Photography / Editorial / Print

Olivia Boa


As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 10

For some people, the most important issue in art is that it expresses or stirs emotions. Olivia Boa is a painter and therapist and it is that fascination with emotions and states of minds, discovered in consultations with patients, which led her to create a series of works that are psychologically motivated. With drawings and paintings, you can cut through what you are trying to express and Boa finds abstract art “really interesting because it's not conventional, everybody can be expressive and be free!”. As a therapist, working from her Fribourg office, helping people seeking development or suffering from both physical and mental issues, Boa is especially finding thrill in how spectators approach and try to deconstruct her work in their minds.

Born in the Yvelines region of France, aside from tuition received from painter Yves Armani, she is primarily self taught. Having a foundation in more academic artwork, in 2011, she embarked upon a series of abstract works, a concept of "generations" she describes as “namely painting a subject on various energy perceptions.”  It is widely thought that abstract expressionists believe the best way to express pure emotions is to create non-objective or totally abstract artworks in which colours, lines, shapes, and textures directly convey their emotional state.

She has fond memories of school trips to exhibitions, notably those featuring works by Paul Cezanne and Monet. It is Cézanne’s works which she is fond of, saying he was the “Perennially fashionable painter, always of current events and avant-garde in technique. He made me experience many feelings through his works.” Being a mother of three children, from which she derives most of her fun, her style has evolved over time and she has a drive to experience life and all that it has to offer, but adding that the "future is built on the reflections of the past."

Acrylic on paper or canvas is her chosen media and in defining her work, Boa says it is difficult “because it's not congealed, I would describe it as meaningful and expressive.” We feel there is much more that defines her art and as a former boxer (known under the name of Olivia Boudouma), perhaps in knowing one's opponent and trying to get in their mind, is as much part of being a therapist, as it is to being an artist trying to express their thoughts on a viewer.

"From the bank to the over one: The Observer" is a work on paper really particular to Boa. The work represents two banks of the same place, the physical world and the psychic world and that of the invisible. In the centre of the drawing, an eye looks from a bank to the other side, it is the observer.

Colours hold significant importance for Boa, especially their meanings and in some works, we see rectilinear grids of varying colours, brush strokes and pathways intersecting the different areas. To understand the mind, we asked if she has to similarly chart or grid observations? “I work only with a spoon bile, no brush, I spell this “rectilinear grids " "Trames de Vie" in French, which mean: "wefts of life" because in our life we have wefts... our education, our personality, our family, our job and friends... our convictions... All this conditions us in certain wefts which guides us unconsciously in our lives. It is that I wanted to express it in my painting.”

In ‘Melancholy’ the artist wanted to represent what a strange feeling melancholy is. "Strange" in the sense that one is unable to just define melancholy as a state of sadness, but rather as a complex condition that could represent the desire to find a past situation that has brought much joy and satisfaction to the person. Melancholy would be that enchanting souvenir that is no longer present in the life of the person. We asked whether melancholy is a necessity and what makes us human, to which Boa says, “yes of course, for me melancholy is not a bad emotion, it's a necessary emotion to pass from one stage to another.” It is depicted in the picture, where “despite the cold black, deep blue and brown colors” which evoke a “state of deep sadness, beautiful colours can emerge from this state, such as purple and pink.” It may also be seen by some as representing an outline of a city and all the good and bad contained within such an environment.

With “Chessboard of Good and Evil”, bold colours, bright or pastel, representing the “internal potential in everyone”, are wrapped with a black colour, Boa calls “the mess” and in doing so, attempts to “showcase a person’s potential which can be overshadowed or diminished by their fear and suffering.”  In further comment on the use of black in some of her works, Boa states the black can be transmuted into light (or gold seen here), explaining further that “nothing is congealed, everything moves and we can transmute "black" or our suffering and fear into "gold". It's not easy. It may be a long path to travel. That which does not kill us makes us stronger and we have to use this memory with the aim of growing and moving forward in our life."  The work is slightly reminiscent of Piet Mondrian's paintings but the scaffolding is less rigidly geometric.

Of the use of green in the centre,  Boa tells us that “it is a sign of hope, green is the symbol of youth, inexperience and credulity, probably by analogy to the unripe fruit. The origin of this symbol is the fact that green is the colour of new leaves, buds, green of spring. In Christian literature, green is associated with one of the three theological virtues, hope.” The colour green also associated with chance and luck, coming from the fact that it was one of the more unstable colours in dyeing, hence the lack of use in the traditional theatre. The most common meaning of green is found in nature. In Islam, paradise is described as full of greenery. Green is also associated with regeneration, fertility and rebirth of its ties to nature. The fact that the piece has an amalgam of different green in the middle symbolises that deep down, man is able to regenerate and transmute the memory of his fear and suffering into a bright potential. This requires reconnecting to his soul, deep inside, which is represented by the centre of the painting.”

The work "Brainstorming" represents reflection, a shape of a -cyclone and similar to the state in which a person can put himself into when they look for an idea. Boa tells us that the "painting bottom is white, as a virgin or imprint of an idea. The colours of the cyclone are black and purple now, symbolising that in brainstorming one can release ideas which are black and productive, even more so with the ideas of genius, which are represented by the golden colour. The purple in transition represents the transmutation of the golden black. In Europe, the purple in Middle Ages represented a spiritual colour, that of the clergy.

Of the "Psychological Works" project and future plans, Boa notes that she will print for September, a catalogue (48 pages) with 12 descriptions of canvases and emotions. There is also a ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ project, and a general catalogue presenting all her work.

Images provided by the artist
Copyright © Olivia Boa

Interview by Nardip Singh
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