In Conversation with

Curtis Talwst Santiago: “to me, drawing feels like a dance”

In his practice, Curtis Talwst Santiago, has extensively depicted the ritual of Carnival. The Trinidadian-Canadian artist identifies this playful space as one in which bodies and identities can take on various forms and appear from the grotesque to more pleasing shapes.

C&AL: I know that you are interested in intergenerational dialogue and transmission. And not necessarily in expressing inherited trauma only, but also joy. How do you experience negotiating this in a European or German art context?

CTS: As someone based in Munich, I have found a sense of community here that I have also found in other cities far from my hometown and my closest friends. The African barber shop is a place where the diasporic connection can be revitalized. In this space, I seek advice from elders on how to raise my son in this new land that I now call home. We laugh, we celebrate, and we share stories of hard times, but mainly we simply enjoy the pleasure of telling stories and taking off our armor.

C&AL: Now that you live in Munich with your family and are raising a child here in Germany, as well, how has this transition in recent years impacted your art practice?

CTS: While still being fairly new in this transition, I find that raising a child has given me a true sense of the value of time. From the time we get to spend with each other as a family, to the time we spend at work, every moment feels more precious than ever before. I have learned to work in a more focused way because the last thing I want to do is spend all night at the studio when I can be cuddled up with my beautiful little family, listening to my child talk to Mama and Papa in their sleep.

C&AL: Who do you paint for?

CTS: I paint for personal pleasure and the challenge of bringing my internal imagery and emotions to the surface. Each attempt allows me to be more honest with myself, even though each piece may not appear exactly as I envisioned. Despite moments of difficulty, I find joy in the process and see it as a form of self-care. I also know I am not alone in the ways I perceive the world and my place in it, and I know that sometimes others, for whatever reason, see themselves in my paintings, and that is equally satisfying.

Curtis Talwst Santiago (b. 1979, Edmonton, Alberta, of Trinidadian descent) is a painter, sculptor and dioramist currently based in Munich. Early in his practice, he studied as an apprentice of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.

Magnus Elias Rosengarten is a writer, curator and performer currently living in Berlin.