Beatriz de Moura. Publisher. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1939


It is mid-August and it is getting dark. The truncated columns cast their massive, long shadows on the smooth, gleaming terracotta-coloured tiled floor of the Pantelleria house. The rays of the setting sun slip through the columns and into the house, which stands open to the sea. From what I think of as the atrium, but is in fact a terrace, with my back turned towards the house that is half sunk into the craggy rockface, I can see the vast sea stretching out at my feet, framed in the spaces between the columns. All is light, but it is a soft light, with no glare to it. That light-and-shade, that light of the Mediterranean siesta, was to appear time and time again in Oscar’s architecture and paintings. Back there and then, I could not have guessed. / The light of reason. Oscar went to a German lay school. I have the feeling that his basic education, during those dark years in Spain, played some part in the development of an intelligence which would later enable him to gauge in the cool light of day the possible excesses of an artistic sensibility dominated by passion and to grasp, with both brilliance and lucidity, the sculptures of Phidias, Michelangelo, Canova and Rodin; the paintings and mosaics of Pompeii and the works of Velázquez, Picasso and Antonio López; the temples of Egypt, Minos and Greece, the Pantheon of Rome, the churches of Borromini, the mansions by Lutyens and the houses by Adolf Loos and Robert Venturi (with whom he shares, by the way, the conviction that there is always something to be learned from everything); a Roman lachrymal, a Spanish floor mop or a shoe by Blahnik; English parks, Japanese and Latin gardens. / Lights. Imbued with the lights emanating from Classical Greece, the Renaissance and probably the taifa kingdoms of late Islamic Spain, Oscar has made that legacy his own, paradoxically assimilating it, I suspect, to another opposing tradition, this time from the 20th century and from colder climes: the tradition of Alvar Aalto, for whom light caters to different needs, but which he handles with equally good results. / Primary light. Oscar’s paintings are primary light. Almost all of them have that magic that no doubt illuminated him as he contemplated any of Vermeer’s paintings and which he fully learned to examine through Salvador Dalí. / Angel of light. That is more or less what Oscar was to me, in another life. For example, with him I learned, among other things, that I simply had to be myself, the way I am and what I am, whatever the consequences. / Give birth to (in Spanish, the equivalent expression is literally “to bring into the light”). Más que discutible, Todo es comparable y Dios lo ve, three books that Oscar has given birth to, or brought into the light of day. The first was published by the publishing house which bears his name and which he helped to found; the other two were published by Anagrama. Such things are not unusual, and they occur for the same reasons that they do in the best of families. / Suit of lights (Bullfighter’s costume). Nobody who knew Oscar thirty years ago would have thought that that long-haired boy, with his lambskin coat, Lacoste T-shirt, cord trousers and Clarks shoes, who hated buttons, would today be wearing Italian and English shirts (complete with all their buttons), Armani suits, Missoni waistcoats, silk ties and shoes made to measure in London. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. It is no wonder that Oscar’s birth sign is Gemini. So, if you will allow me, I will simply say that he is a man. / Between two lights. Multifaceted? No doubt about it. Eclectic? Of course, and proud of it. Contradictory? Contradictory, above all, without sacrificing a deep-rooted and strict coherence. It is as if he were two in one. Not radically so, as in the case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, but rather in the no less disturbing, if less lethal manner, of a ventriloquist and his dummy. Oscar always has his dummy with him, and nobody ever knows which of the two is going to appear before the footlights. If you don’t believe me, just look at him shrug, knitting his brows, wrinkling up his eyes, nose and mouth, rubbing his hands together like some primitive being in search of fire: they can just as easily release a sparkling shower of light as ignite a shower of devastating sparks. Both are incandescent, but while the former is the prelude to a beautiful firework display, the latter heralds an angry explosion. That expression of impatience (is it one of nervousness, or of anxiety?) has survived through all his mutations, and it betrays his innermost nature. One either takes him, in all his perverse duality, or one leaves him. It is no wonder that there are those who hate him, mistrust him, despise him or ignore him, but there are also those, probably the very people whom he has brought together in this book, who, seeing beyond the contradictions, the arrogant remarks and the high-handedness, admire and even love him. / Lucifer. While Thoth, or Hermes, winks a sparkling eye at the artist on his path to perfection, Lucifer, the fallen angel, with the dark light of his resentment, sows intrigue and defamation among mortals. No doubt, this is the high price that all those who, like Oscar, have decided to play* in such a serious, daring and almost diabolical way with something as intangible as light, and lights, in their art and in their lives, must pay.
* In the sense of “maturity of man” which, according to Nietzsche, consists in “having rediscovered the seriousness that the child puts into his play” (Beyond Good and Evil).