Suddenly, life has changed. I have stopped taking the subway, going to my studio, walking around the city, seeing movies at the theater, and meeting up with my friends. I spend my days in quarantine, going outside only to shop for food or to get a little fresh air.
Projects and trips have all been postponed. The city has become the new epicenter of the pandemic and life has been made more difficult for all of its inhabitants. Many people have lost their jobs and are getting desperate about paying bills. News from the world outside is far from encouraging. Entire countries have closed their borders. The US presidential response in itself has been a disaster.
I think about what I can do to remain as mentally creative as usual while stuck in my Manhattan apartment. God gave me the gift of transforming feelings into visual art. And using this power, I have started to make a new series of drawings: an imaginary trip in the midst of life under quarantine. The result is like a diary of insights about my past, my present daily life, and the future.
"Yangpu District, Shanghai", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
My plan was to visit Shanghai in the middle of March. I am just now finishing a big public art installation in a new riverside park at Huangpu River.* The coronavirus outbreak spread quickly from Wuhan to the rest of the country and unfortunately I was forced
to cancel my trip.
"Tsutenkaku, Osaka", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
I was supposed to travel to Osaka at the end of March, to have a meeting with a museum curator and prepare for a show that would take place at the end of year. I was thinking about preparing a series of works with a local theme, and hoped to also spend the trip researching the history and culture of the area. However, after the coronavirus outbreak hit Japan, I needed to give up that trip too.
"Takoyaki, Osaka", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
Another study about Osaka city, famous for his street food.
"Hells Kitchen Park", New York, 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
A few weeks ago this local park was filled with kids, teens playing basketball, and adults looking for some nature and quiet. Now the cherry blossoms are beautiful but the park is empty. The surrounding restaurants are closed. The city is very quiet. It is an ominous atmosphere.
"Serra do Mar, São Paulo", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
In February when China and part of Europe were under lockdown, the outbreak had yet to hit the Americas. At that point in time, I was in my hometown, São Paulo. From there I took the expressway to go to an industrial city called Cubatão. On the way the landscape surrounded by native forest was magical. Tunnels are supposedly dark places, but these days the world has become so scared that it's made tunnel entrances seem enticing, places we can shelter in.
"Waves" , 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
The situation is getting critical in the city; thousands of people are dying.The lack of federal leadership is imminent. Hospitals are overcrowded and increasingly lacking basic medical protection. The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has docked in the harbor. The Jacob Javits Center has been transformed into a war zone against the invisible enemy. Refrigerated containers are parked outside of hospitals to preserve the bodies. The weather has changed and I can see waves everywhere.
"Times Square, New York", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
Once a place crowded with tourists from around the world, Times Square is now completely empty. Everything is closed. Why don't they turn the sign lights off and save energy
"My table, New York", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
This little table has become the center of my life. If I can no longer travel every day to my studio, I think the best I can do now is to stay quiet and wait until the thunderstorm has passed. The outbreak in the city is expected to reach its apex in a week, and we still have a long path to traverse. But now after three weeks in quarantine, this irregular life has become the new normal, and I am feeling less stressed.
"9th Avenue, New York", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
I imagine that after the apocalypse, the former capital of the world will transform into a ghost town. Slowly, it will be covered by vegetation and wild animals will return. This work is from my imagination but the reality of it is very cruelty. Walking on the street, I see more homeless people trying to find food, like animals in the woods.
"Showa Nihon", 2020, digital drawing, 56 x 76 cm/ 22 x 30 inches
Quarantine is a good time to see movies from the internet. I love to watch old Japanese black & white movies from the 50´s and 60´s, the golden era of Japanese cinema. At the time, the country was recovering from World War II and TVs were not yet accessible for all. Compared to technology these days, it is simple but I can feel the team creativity behind the camera. These movies are like black & white drawings, how the simpler the medium, the more difficult it is to produce a good work.
©Oscar Oiwa Studio
*1_ Installation “Time Shipper”,
glass ship which fosters the white magnolia with local soil, on the grass in shape of waves.
Shanghai Urban Space Art Season (SUSAS) 2019 Click here for details