Artist Oscar Oiwa Expands Our Imagination Through the ‘If I were living in …' Installation
Imagination can take you anywhere. With Japanese Medal of Honor recipient and artist Oscar Oiwa, his newest exhibit takes you through his vivid imagination and creativity through eight studio pieces in his collection, If I were living in … The exhibition takes you from his studio's interpretation of 1910 Paris until the present era. Other periods of the studios include São Paulo (1956), Tokyo (1992), Mexico City (1934), and more. Each of his paintings consists of a digital 3D rendering of Oiwa’s studio, with an avatar of Oiwa on display. Oiwa’s studios in Tokyo and New York draw inspiration from his studios in those cities. Each artwork incorporates the styles of influential artists during tumultuous changes in society at their time.
Oiwa’s background in the arts started in architecture. After receiving his BFA from the School of Architecture and Urbanism at São Paulo University in Brazil, he moved to Tokyo, Japan, and began creating art. EDITION had the opportunity to catch up with Oiwa and discuss his latest exhibition at NowHere, a multipurpose hub for New York City-based Japanese creators, and hear about his journey with the project and his next steps as a visual artist.
What was the process like for you to incorporate various artists such as Picasso and Warhol into your art? Was it something that you got to put your spin on?
It's like a database if I were living there. We don’t choose the place, and year we were born. Everyone is born in some places, some dates. But because of COVID, I spent a lot of time at the studio or home. We couldn’t travel. I had to cancel many exhibitions in different places, but I spent my days in my apartment or my studio. Physically it's very difficult to travel, but imagination is freer to create, to imagine a sum of different situations, or different states that you meet with some people, in some period of history.
Creativity and Imagination definitely take an artist’s work forward. Where did your inspiration come from to start painting the My Studio pieces?
The studio that I have is a good studio, but what would happen if I changed this studio? Sometimes in life, you need change. I started to check the possibility of studios in new places. I looked in New York, but then I thought it doesn’t need to be in New York City; it can be upstate or other states. It can be in Japan. Then, my imagination moved forward. It could be in Paris, Milan, Sao Paulo, etcetera. I didn’t change my studio or anything, but it’s the imagination process that made it possible.
What was your experience transitioning from architecture to painting?
I don't work with architecture anymore, but I love architecture. I like to see buildings and how things work. In different countries, the culture of the architecture or the technologies are different, or the times change, and the material makes architecture change as well. How we work with projects changed a lot because of computers. But for me, I’m very happy to have this background as an architect because that helped me to make my landscape. If I am going to make some building, I know how things work, or I have the notion of the history of architecture, how in some country or some period, the building was made – the style, the history of modernism. For this project of My Studio, there are three parts. One is the traditional painting, another is the 3D modeled digital studios, and then a text about this period, and then these three parts form the artwork. To make these digital artworks, a person helped me. I’m not so good at 3D modeling, but I have the notion as an architect of how to create a space. I need to check what people used in that period. We had some technical problems because you need to understand the digital environment.
I saw you were able to transform your art into NFTs. Please tell me about your venture into the metaverse.
Yes, if we didn’t have this NFT process, I probably would not have made this digital environment because to make this digital environment, we need a lot of money because it takes a lot of time. We need to buy applications, digital assets, and rendering from a supercomputer. We sent the data to another company for rendering, and then we needed to add the music. We have professional music from a seven-time Grammy nominee. But everything costs a lot. Within the NFT system, we make the piece and then sell the piece, and they pay the cost. NFTs are good. The possibility to make a new thing that was impossible to make before.
That constant evolution of art in our day coupled with the music from Zé Luis fit perfectly with your studios. Also, it added another element of it being alive. What made you pick him in particular to accompany your art?
Zé Luis is a friend of a friend. It’s a coincidence because he has a studio in the same building as me. In the summer, we barbecued together, invited friends, and we became good friends. He understands what I need for this project.
I saw on your Instagram that he even went to this exhibition to perform as well. As far as your other projects as a visual artist, are there any projects that we can look forward to in the future from you?
Yes, this project that I did in NowHere is about eight studios. Then, I have another exhibition here in New York in another gallery in East Village. It is similar, but it's a little bit different. It’s like meta studios in the future how the studios will look like in the future in the metaverse. That is another imagination studio that is a continuation of this exhibition at NowHere.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.