His practice explores issues of transculturalism, memory and ancestry in the contemporary Diasporic experience. Santiago’s infinity series of miniature dioramas in reclaimed ringboxes consider the absence of certain narratives in dominant culture and draw on the tradition of storytelling to question the production of historical understanding. The ringboxes are unusually mobile artworks; between exhibitions they close and travel with the artist. Encased in structures that protect and transport precious objects through generations, the ringboxes become symbolic of oral historical practices. The lack of an immersive experience in viewing these works and their overt objecthood suggest the distance between dominant culture and the stories they hold.
More recently, Santiago has introduced drawing into his practice. Using paper and rocks as his surface, these works consider more directly the connection between the artist and his ancestors, and will be shown for the first time in this exhibition. The drawings were made as a current artist-in-residence at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn and from his studies at the New York Studio School, wherein Santiago stretched his artistic inquiries. The series depicts contemporary figures that aesthetically conjure the past, echoing the gestures and processes of art history’s masters before him.
Santiago’s own experience of growing up in Trinidadian household against the backdrop of Canada holds weight within the context of his practice. Santiago’s interest in storytelling, in particular narratives from African and Caribbean culture, comes alive in his practice, which aims to animate and reinsert these silenced histories into contemporary art and history.