View from Above
Kintsugi Part 3 "The Presence of Your Absence" Proposal.
Germano Dalla Pola - Gaby Oshiro
The Presence of Your Absence.
I spent more than twenty years drawing, painting portraits, eyes of strangers. Always avoiding the subject that it was right in front of me since I was 5 years old, but that I was never seem ready to face. I carried that emotional backpack since the day my dad was taken by the Argentinean military dictatorship during the 70's. The weight was always there, or better yet, that absence, continuously reminding me that I didn't have the deﬁnite closure, it was also mixed in with the hope that never dies, the hope to see my dad, again. Showing up unexpectedly, the same way that he was unexpectedly missing in one moment to another.
I started digging the past when a journalist asked me to help with his book about my dad, a very arduous mental work for me, but it was necessary if I wanted to make myself useful for his book. That is how the process started, like a domino effect I had the urge to put in words the prologue for my "Kintsugi" series, to reach a decision about purging through painting and writing articles about all that dark period, to organize my thoughts and artistic intentions. The face I was trying to paint was my father's, Dr. Oscar Takashi Oshiro, I went back searching for that person who disappeared from my life so suddenly, who left that little girl disconcerted, not sure on what to feel anymore.
Two years ago I ﬁnally got to understand what kind of research I wanted to complete in my life after reading about other stories of people who were taken in similar situations.
Picasso said; "Painting is not meant to decorate apartments, painting is an offensive and defensive instrument against the enemy".
This phrase resonated completely with what I was already contemplating. I don't want to paint soulless pretty pictures just because I can and it's pleasing to the eye. I want my paintings to be simple with content, driven with a purpose that means something to me and also to whom is looking at them.
My subjects and theme is very personal but at the same time it can be understood and felt as an universal theme.
Presence, loss, disappearance, absence. The portraits represent those who were supposed to be here, what's missing. The paintings can't take the place of the person who was intended to occupy the space in our lives but the materialized portraits on canvas in front of our eyes represent the emptiness, and it makes that absence palpable.
I like to make reference to the artists that came before me. I try to ﬁnd my own pictorial language but always looking back and at the same time trying to move forward.
"Guernica", "Third of May", "The Execution of Emperor Maximilian", "Massacre in Korea" they were all paintings registering political murders. Paintings that made other painters rethink the aesthetics of political representation.
In a culture with the Internet, where we get bombarded with pictures and information all the time, it's the job of the painter to interpret reality, to represent the time we're living in, to synthesize his/her life worries, feelings, and to denounce social issues.
My point of departure is a photograph, internalize it and spit it out on canvas, the brush/knife, an extension of the arm, a tool to shape with color the subject's essence, to create a mental picture frame, a fragment of reality frozen in time, looping endlessly. Making the spectator live an experience that most likely didn't have to experience in his life, or pondering over it. For the paintings to have the conversation, the public is needed as an interlocutor.
We tend to think that whatever is going on in the news won't affect us, but I saw it ﬁrst hand with my dad how he became the protagonist overnight, not always the kind of main character who makes it out alive. For me this is where painting takes over and becomes the witness, the proof that my father was here. That he was not the ghost that we lived with for years, or the black and white faded picture on a banner waving on the streets, but a human being who gave his life to make a better world standing up to the repression and injustice of the military dictatorship. I'd like to catch those ephemeral moments, depict his smile when he wasn't a political activist but just my dad. The gesture itself of creating a new image out of nothing, as a reaction of the action done by his murderers who tried to make his identity disappear, switching his name and those of the other 30 thousands with a number.
The sixteen oversized portraits that I 'd like to paint would look like normal paintings of normal people, far away from the paintings that I listed before. But I would like to suggest that everyone can become a protagonist in the history of a country. And set up an installation with the help of Italian architect Germano Dalla Pola. To engage the public more I have some interactive art installations in mind, since music and painting have been the two constants in my life, I could share songs that I wrote connected to the portraits
"Everything you imagine is real". Picasso's phrase impacted me so much when this project was just a thought. I believe everything I paint can become real by just painting it. For a moment I was able to look at my dad in the eyes, a ﬂashback from my past right there in front of me.
While in art school in Italy, going to a museum was a bittersweet experience, I was comparing myself to the masters and made me feel depressed for the long road to go to achieve an acceptable level of craftsmanship. At the end what is important is to do what we are capable of, what we need to express, and what message we are trying to deliver to others.
"Small achievements lead to greatness", in 2016 I was able to show at an Argentinian government building, (the Library of Congress) the same government that try to erase my dad's identity and other thirty thousand citizens, the faces of the sixteen "desaparecidos" Nikkei. There were no more faded, black and white I.D. pictures that I started with, they became alive on canvas and were able to connect with relatives, friends and strangers.
For the ﬁrst time, I realized that paintings can move emotions as much as music. People entering Kintsugi's circular structure made of doors holding the portraits came out with tears, not just sadness but the joy to know that someone wanted to keep their memory alive.(each door was brought by the family of the person depicted).
I took the responsibility to remember those who are not here with us anymore, their lives, their stories, those who are a part of us now, and connect them with other people who didn't have the chance to know them. History needs to be remembered so mistakes won't be repeated again, especially in a period of time where the Argentinian government was trying to rewrite history, banalizing facts and the number of killings. After the Kintsugi installation, I decided to continue my research about affections & the tangible presence of absence always related with present history.
First Painting for Kintsugi Part 2.
Acrylics on canvas. 3ft x 3 ft.