Oswaldo Vigas interviewed by José Pulido

Janine hears the doorbell and answer I’m coming! She opens the door and looks with her yellow hair and her encouraging smile. The first time the master Braulio Salazar saw her, he said “hello, sisal hair "and so he kept calling her. Janine has been perennially the number one fan of Oswaldo Vigas. Since she married him, being a young French girl, until the present, when the string of years lived in Venezuela has shaped her Venezuelan identity, she is tireless in the task of showing, protect and promote the work of her husband.

She seizes the opportunity of the short walk and shows the sculptures of Oswaldo Vigas that are displayed in the small courtyard, surrounded by the freshness of the garden. They are like drawings in bronze outlined in the air. "This work is very good! Isn’t it? What do you think, boy? ".

The conversation on the subject he loves. Meanwhile, Oswald does not appear. Where's Oswaldo Vigas? The walls filled with paintings and other objects of the large room cover it with silence, as a cave: he is in a corner, drawing in his notebook, almost squatting, with the concentration of those who must complete the project that has been proposed for this day. He barely leaves his notebook on a table and stands up to say hello. He had just come out of bronchitis and speaks as if not to change anything in the environment.

It is a narrow, vertical, thick notebook, containing the most recent sketches. In his file there are several dozen of these notebooks and there are folders with pictures drawn on napkins, invitations, absorbent cardboard used to put cups on, paper bags.

Vigas is the same vehement of the time when he had dark hair and jumped before a big painting, elucidating a work, wearing a beige safari jacket, that he spotted at close range with all colors.

Now, older, with age shaking his body and memory, he does the same before the fabric and moves as if it obtained energy of what is plotting , of the spontaneity that possesses him.

He draws and paints every day, without missing one. Being an artist, creator of bridges to the lost magic, prevailed in his existence. As soon as he graduated as a doctor he devoted himself to art, with intense desires that kept him completely away from medicine.

It is already known: from the first time he materialized a work until today, he has painted putting his senses in the same fondness, deepening and moving forward in his proposal, although he insists on clarifying that he has never been looking or researching anything: he has only created in the area where he persists as a fish in water.

When he was twenty years old, he was one of the young friends that used to go to Picasso's studio in Paris. From that time he says he regrets not having shown his paintings to Picasso. "He told me several times to bring him my work and I never did. I was afraid that he would copy me " Oswaldo says it and laughs. Picasso absorbed everything and made it better, until it would become Picassian.

-Your work emerges with more and more power ... do you feel you get better expressions today?

-It's not that the work is better, because it is eternal... it is that I work on archetypes, which I have on hand ... I feel that I have grabbed them by the neck and I do not release them... but in reality it was them who grabbed me and do not release me... everything I do is mixed, comes out of there...

- What is it that the witches have become a sort of icon, of your rubric? If someone mentions the name of Oswaldo Vigas, automatically adds the term "and the witches"...

-Because they are archetypal, they are figures that represent archetypes, beyond aesthetics, beyond the merely pictorial. I did not know when I made them, but now I know. That happens when you mess with archetypes.

The first witch I made it in nineteen fifty-one ... and that was after a trip to Paraguiapoa. I was looking for the source.... I had seen at the Science Museum the collection that old Oramas ,the father of Alirio Oramas, had left. The museum was run by Cruxent.
I was working with the African, which was not really with African but with what was here in connection to that culture: the devils of Yare, the dances that were held in Rio Chico ...

The magic, the primordial stage of human mentality, is invoked by the archetypes. Everything man does is culture and history, and in figures and ancestral expressions of indigenous peoples and Africans, there are vestiges of magic and religion, where it surfaces an emotional beauty.

Men and women of primitive humanity, shared their dreams, fears, beliefs and existence through the artistic expressions that invoked magic and religious answers.

The innocence with which that childhood humanity expressed its spirituality, is a factor that Vigas recalls in his works, is a motivation that makes him invent the past and the present, like a lost member of a tribe that exists only when a work is completed.

Vigas is the whole tribe together. He is the shaman, the one who draws magical codes on the stone, he is also the maker of clay figures, the weaver of baskets and hammocks. And while the man who narrates, around the fire at night, again and again, the origin of universe and of all the worlds.

He draws the child in time, the man that does not make nature, but interprets it with primitive poetry. Oswaldo Vigas has always recreated it, trying to regain the vision and the magic inherent to all races. The witches become independent, they seem to own a message, a secret, show mysterious smiles or frowns. They seem to know something that others ignore. They have emerged to life with a very old intention and that makes them unique, they are a floating tribe that occupies an animic space. Primitive is more mystical, it is the chaining of mystic participation.

-I worked the pre-Columbian figures, and linked them with the African. I never searched, I acted rather reflecting a pattern of something archaic Venezuelan ... but there was never a cut, I always kept continuity...

-You have also worked to express the eroticism, in your own way...

-I have the erotic engravings, is a big series ... my erotic engravings are almost unknown ... I say that it does not matter that no one knows them because someday they will know them.

-Your work has been more valued abroad, especially in France ... what is that?

-One has to be part of the customary, what nobody cares about ... noone pays attention to everyday wonder. In France I am a novelty: not here.

-At the Cannes Film Festival they used one of your works for the poster in 2003 and the Museum La Monnaie of Paris, presented a retrospective of your work from 1952 to 1963 ... at that time you were given the Order of Arts and Letters of France and the Vermeil Medal of the Ville de Paris...

-The work they chose in Cannes was the one titled" Witch of the snake." This piece was donated by Miguel Otero Silva to the Museum of Anzoategui ... Yes ... at the Museum of La Monnaie in Paris, there was, on the opening day, a crowd jammed at the door. I was surprised. Huge posters had been distributed in the mouths of the Metro and banners all over Paris ... The people were waiting at the door, because the Minister of Culture wanted to give his speech before the crowd entered and when they opened the doors, abruptly, that place was filled ...the exhibition lasted three months and was visited by thousands of people from Paris and the interior of France...

- What different difficulty appears when making the sculptures?

-None. Before I make a drawing and when I pick up the clay I worked as if were drawing ... the come out normally ... what I usually do is to put support on the sculptures ... many artists, when they make sculptures, they see all flat ... I see the three dimensions and so my sculptures have a back ... you can see them from behind... I also make my paintings imagining they also have backs...

- What is your great desire at this point?

-All I aspire to is to continue painting and have more time for sculpting ... what satisfies me is to keep doing what I do ... as if it were the first day of my life ...

Caracas, Venezuela
February 2006
The interview took place at the artist's studio