What is an Artist?
The word ‘artist’ can be thrown around carelessly. What does it really mean? It could be a term that describes a professional, a dreamer, a charlatan, a painter, a musician, a poet, a dancer, a failure, a star, and more. Why so many implications?
Art is a thing, an act, a piece of music, or a creation of beauty that stirs our emotions. Our emotions are what allow it to become art. So, whatever the artist is, if they create sensation, then they are, indeed, an artist.
Otto Oscar Hernandez Ruiz: his resounding, caramel voice and his Adonis-esque physique are what affect one the most upon introduction. The warmth and kindness that radiate from his eyes and smile, the knowledge that a true artist loves themselves and that allows them to love the world, includin you, is what you feel from him. His talent and skill provides the calming self-assurance that he radiates. The art starts there, but there is more to come.
Born in Cuba, Otto spent his early years creating pictures in watercolor. He later studied architecture. Loving the aesthetic element of art in architecture and by searching for more expressive venues for it he eventually found his way to Weimar and there blossomed into the multi-dimensional artist that one meets today.
Otto explains that being Cuban has affected his work because he learned the necessity of improvisation as a result of a lack of resources. He learned to work with his surroundings. Cuba provides a magnificent backdrop of architecture and vibrant culture. Cubans value music and entertainment, as a stroll down a Havana street will tell you. Otto reflects this effervescence along with a resourcefulness that provides an infinite fountain of art.
A short timeline of his life reveals that all of his expression has been framed by his love of visual and fine art. He describes his journey as one that began with art, lead to architecture, returned to art, evolved into performance and installation, and then again to art. This is not a linear progression, but rather an addition of the forms, with art being the basis of it all.
Otto moved to Weimar and studied at the prestigious Bauhaus University. His ten years in Weimar developed his love of metaphor. In his installations, for example, he could present himself as an island, participating in his own individual cycle of life, dancing mixed with sport that is based on sustainable living, such as hammer throwing.
Otto is part of a band, Cindy Sizer, they play at clubs, parties, and for their own merit, meet every year for a week and perform in a field, alone, pushing the boundaries of what performance can be. In Cindy Sizer he uses his voice as art. He mixes his own text within the chords, improvising with voice and body, reflecting the emotions of the world around him.
The drawings and paintings that he presents are an exquisite study of craft and imagination. Initially reflecting a purer architectural influence, there are sketches of street scenes, beautifully correct in their perspective but reflecting, too, the pulsing feel of the city. He developed an interest in people. Made a study of them, their textures, what they wear, how they look, how they integrate into the landscape of the surroundings. The resulting sketches and paintings are works into which one is immediately drawn; the quirks of the individuals subtly infusing life into each piece.
Otto asks, ‘how can you build things?’ He answers with creativity honed by years of development. The last four years he has spent in Berlin, saturating himself with the lines and feeling of the city: the conglomeration of cultures, smells, and time. Travelling between Berlin, Leipzig and Weimar, he used his time on the train for color studies of the landscape. This led to vivid acrylic paintings, injected with the changing of the seasons, the speed of the train, and the feeling of integration into the world. As a foreigner in a country very different from his own, somehow Otto manages to feel comfortable wherever he is. Enmeshing life and art, there is to him, never a place that isn’t home.
In the paintings, his energy is apparent in his use of color. Bright colors help to weave the themes of racism, Cuba, sexuality, mediation between machines and people. At his first show at the Ballery, Fragmented Landscapes, the observer wonders, do we ever get to the point where the fragmentation is over? Even in each finished work, where the dimensions keep the eye endlessly entertained and moving, there is a feeling of forward motion, of time unending, the knowledge that in the end, entropy will consume us all. However, there is focus: a comfort that within the chaos of this world there are answers. The answers lie with the artists. Otto is such an artist. He satisfies us by confirming our fears of the inevitable chaos, but then soothes by proving that the chaos itself is the life force as well.
There is more to come from Otto Oscar Hernandez Ruiz. In 2017, Simon Williams of the Ballery, Nollendorfstraße 11, Berlin, will present a yearlong exhibition. Showcased will not only be the fascinating works of art, but one can also see the artist at work and experience the world according to Otto through his installations and music. This is the embodiment of art in all its forms.
Images copyright: The Ballery
By Sasha Prince
Sasha is a classical singer and animal lover and has been in Berlin since 2014. She is from the US and the place she lived the longest is Austin, Texas.