood where most of the population were Santeria afro-descendants practitioners, that influenced the lives of all the inhabitants of the neighbourhood; that is why, the images of his drawings made by pencil, create a set of curiosities among Christian-Catholic symbols that is his professed religion, stamps used in occultist rites and symbols of other cultures that he studied.

Influences demarked in hybrid images that the artist shows us in this exhibition, like, the most impressive portrait, which is a big size draw done on a drywall in the gallery, it shows a woman from the back, showing her typical African braided hair, which was used by the women from slavery epochs to save objects in their hair, to create potions for the forbidden rites when they were brought to the American continent.

Braids in the women were also used as paths or runaway routes for slaveries, which gave the artist the idea of mixing that hairstyle with African flowers as a resistance symbol, lots of flowers were imported because they adapted to all kinds of weather, like their customs, they adapted to the city of Cali (Colombia) to resist the inquisition of the Catholic church that tried to remove all kinds of syncretism among indigenous, African and Christian practices, but today, we can perceive that it did not entirely succeed.

The hyper-realistic drawings are evidence of Erazo skills to represent his interest topic, appropriating images that permeate his quotidian life, juxtaposing photographs, illustrations or figures that he finds in his research, all that allowed him to put together a notebook as a metaphor of the weirdness of his childhood. Each figure has elements that the viewers must pay attention to figure out their own esoteric influences in their religion.

Making the tour through the exhibition we can observe a keen interest for portraying women, notoriously, afro-descendant and Victorian women as a representation of the religious mysticism that his life has gone through; the afro-descendant women by the influence of the environment in which he lived and the Victorian gothic for having two sides of interest: hiding the body from harmful actions and the extreme side of the eccentricity, like the utilisation of the photography in post mortem bodies and the starting of the first pornographic images.

Nuns, another kind of woman that he is interested in, women that are supposed to be a synonym of virginity in the catholic religion, they represent the Holy Mary. In them, we can observe stamps mark in their forehead, like magic signs, that Christianity has been used for centuries, wholly reserved and inadmissibility.

Chastity in a woman has personified purity in many cultures, it is an innocent state, which, going further, stains all kind of spiritual relation, that is why he paints in a dark tone the eyes of the nuns and some infants, some other cases, he paints them with white eyes, to confront the viewer with the idea that they have the purity in a woman, it has always been in all cultures and religions to offer up or to serve as a sacrifice, with the objective of obtaining the divinity mysteries.

The virginity topic entered in his research since the mentor of his grandmother promised her to teach her how to fly if she sacrificed a virgin or an infant, under that condition, she could teach her the secrets of the dark magic and get the gift of flying. The artist tells that since that offering his grandmother took a step back of her mentor and she has only used, what she learnt from her to the service of the community.

With some sarcasm to the Catholic Christian experiences that he was taught in his childhood, the artist puts together the anthropophagus gestures of body consummation, the Christ body contented in a communion wafer eaten by their believers, he reproduces in his drawings that moment consecrated of Christian faith with alchemist elements, criticised and persecuted by that religion, illustrations that seem an answer to the double standards of the Christian believers, that do not admit that their religious model is, more or less, an allegory to the blood and body consummation.

And, as a small tribute, among his portraits there is one of Helena Blavatsky, the creator of the theosophical school, that give Erazo the founding to weave together his theory of occultism in the religious practices of his family, to determinate that their belief is one of many versions that appropriate elements of other cultures, many of them of a very complex esoteric nature.

With all this material, the artist makes a depuration exercise of images to create his own Atlas of Mnemosyne, without a datasheet to let the viewers conceive a narrative from their own experiences, between the sacred and the profane that can be hidden in their lives.

From that way, Erazo shares the familiar dark side that is not far from the “social practices of the city, which is submerged in eccentric cultural manifestations that were absorbed by foreignism and adopted as own”; it is like this that the tropical gothic of this Colombian city is manifested in fields that reflect their own contexts.

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