by Rahul KumarFeb 01, 2023
In a project supported by Galleria Continua, the Cuban artist Osvaldo Gonzalez Aguiar is presenting a site-specific art installation along with two other works at India Art Fair 2023. Through his installation works, having been displayed across several countries like Spain, UK, USA, and Belgium, Gonzalez Aguiar creates meditations on light and space, denoted by a commitment to careful craftsmanship through the use of simple, everyday raw material. The artist spoke to STIR about his process, inspiration and the importance of light in his work.
Having defined an oeuvre for himself after working with oil painting for years, Gonzalez Aguiar finds himself interested in the quality of life and the complex relationships between people and their surroundings that can be represented through his work. Previously as part of his oil painting works, his exploration of spatial settings was a prominent aspect, where the qualities they can emulate through domestic interiors and mundane objects become a primary part of his exploration.
Since 2015, the visual artist has been working with packing material as a mode of composition, including plastic sheets and cardboard. In his most recent works, he uses semi-translucent, brown duct tape, an extremely mundane material that makes its presence known world over, as the primary compositional medium. Through his careful light compositions, Gonzalez Aguiar transforms and moulds the packing tape into representing spatial settings. In the Cuban artist's work, the compositions take place through three materials interacting with each other as a sort of lightbox, that is, through tape, LED light and plexiglass. At this year's India Art Fair, Gonzalez Aguiar is presenting a set of works that extend from the previous series titled Stolen Memories, besides re-staging a version of the artwork titled El Camino (The Pathway), originally made in Havana, Cuba.
In conversation with STIR, Gonzalez Aguiar mentions how he conceptualises his spatial compositions, “I understand space as a reflection of human beings. It is really interesting how the complex relationships between people and their surroundings can be represented using such simple material. You really need to understand that material.”
The artist’s compositions create a two-dimensional surface with the use of tape as a methodology for affecting lines and shading within the pictorial frame, besides his more abstract installations. He finds himself particularly interested by the quality that the combination of material could produce after experimenting with the medium and developing the idea into a full-blown practice. Gonzalez Aguiar speaks in particular about a fascination with the amber stone, the semi-precious gem that is formed from fossilised tree resin. As it is an organic gem and contains traces of living organisms that interacted with the material, it is thought of as a kind of time capsule. The artist and his wife decided to name their daughter Amber because of an interest in the namesake stone around the same time that he started experimenting with packing tape as a material medium for making artworks.
Speaking to his fascination with the gemstone, Gonzalez Aguiar tells STIR, “My work is connected to the amber stone, particularly in its quality. Amber converts itself into a kind of document of the earth. You can also describe the amber stone as a time capsule. Parallelly, I see my artworks not as a capsule of time but as a capsule carrying the stories of people’s lives—and it is my personal experience that interprets the surroundings and converts it into an artwork.”
Expanding on the qualities of the stone that Gonzalez Aguiar finds himself interested in emulating through his artworks, he emphasises the importance of light in the series Stolen Memories, from which he is presenting two works. The art installations in this series are derived from selected images on Instagram, where he comments on the personal nature of the information that one puts out into the world through the social media and image-sharing platform, and the lack of privacy. In this regard, the artist notes that he finds it interesting to present other people's lives through one's artwork, gesturing towards a rewriting of space through the artist's own personal experience of the original image and emphasising the highly subjective nature of this depiction. To situate himself within another's image, however, Gonzalez Aguiar goes back to the source—that is, the light source in any image.
Speaking to the importance of light as material in the Stolen Memories series, Gonzalez Aguiar tells STIR, “Light is very important in this series. There’s a beautiful analogy behind it. I was searching for the name of my daughter, and I found a sentence that is very poetic, referring to the amber stone. It describes amber as containing sunlight because when light falls on the stone, it appears as though the light is being emitted from the stone, rather than it entering the gem. It seems like it has its own light.”
In reference to El Camino, the site-specific immersive installation that he will be presenting at India Art Fair 2023, Gonzalez Aguiar speaks about the circularity of life. “(The work) can be seen as the starting and ending of life—it starts and it ends and is therefore just like life. When you start walking along any pathway, it is like starting a new life, and the completion of this journey is like a cyclical ending of life," he says.
Note: This interview was conducted with the assistance of Ritesh Rajpoot, the artist's translator in New Delhi.
Click here to read more about India Art Fair 2023 which is taking place from February 9-12 at NSIC Exhibition Grounds Okhla, New Delhi.