Something Like Olivia
By Emmanuel Montes Alvarez
Olivia Torres Diaz titled her most recent personal exhibition Quiero una casa rodeada de árboles (I Want a House Surrounded by Trees) precisely because she lives in a house surrounded by trees. From there, despite the physical boundaries imposed by the logic of concrete walls, she creates and expands her mental universe beyond the imaginable. She is an artist in constant search and creative effervescence. Since she was a child, she has always felt attracted to the visual arts, to creation, as a way of channeling her inner world. The satisfactory achievement of that long journey was evident when she managed to graduate from the San Alejandro Academy, in 2018, with the exhibition of her series entitled Erosionando (Erosioning).
Her concerns, despite her young age, have led her to experiment with all kinds of formats: from large conventional paintings to miniatures of less than five centimeters. While her work in those tiny wooden cubes where she has reflected not a few landscapes of the University of the Arts (ISA), is admirable both for the mastery of space and for the precision of the stroke, which draws attention beyond her sensitivity to capture the essence of the places she portrays.
Olivia Torres seems to be in constant symbiosis with the place she inhabits. Her feet on the ground, her mind in the clouds, but always in frequency and attentive to the secrets kept by her surroundings. She is nourished by everyday life, by the places she visits, by the steps she takes every day: it is her inhabiting a reality full of artistic inspirations, a world that goes unnoticed by others and that cries out to transcend. The medium, the site itself, becomes the axis of her conception. A city that breathes and shines through her.
This is precisely what validates her work, in addition to her work with color, mixing them and achieving the right range and cleanliness, and her clarity and maturity to conceive what she wants. The environment that surrounds her catalyzes her creativity and transcends when she transforms it into art.
In her first series she worked from figurative images taken to abstraction, which maintained a common point: the urban landscape. She incorporated elements of her most immediate reality: walls, roofs, beams, streets; and mixed them with sober colors. Ruins, dust, collapsed buildings, broken walls, cityscapes, all this encompassed her condition as an artist who was not only looking for harmony in the colors or to illustrate a scene related to it, no, she was looking for a visual experience that would convince, that would transmit by itself. Already since then, her concern for a city that succumbs to neglect is evident. Her paintings –which, not by chance, are titled after specific addresses in Havana– reflect the neglect to which her city, the environment in which she lives, has been exposed. However, if that first series is a kind of an appeal to conscience towards an architecture undermined by the disastrous conjunction of time and disinterest, her work with the miniatures turns out to be quite the opposite. Both in technique and in essence.
She, with the tranquility of the early morning, has taken on the task of breathing life into ISA with this second series entitled Microcosmos. There are no collapses, no ceilings without beams, no cracked walls, no. Much less abstractions. There is life, grass and trees, realistic landscapes, quasi bucolic scenes. The immensity of the outside world reinterpreted in a tiny format. Stripping herself of a line of work that had been comfortable for her until then, she took the risk of trying her hand at the convex side of her abstractionism: figurative landscapes.
The manipulation of oil or acrylic with brushes or palette knife is an intimate process for Olivia, visceral, of liberation and personal fullfillment. She is an artist who, although she is still in a stage of absorbing influences –she mentions Caspar David Friedrich as the main one–, has the most important things: youth and talent. The rest is a matter of time, purpose and perseverance. As long as there are spaces around her from which she can nourish herself, as long as reality manages to inspire her to create, she will be willing to transcend beyond her reality.