Greg Mason Burns

Conversations About Art: Abstract with Guido Viaro

guido viaro

One of Guido Viaro’s favorite artists: Kandinsky – Improvisation 3 – Oil on Canvas (1909) – Centre Georges   Pompidou

Guido Viaro and Abstract Art

As a writer, Guido Viaro is currently working on abstract short stories, but it’s abstract as an idea that influences him. “In my working room I’m surrounded by abstract paintings by Guido Viaro,” he says of his grandfather of the same name. “I love all Kandinsky, perhaps for his previous studies of proportions and colors. I love Paul Klee for his fake innocence. I love Jorge Luis Borges for his short story “The Aleph”. I love Ingmar Bergman for his film “The Seventh Seal”. I love Franz Schubert for his quartet “The death and the maiden”. “He continues by showing how it’s not just about words, sculpture, or oil either. “I also had directed a short-length documentary about the Brazilian artist Jair Mendes, who started painting figurative and slowly changed into abstract. I do like abstract in many forms of art, cinema, dance.” The abstract influences Viaro in many forms.

Viaro the grandfather graces Viaro the writer’s book


Abstract Art is Varied

The abstract influences Viaro in many forms, not just in writing. This exhibit at LACMA) called “Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting got me thinking about how art affects us. The LACMA exhibit focuses on abstract painting, but really, should we limit our conversations to only about that? After all, even though I’m a painter I’m strongly influenced by Ernest Hemingway’s starkness.Since art influences across fields, I chose Guido Viaro the writer as my subject for this interview. He has published 12 novels to date, and is the director of the Museu Guido Viaro that houses a large number of his grandfather’s works. For disclosure’s sake, I exhibited at the museum in May 2014.

Iglesia en La Serena – Oil on Canvas (2012)


What to Know is Important

Abstract art is more about the idea than beauty. In my mind this why people misunderstand abstract art. One needs to know the artist and his or her history in order to understand the brilliance or lack thereof of the piece. “I think that above all you got to have something to say, it doesn’t matter the language or the tools you use for it,” says Viaro. The unfortunate thing about abstract art is that in order to understand it all, one needs to study it all. That means knowing where the artist lived and worked. It also means knowing when the artist worked, too. When you know all of this, the context behind the artwork is clearer. I am greatly influenced by my time living in Brazil. Therefore my work shows that. Academics need that knowledge to understand an artist’s full body of work.

This is really just a recipe for overcrowded art history departments at universities. Besides, as much as I think art history is important to the overall curriculum, no one wants a majority of the population running around with art history PhDs. Art is important, but so is eating and doing business.

Abstract is More

This leaves us with the idea that abstract art must compete with figurative art. Not only does one need something to say, but one also needs to produce something that stimulates. With Iglesia en La Serena I wanted to create a piece that showed the beauty of a small church in La Serena, Chile. At the same time I wanted to show how muddy religion is. It appears to be a figurative piece, but it’s definitely abstract in idea and design. It is both one of my most popular and least liked works of art, as well as one of the first to sell. I have found that understanding the painting both changes opinions (in both directions for that matter) and changes nothing at all. It completely depends on the person.

“The fact of doing an abstract or a cubist it doesn’t necessarily make you a modern artist or a good one. It’s hard to say why you like some abstract artists and hate others, I think it has something to do with proportions and combination of colors, that are used as tools to express feelings,” Viaro states.

Abstract Art is Moving Fast

Viaro sees abstract becoming more common, too. I asked him if he saw any trends and he replied, “I do see. Not only in abstract art, but everything is becoming simpler and more shallow. You have to produce fast to sell it.” In our modern world of technology and self-marketing, he’s right. There are many people creating art these days in all forms, and it’s becoming more difficult to get noticed. Not only that, but as he noted above one must say something as well as produce. I believe this is because original beauty is becoming harder to create. In my opinion art needs to come from within more and more, which makes it more individualistic. And as we become better educated as a whole, maybe we also become more aware of how little we really know. Minimalism is a great example of this.

But that’s not all. Sometimes its just about being smart. As Viaro says, one needs to beat the system to be not only understood, but recognized as well: “And if you use some politically correct subjects, you can be helped to get into the system, even though it looks like you’re acting against it.”

City II – Oil on Canvas (2012)