I’ve known Brazilian artist Alberto Oliveira for a couple of years, although we’ve never met in person. We’ve chatted via Skype and email. This comes after I saw his very cool work www.flickr.com/photos/alberto_oliveira/show online and contacted him. Like most Latin American artists and artists in general, his work is so fresh, contemporary and above all, beautifully human. Check him out!
MICHAEL: Hey Alberto, I'm so glad to be talking with you about your work, which I love. To me, your work is so ethereal and mysterious. I don't even try to figure it out. I just enjoy it for what it is. Am I wrong to do this?
ALBERTO: Hello Michael, thank you so much. You are not wrong to do this. I think there are many ways to get close to an artwork, but when you enjoy it first for what it is, something was already figured about; a kind of exchange is automatically established, which allows us to know and enjoy more and more of an artist’s world.
MICHAEL: You do a lot of image manipulation with photographs. To me, it's like another form of painting. It's like Photoshop, but much more. How do you describe what you do?
ALBERTO: Yes, they’re manipulated images like a painting. After a long time in painting, I began photography studies. It was very strong period of transition from analogical to digital devices and I was there trying to absorb new elements into my production. I also realized this borderline state in my images through exchange from other artists, photographers and painters. But experimenting is already a necessity for me. The intent is that the work carries values that go beyond the technical issues.
MICHAEL: It's clear to me that you like people and human figures. Your work is really a tribute to the human form. What do you like about it?
ALBERTO: We realize the world around us through it, also this inner movement between the self, the body to the others are an inspiration fountain for me. I think the human figure in my art has a lot to do with self examination. It’s really about the subjects who are part of life around me. If I remember well, my first try with a pencil and paper in hand was a human figure and they remain in the digital works.
MICHAEL: Alberto, to me, your work is very mysterious. It's like a dream or something we experience when we are sleepwalking. Do you see some of your work this way too?
ALBERTO: Yes, some of them are closer to sleepwalking than dreaming experiences I think. Some works try to play with different realities, this frontier between the external and ordinary world where those images were taken from and bring them into a particular atmosphere.
MICHAEL: Yes, and you clearly do that through image manipulation, but you don't change all of your photos. Some are very natural. But in both cases, your work looks like it was made by an "Old Soul." Are you an "Old Soul"?
ALBERTO: Yes, sometimes this natural look you mentioned are so well done, that no retouching or treatment is needed. I tend to believe that an artist has a ageless soul. I can see Vermeer for instance as a great photographer and image manipulator. Thousands of people right now are moving around the globe, just to get closer to Mona Lisa in The Louvre. Beyond old or new, my function as an artist is to look for an overview of time; to work as radar and reflect my own time. From prehistoric to high-technology nano-art, we are still doing the same thing, using the good and old creativity to develop different tools according to our necessities of expression. My efforts are on being sensitive to trying to make better and more interesting content over technique or supports.
MICHAEL: How did you become an artist? Do you come from an artistic family?
ALBERTO: I started my art studies very early and also worked as an assistant for painters and photographers. Around age of 18, I was selected for my first collective exhibition in São Paulo and then I stayed on the road. Unfortunately, there are no other artists in family. My father was an electrician and my mother is a dedicated housewife. All of them have very sensitive hearts and even with this art sharing absence, or maybe for this reason, my family is a fundamental inspiration source.
MICHAEL: You must have had a very active imagination as a kid because your work is so ethereal and almost magical. Where does this come from?
ALBERTO: Yes, my childhood was very hard, but very rich in many aspects. My father was a very religious and curious person and I used to follow him in many religions simultaneously, Catholic to Seicho-no-ie, from the Orthodox church to Africans rituals, from Gospel to Hinduism. So the diversity of belief experiences I had by his side and also lots of illustrated material we had at home influenced me a lot. Also, I think reading made up a lot of my visual imagination, even nowadays. My first book was Agatha Christie. As a child, I was anxious to learn how to read and used to collect books waiting for right moments to use them.
MICHAEL: Wow. Yes, your work definitely has a strong spirituality. What role does living in São Paulo play in your work? It's a big, bustling city. Is there much spirituality there? How does the city affect you?
ALBERTO: São Paulo is surprising; a combination of the best and the worst. Through it for instance, I find out how much I miss nature and silence and consequently this is also registered in some of my works.
MICHAEL: Yes, nature plays a big role in your work. Are you an environmentalist or do you just like to portray nature in your work? What does the environment mean to you?
ALBERTO: Environment is an extension. I like it, but it hardly ever appears only by itself in my work. It works like a fuse to develop a natural or artificial atmosphere. The environment in my works justifies the presence or absence of something or someone’s act. The opposite also happens, the lack of environment in my portraits must carry environment in their faces and nothing else is necessary.
MICHAEL: I think the works of Latin American artists are the most warm and human of all genres. Do you agree? Why?
ALBERTO: I tend to agree. For many years, we were colonized and contaminated. We repeated foreign aesthetic patterns and social problems and political regimes caused injuries literally on artists and consequently on art production, so difficult moments are still happening nowadays. I have many reasons to believe that these warm and human traits that you mentioned are only some of the characteristics of our vanguard potential.
MICHAEL: Finally Alberto, When you are creating your art, what are you saying to the world?
ALBERTO: I try to exercise what I am through what I do. It’s all there. When creating, I’m addressing my own needs for things that only art can give. It all starts with a dialogue, like we were doing here and it’s about sharing more than only communicating. With time, artworks develop their own lives of significance … with or without the artist.
MICHAEL: Thanks Alberto. This has been great.
ALBERTO: You are welcome Michael.
You’ve heard from Alberto, now check out his work at www.flickr.com/photos/alberto_oliveira/show.