(Paz Viola) When I create my images, I rely on the surrealist technique.

Let’s start by having you tell us about yourself. Who are you and what was your childhood like?  Do you remember the color(s) of your dreams when you were little?


I’m a visual artist from Uruguay, but I consider myself more as a creator of subtle images. I use painting as a medium to express my ideas, thoughts and wishes.  

As a child I usually dreamed in black and white. By the time I woke up I had mostly forgotten what I’d dreamed of. What little I did remember was the surrealist worlds that captivated me with their architecture and atmosphere, as if something straight out of a Giorgio de Chirico painting, but in a post-apocalyptic sense if you will. 


Are you from and do you live in a particularly artistic environment? Could you name your biggest stylistic influence? 


I come from a family of writers: my farther wrote folk songs, my mother wrote poems, and my two sisters are published authors. I’m the only painter in the family, though. I am fortunate to have a supportive family. For children taking their first steps in art, the most important things are motivation and enthusiasm, and for adult artists, the most important thing is self-expression—communicating one’s real self through art.


Currently I am living in an environment surrounded by art. Songzhuang where I have my studio is a stomping ground for musicians, poets, sculptors, and painters. It’s a place where you can breathe art. Life here is simple and honest, and artists have peace and quiet to create. It’s a little world of dreamers just like myself. 


It’s hard to pick just one artist. I’d say Roberto Matta, Max Ernst, and Javier Gil—all surrealists—are three artists who have had the biggest influence on me. The painting that left the deepest impression on me (I don’t remember the name) was a work by Matta I saw when I was seven. I’m fascinated by Max Ernst’s grotesque imagery. Javier Gil is a fellow Uruguayan artist and friend of mine. He creates these outlandish worlds where every element in his landscapes seems to have a life of its own. In a way, I draw from all three of my favorite artists as I go about my own creations. 


Where are you from? What’s different about your hometown compared to China? What made you move to China? Have you achieved everything you set out to or are you still pursuing bigger dreams or inspirations? 


I was born and raised in a small city called Carmelo in western Uruguay, South America. Being tiny, Carmelo is very different from Chinese cities, which are large and populous. Chinese culture is also very different from Latin American culture. 

In the summer of 2019 (shortly before the pandemic) I moved to Beijing with my wife who is from here. 

I still have many dreams. My artistic journey in China has just begun, and there is a lot to learn and do. Artists are people who are always coming up with new projects and ideas. I would love to show my work in top-notch galleries and museums one day and I have been working towards that goal. 

There seems to be a conscious and intricate connection between your works and music. When did you start building this connection and what was the reason behind it? Has the artistic process brought you any pleasant feelings (or changed your life in any way)? How did you find your visual style? What is the tone, shape and rhythm in “Paz Viola” style? How do they find their way into your mind and onto the canvas? 


For philosophers and mathematicians alike, music has been regarded throughout time as a sublime, transcendental form of expression, perhaps superior to other human expressions. In modern times, Dadaists, futurists, surrealists, and filmmakers frequently use music and sound to improve cohesion in their work or enhance the manifestation of their ideas. 


One of the most noticeable characteristics or qualities of my works in general is the sense of rhythm in my images, which ripple with repetitive, dancing lines and create a special musicality, as if the images themselves were alive, or as if they were whirling dervishes of Sufism. The “waves” take the viewer to explore every hidden corner of my artworks, and guide them to discover different emotions and sensations within themselves. 


Music can transport us back in time or take us to a dreamed future. It awakens memories and elevates us to finer thoughts. Music unifies us with nature and the cosmos, with others and with ourselves. Paintings do the same but in a different way. Music is more subtle whereas visual art is more direct. 


While living in New York from 2018 to 2019, I began to create a series of small-scale paintings with pastel and acrylic on canvas, called Musical Interpretation. The series was inspired by listening to the same composition all day—Passacaille d'Armide by Jean-Baptiste Lully, founder of French opera in the 17th Century. 

After I finish painting around the time of sunset, I practice my daily ritual—playing the lyre. The music helps me reflect when the Sun hides behind the Earth as day gives way to night. It is one of my favorite times of the day. 


Everything is vibration, energy and light. They make up the cosmos, nature and all living things, down to the smallest particle. Likewise, art has its own vibration, energy, light, and its own musical tone. In Gurdjieff’s theory, this is known as the Law of Octaves, where each being, from the smallest (such as bacteria) to the largest (such as the universe) has a certain musical octave. 


I find this concept highly relevant, and hence the connection between my art and music. I always paint with music on. Rhythms help me better convey ideas which come in waves. In a sense, my oeuvre can be seen as a visualized musical composition, complete with intro, interlude, instrumental solos, among other components. 

Among the defining features of my work are repeated lines, overlapping images and colors, and transparencies. I usually start with lighter and more luminous colors, such as yellow, baby blue, and orange. I then put layers upon layers of paint to create a shading effect, working from the center to the edges. This is how I usually approach most of my work. 


When I create my images, I rely on the surrealist technique, which is to begin without a sketch nor an end in mind. From dot to line, from line to shape, the shapes initially formed and the colors chosen gradually show me the way to the end result. 

Are you satisfied with your work? How do re-examine your works from the audience’s point of view once they are finished? You have lived in many countries; could you describe how you glean from different cultures and integrate them into your work? How do you see the world? 


I am not completely satisfied with my work. I always think I can give more. I have a highly active mind and it is difficult to stick to one thing at a time. I wish to create styles never seen before, with which I can change how we see the world, but it’s never a good idea to bring out everything that is on our mind all in one go. 

When I re-examine my finished works from the audience’s point of view, I see them as mysteries, as if mirrors covered by veils that only allow for a glimpse of the truth, to be uncovered only when the viewer becomes a part of the world on canvas, and I see my paintings as energy beings beckoning the viewers to do just that. When a viewer is “caught” in a painting, there is a definitive connection, and the work is thus “correct” in terms of aesthetics and composition. When I re-approach my works as a viewer, I imagine the images as framed and displayed in a certain space such as a gallery or a museum, since I don’t know how I feel about a painting until it is hung on the wall. Hence, one of my favorite parts of exhibitions is when people tell me how they feel about and what they see in my works, and then I become a viewer of viewers. It’s fascinating to see how people see certain things based on their own archetypes, culture, gender, and age. The same image generates completely different impressions in the eyes of a child, an adult, an Asian, or a westerner. Even a simple choice of color can represent a different symbol depending on the viewer’s culture. For me, hearing the viewer’s interpretations opens up a world of possibilities.


I’ve lived in several different countries in the past 13 years, and yet my abstract style has not changed substantially. Culture usually holds little sway on how my express myself, since my focus is on ideas, ones I have chosen from the beginning, which include some influences and traditions of my native Uruguay, especially our musical folklore, such as Candombe and Murga, which blend African and European heritage. I find inspiration and joy in exploring African cultures or art produced by people of African descent, as these expressions are rich in symbols and memories, which help me become less ignorant, but my primary interest is not to learn about the Other but rather, to discover the Self. Sometimes it’s about going back to the roots of human civilization and translating them into artworks through my visual language. 


Having said that, it is true that many times it is impossible to be impermeable to your surroundings. During our stint in New York, I began a series called Identity, which was inspired by the cultural and racial diversity of the City. I was seized by a creative urge and could not stop painting even for a day, just to capture the beauty of pluralism. 


Since relocating to China, I have noticed subtle changes in my work. Consciously, it seems that I have been on a quest to simplify, as inspired by the Taoist belief that Truth is found in simplicity, and the zen Buddhist aesthetics of negative space. I hold these ideas dear to my heart, and I try to remove as many elements and shapes as possible from my images. The unconscious changes, on the other hand, have more to do with the difficulty in keeping my conscious self in check during the creative process. In other words, the act of painting is a struggle between the conscious and the unconscious selves, a pas de deux between light and darkness, a chiaroscuro and union between the rational and the irrational selves. I am what I paint. 

As for how the paintings affect me and my life, it’s not so much about the works themselves but rather, as a reflection of who I am. As I look inward, they bring out hidden ideas and yearnings. 


And introspection is what I set out to do as I explored several religions and philosophies of mysticism throughout the years. They share a common thread, calling on one to observe and analyze oneself, interpreting and characterizing one’s cognitive and emotional process in order know one’s self. It is no surprise, then, that a main objective of my works is to take the viewers inside my imagery for them to uncover hidden light and truth. The center symbolizes light and the true self, whereas the edges represent darkness and ego, as well as the thoughts and desires that lead us astray in our inner journey. 

Looking outward at the world, I see constant shifts. I see amazing social changes on one hand, and on the other hand I hear our planet weeping. I think our greatest responsibility is with Nature, and humans must be aware of this responsibility vis-à-vis the world.  As everything has its own octave of vibration, so does our Earth. Humans have and are still changing the tone, speed, and tempo of our planet, and this is not without consequences. 



What is the true self you wish to express? What are you searching for and has it changed? What do you think is the responsibility of the artist? What is your role in that? 


It’s hard to say, because everything we do in life is a product of the ego, and art is no exception. Artists’ creations are manifestations of their egos, desires, traumas, and dreams, albeit in a fragmented manner. Art can and does reveal the essence of the artist’s true self, their psyche; that is, if you look closely at the artist’s oeuvre. 


As an artist I have a twofold search: one material and the other spiritual. On one hand, I hope to someday create my life’s masterpiece, to give it my all and to improve every day. This very search is, of course, a product of the ego. On the other hand, I search for something spiritual through art, which is to enter a state of trance and to minimize the ego to the extent possible so that the essence of the self can shine its light and reveal to me a clear image of the truth of the spirit. That is why I use layers upon layers of paint, scraping with a spatula to reveal images on canvas. To me, these images are the poetics of light channeled by the artist as a conduit. The light is transmitted from elsewhere—perhaps from an alternate universe. 

My search as remained the same throughout the years. What have changed are elements and techniques with which I express the same ideas. 


The artist’s responsibility is to share his/her art with the world. As I said, artists are just a conduit, an antenna if you will. Artists interpret images in their minds. On the other hand, the artist’s responsibility is to educate and motivate more people to think about art. This is both a cultural and social responsibility, because art is, like everything else, about frequencies. If an artist or a work of art is on a certain frequency and the viewer is on another, there is no connection; there is no understanding. To “comprehend” a work of art and get to know the artist, there has to be a connection with the viewer. Helping viewers to fully appreciate works of art is the job of artists, gallerists, art dealers, and critics. Sometimes, sharing the artist’s ideas can be even more important than the artworks themselves. 


Spiritually, from Kabbalah to Gnosticism — since my art is but the visual semantics of my spirituality – each soul has an individual raison d'être, a subjective one. There’s also a universal raison d'être; it is the individual’s vision of the world as it should be. Each soul comes from a specific spacetime. It comes with a calling that it must discover, the reason why one has come into this world — to comprehend the way in which energy is connected. 

Each of us souls have a calling, and it is known to us before we are born. Our job, then, is to discover our individual calling, to be a baker, an architect, or an artist. 


The energy of each soul finds a connection with the infinite, based on the level of consciousness of the individual and his/her quest for knowledge of reality. The more we know the world around us, the more we connect with the works of an artist and their origin. It’s all about tapping into the source of the infinite, about connecting with the master mind. 

Being sentient and independent is an advantage and a privilege of individuals. Yet, one must find their connection with the infinite, because it does not exist except through learning and acquiring a certain frequency. 

In this sense, understanding art and artists will always be a challenge. To know what an artist wishes to convey, comprehension must come before understanding, and hence the importance of education. 


Hypothetically, if we lived in an alternative universe, in a world without art, what would you see yourself doing? 


A world without art is a sorrowful place. We would become bots despite being made of flesh and bones. Were I not an artist, there is still a long list of things I could see myself doing. I love cooking, so I might be a chef. I also like anthropology, theology, musicology, psychology, to name a few. I am also interested in plants in general and trees in particular, so it would be hard to choose just one thing.

Write a comment

Comments: 0