From spell, seduction and utopia, a flower sprouts, a hummingbird hops, and a color emerges. Moreover, it is then when those twinned elements, in perpetual alliance with tenderness and the ingenuity of such a genie, manage to bring the Pedro Pablo Oliva’s characters to life on canvases, cardboards or bronze sculptures. Characters, whether being real, alluded or devised, lead us to a world of unmatched fantasy, which paves the way to a dilated appreciation and to the ecstasy of imagination.
The most recent appointment with the mysterious beings swarming Oliva’s artworks leads us to Casa 8, a gallery in Vedado (an attractive neighborhood in Havana) where, since last December 21st, nearly twenty recently produced art pieces (2015-2018) of the renowned artist are displayed with exquisite pleasure. He is a creator who, despite his proven talent and fifty years of experience in the artistic world, neither disdains humility upon his own personality nor loses the freshness in every proposal.
For such an occasion, there has been a call for, from the welcome remarks opening the exhibition Espantado de todo (Scared of everything), an invitation to submerge ourselves into a spectral environment, which prevails in the personal exhibition of a brush brandishing “illusionist” like Pedro Pablo Oliva.
Espantado de Todo (2018) is precisely the bronze sculpture that provides its name for this exhibition and which was privileged curatorially by the peaceful, lonely and bleak environment that props the displayed theme and iconography.
A sculpture that fuses the symbol of a sleeping, fatigued or thoughtful José Martí, along with his accompanying bird, anxious perhaps to take flight, but much clung to that being who remains seated on a virtuous spot, which from bronze recreates a wicker piece of furniture.
The serenity conveyed by this representation, in a cunning contrast with the artwork title, can lead itself towards a hermeneutic duality pointing, on the one hand, towards a peaceful relaxation, due to the conviction of Marti’s thought that el porvenir es la Paz (The future means peace). On the other, towards a dejected José Marti by the atrocities afflicting humankind nowadays, and closing his eyes to avoid seeing them.
The exhibition continues and is completed with a set of drawings and collages representing different series worked by the artist in recent years: Los extraños fantasmas de la utopia (The strange ghosts of utopia), Alegrías y tristezas de El Malecón (Joys and sorrows at El Malecón –Havana Waterfront), Las extrañas ilustraciones (The weird illustrations), Los lamentos (Wailing), and Los Balcones (Balconies).
In all of them, the agreed-upon twilight acts as a background from which colors, lights, strokes and words would emerge. Thus, in Los lamentos, the expression seems to become audible in the sorrows afflicting the curious and lonely characters who fail to reach a goal, sometimes guided by a wrong path.
Alegrías y tristezas de El Malecón and Balcones are series showing the narrative nuance of Oliva’s creation. However, it is not a linear, exposed or simple narration; rather it consists of suggested, imagined, or probable anecdotes that the artist launches from the insertion of beings related to mystery, lyricism and color.
For their part, Los extraños fantasmas de la utopía and Las extrañas ilustraciones contain that broader universe filled with motifs and figures –among which they may self-represent itself– that coexist, interact, distance themselves, or simply exist in the author’s mind. He is an artist who does not reject humor nor the subtle strokes, which stick plainly to our reality, our context and our history.
In addition, it seems as if Pedro Pablo clings to his own inner world, to his ghosts, to his romantic and shrewd gaze grasped by the pupil, and displays upon his work everything that happens, worries him and concerns his human condition. He stands Espantado de todo (scared of everything) as a sentence bringing out a regret, a restlessness and a fear. However, Oliva believes in dreams, he is hopeful and looks for a pathway.