Interview with Miguel Oyarbide
I met Miguel at the BP Portrait Award private view in June 2019. He struck me as a very determined person, walking with two crutches but still remaining positive. His portrait "Ninety Years" , which is currently on view at the BP Portrait Award Exhibition until October, depicts his mother and represents her emotional journey through life.
Miguel agreed to answer some questions , providing his views as an experienced artist, as well as insights into his practise.
1. When working on "Ninety years", did you feel that painting your mother's portrait allowed you to connect with her on a deeper level?
Since I was young I have painted my mother several times - at very different points of her life and mine. And on each occasion I have found different aspects of her expression and our relationship. On this occasion she is ninety years old and her appearance, and especially her face, is the map of a lifetime - with many sorrows and joys contained inside and the memory of a difficult past. I know her biography in detail of course but when painting her this time I have discovered some new traces of hardness which she had probably kept contained in the past and now felt like they have reached the surface.
2. What inspired you to enter the BP Portrait Award?
I think it is the most important portrait prize in the world. I have seen some of its past editions and it seems to me that the selection process is of a very high standard, very objective. Two years ago I submitted a piece but I couldn't reach the last stage. This year I am very satisfied to be able to exhibit my work with such excellent artists.
3. What advice would you give young artists to help them develop their practice?
It is essential to be honest with the work and to try not to let your work be defined by fashion or trends. Today I see a lot of imitation and that will never produce a genuine style. Once you have the necessary tools (technique, ability to analyze and synthesize, knowledge of the basic concepts of composition, etc.) you have to fight to find yourself. Work hard and observe much more.
4. "Anyone can be an artist" To what extent do you agree with this statement?
I don't think people become an artists. Being an artist is not an option, it is a condition: either you are or you are not.
5. Each painting has an essence or sensation. How do you intend to capture the emotion behind a painting?
It is true that every painting conveys something. But it is important to understand that not all people perceive the same feelings. You can even perceive very different things in a painting that not even the artist could have imagined.
6. What other artists inspire you and why?
I like the "music" more than "the lyrics" of the paintings - the tone they convey and evoke. That's why I am more attracted to painters without too much fluff or trying too hard to intellectualise their work. Actually I am very attracted to the abstract and evocative dimension of painting when done subtly. I feel very at home in front of painters like Monet, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Caravaggio, Clifford Still, Gerhard Richter,….
7. Of all the artistic movements of history, which one do you attract most and why?
I am attracted to naturalism, the visual, also the abstract, as I have said. In general, I prefer movements that move away from symbolism and classicism.
8. What are the key components necessary to create an excellent observational study?
The analysis of what is observed is fundamental. Copy what enters through your eyes with the intention of sorting out the space of the painting. Putting everything in its place, recreating the shape of things. The best way to learn how things are is to draw them.
9. With observation drawings, is it possible to use the imagination or rely completely on the subject before it?
Of course imagination is important. Even in realism. I think that the painter and the artist must always leave their work incomplete in a certain way, in order for the observer (and the artist himself) to complete what is missing with the imagination. For that reason I do not like hyperrealism, because it does not leave the space open because it offers too much data.
10. How do you intend to create a lasting impact on society using your art?
As I said before, by avoiding imitation as much as possible. Being authentic and honest at work. It may not always be very successful, but society will be less contaminated and that is always positive.