Exploring the 'Island': An Exhibition of Colombian Artists in London

Earlier this month I found myself hustling out of Oxford Circus tube station and down Regent street, headed for the General Consulate of Colombia. Only my third time there, I had previously visited the consulate to exercise my citizen duties and vote in the presidential elections. This time, however, I was in for the pleasure and not the business, as the Consulate was hosting the opening of ‘Island’, an exhibition featuring seven contemporary Colombian artists living and working in London. Curated by Olivia Williams and Maria Elvira Dieppa, the event featured painting, installation, sculpture, and performance art.

In their framing of the exhibition, curators William and Dieppa call for “an Archipielago of identities, knowledge, experiences and cultures that come together, on this occasion, in London, to coexist and co-create opportunities.” The spirit of the exhibit was to bring together artists that exist separated from their shared country, themselves embodied consulates of a nation far away. Regardless of their shared citizenships, the artists in the exhibition reckoned with the kind of issues that contemporary artists are exploring in the UK today; issues of queerness, postcolonialism, structures, and form as seen through the lens of emerging artists of colour. They broke, flipped, and danced on canvas, inviting guests to see them occupy the house of the country that birthed them.

An exhibit celebrating and interrogating what it means to be from somewhere but living and making art somewhere else is urgent in today’s anxious climate around borders, nationhood, and race. Displaced identities populate global cities like London, if perhaps at the margins, and the arena of contemporary art allows for a destabilising of structures, bringing to the centre that which exist at the margins. To see queer art at the Colombian Consulate was a double pleasure. It was seeing queer art in a government building of the country my uncle and his husband left in order to get a gay marriage license, and it was seeing immigrant art in the heart of London. Here’s hoping that those who come, see, and occupy spaces with expressions of displacement continue to do work and find support in this city.

The exhibit ran from August 2nd -17th and some of the pieces can be seen in galleries around the UK and Europe.

Exhibited Artists:

Carlos Maria Romero - @atabey_mamita

Olivia Williams - @oliviawilliamsolivia

Fiorella Bassil - @fiorella_bassil

Isabella Ramsay - @isabellaramsay

Juan Covelli - @juan_covelli

Maria Elvira Dieppa - @maria_elvirad

Santiago Reyes - @santiago_reyes_villaveces

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Valentina Vela

Valentina is a Colombian artist based in London. She is currently finishing her MA in Performance Practice as Research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and is interested in issues of race, representation, and contemporary performance. Before coming to the UK, she completed her undergraduate degree at NYU Abu Dhabi.

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