Oscar Lloveras is best known for his landscape art, outdoor sculptures constructed from natural materials such as wood, leaves, paper and stones. He has studios in Japan and France but has been commissioned to make installation art all over the world. I caught up with the artist while he was on a short visit to Edinburgh.
“I’m falling in love with Scotland. I’ve been here five times. This time was too short. I’m leaving tomorrow to go back to France for ten days, then I’m going to the USA for three months, then back to Japan. It’s been like this for 20 years.” With such a packed schedule, I wonder what his work-life balance is like. “I have no time off. I’m always thinking, but thinking is relaxing. Life and work happen together.”
He has had a long lasting fascination with Japanese culture, stemming from the time when he was on an exchange programme at the University of Tokyo. His major was in anthropology and his specialist subject was religion. He spent two years in Japan studying Buddhism and Shintoism and observing purification rituals with fire and water. He points out, however, that even before his first visit to the country, Japan has played a part in his life. “I started to learn how to speak and write in Japanese when I was eight, and I was learning Judo.” This was during his childhood in France, although Lloveras was born in Argentina. “I was always in contact with other cultures. Maybe because of that I don’t have a real identity. My identity is in art.”
In 2010, Lloveras was commissioned to make three paper sculptures, 3 metres high and 50 meters across, for the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival. Lloveras believes he was commissioned for the project because “I’m also trying to protect nature with my art. Part of my work is finding materials, which I take from nature.” He tells me he once made a still life from trees that had come down in a typhoon and he shows me a photo of a construction he made from fallen leaves.
I ask if he is planning on carrying out any projects in Scotland and he talks about a possible collaboration with a poet to make something inspired by the Scottish landscape and language. “The landscape here is subtle in colour and forms. It seems like it’s quiet, but it’s not. Something always happens in front of your eyes: there are animals walking, it’s windy. The space here is rich.”
Lloveras has worked with poets before and finds the collaborations inspirational. “Sometimes literature gives me images or sensations. I need to read. I am always reading old languages, languages that are dying. Original language is inside people. I feel this energy and I have discovered it inside Scottish people.”
He stresses that he would have to return to Scotland for a longer period in order to work on such a project. “I can’t work on this from my studio in France. I must be here to do it. I have the energy from the people and from the elements of Scotland. There’s a force here because of the stone.” This, he says, is typical of the way he works. “Usually when I make an installation in nature, I stay in the place to learn. Part of my journey is to learn art from people. I’m an anthropologist first, then an artist.”
Lloveras believes that the purpose of art is to communicate with people. “Art alone has no meaning. Art has meaning when it encounters people.” In particular, art that is outdoors, away from traditional gallery settings, lends itself to communication, encouraging people to engage with the pieces and think about what they mean. “Outdoors is a place for everyone. We can communicate with art in nature. In the gallery it’s different. People go to the gallery to see art. If they see something strange they know its art because it’s in a gallery.”
Through his own artwork, Lloveras tries to reconnect people with nature. “Even if we live in town, have a car, use machines, we are still human, still part of nature. Nature is transformed by technology. We couldn’t be without technology in a new society but we must protect nature first.”
Just as Lloveras has made it his mission to learn art from other people, it is important to him to share his own art and its message with others. “I’m trying to be like land. You plant a grain and you have a plant. I have the energy to grow things to give to others.”
Helen Caldwell is currently living, working and travelling in Australia, logging her experiences and thoughts on her fascinating blog, which you can find here.
She has recently created some really fantastic yarn bomb installations which were put up in and around Melbourne. Take a look here