By Tim Hornyak
The Brazilian-Japanese artist Oscar Oiwa creates otherworldly canvases that are at turns gloomy and luminous, blending tragedy with humor. We spoke with Oiwa when he visited Japan in connection with a large-scale solo exhibition, Journey to the Light, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture.
There’s something spellbinding about Oscar Oiwa’s artworks—they’re like gateways to other worlds. The colorful, detailed canvases are as engrossing as they are enormous: some over 2 meters tall and 6 meters across, they depict flooded cityscapes, ocean vortices, and forest vistas glittering with mysterious will-o’-the-wisp lights. A new exhibition at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Journey to the Light reflects the evolution of this multifaceted Brazilian-Japanese artist who is at turns phantasmagorical, political, and comedic.
Oscar Oiwa is known for creating some of the world’s largest drawings. His Paradise is an immersive installation of swirling clouds executed with marker pen on a balloon-like vinyl sheet that’s the size of a house (view the video on YouTube showing Oiwa meticulously creating the scene). Journey to the Light, which groups about 60 of Oiwa’s recent works at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, features another overwhelming drawing: the 4 meter by 27 meter Woods, which takes up an entire wall. Oiwa and five assistants worked for nearly 90 hours to complete Woods, an almost obsessively detailed mural that pairs a cartoonlike cat and rabbit in a forest of radiant light.
“Adults have forgotten how to make drawings. I want to recover this very simple way to make art using a marker on a wall or balloon.”
Journey to the Light, which groups about 60 of Oiwa’s recent works at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, features another overwhelming drawing: the 4 meter by 27 meter Woods, which takes up an entire wall. Oiwa and five assistants worked for nearly 90 hours to complete Woods, an almost obsessively detailed mural that pairs a cartoonlike cat and rabbit in a forest of radiant light.
“This is my biggest work on a single surface,” says Oiwa. “Many people use digital media now, but humans going back to the time of cavemen have always made drawings. Our kids still draw, but adults have forgotten how to make drawings. I want to recover this very simple way to make art using a marker on a wall or balloon.”
Oiwa’s unique background has deeply informed his oeuvre. His parents both hail from Japan, but they met in Brazil in the early 1950s, part of the twentieth-century wave of Japanese immigration to the South American country. Oiwa was born in São Paulo in 1965 and spoke Japanese at home, but he had limited experiences with Japanese culture until he visited Japan for the first time at age 20. He loved drawing from an early age and experimented with oil painting in high school, later learning acrylics and watercolors in addition to metalworking and jewelry making. His father enjoyed collecting art books, instilling in young Oscar a love for Japanese and Dutch masters and such artists as the English landscape painter John Constable.
While studying at the University of São Paulo, Oiwa attended the Art Biennial in that city, where he came into contact with contemporary artists like Keith Haring. He credits the pop art icon with inspiring him to eventually become an artist. After graduating in 1989, Oiwa worked as an architect while pursuing his art, living in Tokyo, London, and New York, where he settled at age 37.
“My first country is Brazil and then Japan,” says Oiwa. “I live in New York, where I feel comfortable, but I don’t really feel like a part of US culture as I didn’t grow up there. I grew up in Brazil with a Japanese influence and always felt comfortable with Latin American and European cultures.”
As Oiwa grew in prominence as an artist, he held his first solo exhibition in the 1990s and received grants and fellowships from the Asian Cultural Council and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His major shows have included exhibitions at the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo, the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes in Rio de Janeiro, and Japan’s Setouchi Triennale, which he rejoins this year.
Read the rest of the article at Nippon.com