Eduardo Planchart Licea

Art for Oswaldo Vigas fills every moment of his life; in it there are the dimensions that reveal his many sources of inspiration, among which are his love for conversation, music, reading and cooking. Among these activities spring from his imagination spontaneous sketches that, in the near future, will become works that will be subjected to his critical look for days, weeks and sometimes years. Some paintings are lucky to flow more easily than others, when the artist captures the drawing in charcoal on the bare canvas he senses the difficulty he will find upon arrival at one of the most difficult stages of every creator: knowing when the work is completed.

"My ideal would be that this spontaneous work of the sketch had already the definite proportions of the paintings, so I would not have to intervene the rational that inevitably tries to be imposed and often betray us."
(Oswaldo Vigas)

Each piece is born from sketches that Vigas constantly creates, it is interesting to note the fluidity with which the artist makes them on any support he has at his fingertips, from paper coasters to a restaurant napkin or Metro tickets. Many of them are colored at birth and when it is so, as Vigas would say, "they are so much not on the tightrope. " This does not happen with the sketches that are just lines because they are still on the razor's edge.

This way of finding the sought has some parallelism with the Eastern philosophy of Zen or the neo-Platonic of ideas. While we could say that Socrates’ maieutics achieved, with his constant questions about the seemingly obvious, give birth to truths; Vegas gives birth to forms inspired in his creative mythology, which he has been materialized for decades.

"Every day I am more convinced that the most important acquisition in Contemporary Art is that it has opened the way to the archaic past. When you get into one of those prehistoric caves, touching the walls with your hands makes you relive those moments etched into the rock. Going back thousands of years, and that is present, not past. Each pictorial gesture is a repetition of an archaic act, and that is before spoken language. The hand knows more than the reason. "(Oswaldo Vigas)

For the painter the quest for the ancestral is an eternal present, one of the fundamental sources that feed his work. This dimension has strong symbolic significance, hence the variety and breadth of his taste, which includes pre-Hispanic art, popular, Mayan art, Inca and his special love for African art; all live in his conception of taste without any contradiction with Oriental art- especially Japanese that he collects with passion- and the most varied trends of modern and contemporary art.

To enter into his visual speech is useful to keep this universality and eclecticism of their culture, because there arise from them seeds from which his paintings, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics and engravings are born, producing a spell that traps the novice spectator and delights the knower in museums and galleries around the world where he has presented his work.

The aesthetic impact stems from a delicate balance between his intellectual and spiritual freedom, between the rational and irrational aspects present in each and every one of his pieces, hence so when he wins the National Arts Prize in 1952, with the Great Witch, he will renew our intellectual and artistic world and, provocatively, will begin to occupy a central place in the national art, splitting our cultural and intellectual world. His witches, recreated in a personal language, are rooted in the visual archaeological investigation of central Venezuela. Since this is the decade that Venezuela was under the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez (1948-1958), with a repressive control over the entire Venezuelan society. However, this did not prevent the enriching controversy between trends staged by characters of the height of Miguel Otero Silva, who was one of his earliest supporters against his detractors.

There was such concern in the artist to seek for his roots, that in the fifties, he goes to the Guajira, where he finds a still neglected dimension of Latin American art: the facial and textile designs of the Wayuu culture, characterized by subtle geometric structures. This interest is typical of a generation and a continent that was to meet its cultural and spiritual essence. As a result, in the fifties, in our art, there gather around the Free Art Workshop of Caracas, Alirio Oramas, Oswaldo Vigas, Mario Abreu, Guillermo Meneses, Juan Liscano, Alejo Carpentier, Oswaldo Trejo, Manuel Trujillo, Rhazes López Hernández, Antonio Estévez, etc. Elsewhere in the continent such as Mexico, is amidst the splendor of the works of Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco and Rufino Tamayo, in Ecuador expands Oswaldo Guayasamín’s figuration, in Colombia Alejandro Obregon and Enrique Grau, in Peru we find Fernando de Szyszlo and in Brazil, the muralism of Candido Portinari dazzles. The work of Oswaldo Vigas is central in this movement in Latin America, that in Venezuela, was overshadowed by the enthusiasm for the geometric abstractionism, expressed by a group of national artists finding in Paris, the so called "Academy of abstract art" of Vasarely, Dewasne and Pillet, and later by the known boom of kinetics.

The Valencian artist's visual language is reaffirmed again in his 2005 and 2006 work. However, we could say that in these years there is a chromatic inversion in his pictorial language by emphasizing the relationship between drawings and color. Often the line, like an abyss, delimits vigorously the inside from the outside, as an expressive metaphor of the dualities of existence. Both in substance and in form, the grays or the raw material, which dominated earlier periods, disappear, to give life to greens, reds and yellows, colors of the tropics. It is the bustle of life, characteristic of Caribbean culture that becomes present.

Characters emerge, dominated by a line that creates tension with the bare canvas, and the as spots are born, they begin to sprout atmospheres that have a musical sense by the developed harmonies. Each one of these paintings has its own universe, with emotional loads transmitted by the artist realizing his visual language.

The color line has a chromatic character and, therefore, it not only defines but assumes different depths in its isolation. These strokes have unpredictable features for their rythm, such as in The Fall, (2005), the stroke remains firm over multicolored bodies and in vertical sense, surrounded by a green background that contrasts with red of the faces openings, transformed into surprising visual centers. These small red spots have such a presence in this branching of beings that become fissures that filter life, and is in these openings that the inner world of the beings comes out, these bodies are full of textures that enhance their expressiveness.

Several of the paintings created by Vigas, between the late 2005 and 2006, have totemic features and a configuration which seeks the ascent, turning these characters into cosmic navels seeking to rebuild a visual synthesis that projects the paradoxes that grip humanity In the new millennium, when he has lost the certainty in the foundations of his conception of progress and development. This is perceived in these paintings when the deconstruction and rupture of the characters, typical of the imaginary painting, they are dominated by gravitational movement that focuses on itself.

The last decade of Vegas in Venezuela is characterized, similarly, by a process of de-fragmentation and the management of simplifying dualisms that deny the common sense as guide of action, these are the features that are also present in this figuration from his drawings of the nineties, as evidenced by the series of characters where the organs are exchanged, the body parts, apart from being deformed, are re-signified. So we are before characters whose faces are dominated by the phallic, means through which the artist presents a humanity dominated and manipulated by the sexual. This trend is accentuated in his figuration with the arrival of the new millennium. Beings dominated by inversion create dramatic situations, it is possible to find vagina-shaped mouths, phallic noses, behinds in place of brain... Resources to confront the spectator with a beating beauty that creates a revealing visual discourse of the artist's inner vision about humanity.

The triangle, crescent, fire, vertical and horizontal, are also present in several of these paintings in which these inorganic forms are transformed into organic geometry appear to relate to the Paraca Incan art , as seen in the wings of some birds of these textiles designs and made up of feathers of triangles.

Other paintings are characterized by their free-form and playful deformation, as in Composition with figures and animals, 2005 and Stranger, 2006, are perceived by the spectator as a spot to which sense is transmitted to it by projecting the external dimension into the interior . Among the pieces dominated by strong colors Solar Figures, 2006 stands out, where he mingles the human and the animal in a personal and organic geometry.

We are before an art language that creates a bridge between the diverse perceptive levels of reality and the searches an even deeper understanding of our soul. Thus, challenging the spectator to investigate these basic forms to reveal its secrets. Therefore, it is not enough to just see them but it is necessary to look at them with attention. This artist’s feature is linked to his passion for the symbolic; that is why in his work each piece is a formal whirlwind where is present a figuration that searches multiplicity and denies uniqueness. Therefore, he distances himself from reality in his thematic, to create his own visual paradigms, which are a contribution to the history of Venezuelan art. An example is the theme of eternal feminine in his work, his zoology and anthropomorphic characters, motifs that are made with the certainty that man is primarily creative. In the horizontal paintings, in landscape design, Vigas avoids isolated figures by creating clusters of beings of various types, consistent with his zoology and fantastic anthropomorphism, like dogs without a head, the snakes that hide its forms, and the human bodies reassembled in a symbolic anatomy reborn in every spectator to rediscover herself.

"Painting has made me more human, because I think the value of a man is in direct proportion to what he can contribute to the discovery of the enigmas of the being." (Oswaldo Vigas)

Caracas, Venezuela
February 2006