Oswaldo Vigas’ artistic work is a dialogue between the spiritual expression and the inquiry of formal solutions which allowed him to create images with significant values. The versatility and changing abilities of his artwork, place him as a leading figure in the artistic development of his natal country Venezuela and of all Latin America. Gradually, he established himself as an artist who owned his own language and visuality, which were nurtured from aesthetics references from his experiences throughout Europe, but also from symbolic and formal references from a visual American culture.
Through a constantly changing imagination, Vigas shaped up images that fluctuate between what is real and imaginary, by using a pictorial metalanguage that gives back that said shape and closeness to old myths and hidden traditions; a space where metaphysical concerns deepen into his own magical and fantastic personal universe, and gives voice to the poetic lyricism that infuses each of his pieces.
In 1970s, Oswaldo Vigas continued his personal quest for visual languages and conceptual inspiration, this led him to find a new plastic identity for his work through a formal and more refined treatment of the lines, colors and shapes, differing himself from the gestural character of his prior work. Dynamically using his attraction and detachment to the figurative, along with a mix of elements that became relevant in his experience up to this point -such as expressionism and geometric abstraction- Vigas created images that shifted between the real and the imaginary, which went beyond the boundaries of the formal.
An interest emerges in the artist to explore the significant principles of ancient cosmogonies and the idiosyncrasy and symbolism of the prehispanic civilizations, to achieve a return to the primary sources of knowledge and the heritage of primitive images. He creates a way of painting that comes from an American subjectivity, influenced by all the magical and fantastic aspects of his personal universe, supporting the poetic lyricism that enlivens and carries his later work.
The most mystic and murky areas of the magical thought of Southern America become evident in the visual imagery of Oswaldo Vigas; just like the French critic Gaston Diehl comments on the expressive search during this period, “A nearly cosmic feeling that does not refer to matter or nature as they are, but transmutes them in spiritual order.”
His artistic production during the 1970s is infused in an imaginary group of old Latinamerican myths that carry within them the essence of the magical and the fantastical, that remain as a resistance to the absolute rationality of mankind's psyche through the ages.
"(...) Our continent is full of dark signs and warnings. Telluric signs, magic or exorcisms are deep components of our condition. At the same time that they reveal something, these symbols place us and compromise us in a disturbing world of effervescence. Only a few South American painters have come to decipher this underworld. The intention of my paintings is to reach them, interpret them and translate them into new warnings."
-Oswaldo Vigas, 1967
In the 1990s, we can observe a change in Vigas’ gaze. From the representation of metaphysical archetypes, his artistic production shifted later on in a representation that alludes to the quotidian. Malabaristas, Diablesco, Caballeresca II and Juglares de mi Pueblo III are a few samples of these new characters that take over the artist’s canvas to present pieces that reflect knowledge on the everyday and human sensitivity, where the viewer can identify himself through his experience. The predominant use of a reduced color scheme, the simplification of his formal repertoire, and the contour appearance that remind us of the Pre-Columbian petroglyphs intervened by fables and stories that nourish our present.
Vigas, because of the skillful strokes of this decade and the representative intangibility of the created characters, is formally tied to Jean Dubuffet’s Art Brut, art that contrasts with the nearly anthropological and imaginative gaze of Vigas. In these pieces, we can observe a rapid growth of a Latinamericanistic iconography, which is created from the tension between the different essential realities that build up the American identity and the individual expression of his being. It seems paradoxical that the determined closeness to figuration is due to an introspective journey, in which the images sprout from the artists’ imaginative conscience and where the expressive will of Vigas reveals a more sensitive gaze, that goes beyond the rituals and the symbolic everyday nature of our continent.
“... It grows interest in me to revitalize archaic art as the most vital aspect of contemporary art. To revitalize this feeling through the most important thing one must have kept: his childhood status. This part that has not grown old and we must keep, nourish, explore it and through that part reengage all the memories that are not our own. I told myself ´if I am going to live until I am one hundred years old, and paint until such age, I must do it without attachments. I began painting then as if I was one hundred years old: as a child."
-Oswaldo Vigas, 1996