Artist Joshua Oliveira is not your typical everyday run of the mill artist. In fact he is the sole founder and inventor of Urban Surrealism Art and he also may very well be responsible for the Modern day live art movement in the nightlife scene. More interestingly enough he paints intuitively and without premeditation, rendering the final result of any of his unique and beautiful pieces a complete mystery even to himself until it is finished. His style is built upon imagination and spirituality, two forces that drive his creative process. Psychological and visual juxtapositions that come from this unencumbered creative process produce a polarity that he finds extremely stimulating.
Joshua was born the son of two Portuguese immigrants who left their homeland for the shores of the American Dream in their teens. The New Bedford public school system was the only formal art training Joshua received along with observing Bob Ross improvise landscapes on TV and local Graffiti inspired early art as it was the Museum one never left from, lacing the culture of America’s inner cities.
Not growing up with much, he was forced to use his imagination to manufacture endless childhood entertainment. Intrigued by the unexplainable peace exuding from the local Franciscan Monks, Joshua left everything behind and entered the monastery at the age of 18. Although having nothing and enjoying the happiest three years of his life, an unexplained illness forced him to leave and search for a new path.
Having been told by the University he wouldn’t make money selling art, Joshua studied graphic design instead, which later has shown to be the compositional hallmark of his works to come. After stacking paintings in his sisters apartment, Joshua came out of the artistic closet in 2006 with his invitation to create art live with his cousin’s band, Cadbury Diesel.
After selling most of his work that weekend, Joshua embarked on turning a seemingly impossible childhood dream into a full-time reality. Since then he has performed on the Holland America Cruise Line from NY to Bermuda, and collaborated with multi-Grammy Award winning musicians,with over 300 shows through the Boston, Providence, Ft Lauderdale and Miami nightlife scenes. Awakening the world to not only enjoy art in it’s finished state but equally in it’s becoming.
Joshua arrived to meet me for the interview with colorful paint on his knees, fingers and clothes. He jokingly said, “Apologies for my appearance, I don’t think I own a clean pair of clothes.” You can see right through his penetrating bright blue eyes into his soul where I can tell you, Joshua is a special individual inside and out, artistic or not.
This young artist has already accomplished so much, but in my opinion he is just getting started. He has already sold his vivid, unique, thought-provoking and geometric paintings to multiple celebrities, has a huge fan base of loyal followers, has opened his second gallery on the Galt Mile in Ft. Lauderdale, is currently selling limited edition embellished artist proof prints and is about to release a clothing line featuring his art attached, has been invited by famous gallery owners in Europe to come paint murals for them, is entering the Asian market through China and Hong Kong and is even being featured at this year’s Art Basel in the famous Art District, Wynwood of Miami.
I began to ask Joshua about his various accomplishments and future projects. He is currently collaborating with companies such as Red Monkey doing live art, launching a Oliveira line of longboards with Inspiration Longboards and a Oliveira line of openers through Bust A Bottle Cap. His painting will be on the new a liquor by Shots called Vicious Velvet. Displays at CMYK Gallery and Steam in Miami. Also working with Anthony Dee from Bottle Heaven to form the Broward Art Club (BAC) to unite the art community in Broward County.
The mural on the side of a famous bar called Shots in Wynwood that he is currently working on, he says “I paint the entire mural with a brush just like I am painting on canvas but only much larger of course. In my case, It’s lifeless for me to paint from a pre-mocked design later applied to the wall, so I was happy Oscar the owner gave me the artistic freedom to create as I go.
I am freestyling Urban Surrealism, so it doesn’t have to be in proportion like portraits, which I can do, but I can’t bust an emotional nut when painting portraits. Realism is a largely a mathematical process, I enjoy the discovery of an in the moment type of expression.
With the mural, my biggest challenge has been avoiding the rain. Last year I spent a few hours doing a mural on the beach, Mother Nature must have thought that is was bad art, because it rained soon after and washed 50% of it away. It made for a great background so I’ll call it a collaboration.”
It kills Joshua when someone really loves his art but is unable to own it because of price, not from an investment perspective because his originals are extremely valuable, but from a true love for his art perspective. They want an original and they can’t afford it, so Joshua is doing the prints and posters so everyone can enjoy his art regardless of their financial situation.” “Every now and then someone will fall in love with what you’re doing, Often I just want to give originals away to them because they’re connecting with it on a level above of commerce.” he explains.
I asked him what made him want to start a clothing line. “I did a short run a few years ago and realized it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. But many years later my perspective has changed, if I meet a person who likes the art I can give them another option to own it.” Computer generated art dominates the clothing industry, mainly because it’s ease of transfer to clothing. I’d like to offer art directly from canvas to clothing as an alternative.”
The release of Joshua’s work in China and Hong Kong is a major accomplishment for any artist or business in general. To create a trend and enter new markets and territories is extremely exciting. Joshua explains, “We are going to be entering the Asian market by the end of 2015. We have a representative over there promoting and marketing right now as we speak.” She will be making available everything from originals to prints and clothing. Joshua is extremely business oriented and savvy, which is typical of a sales and marketing team, but not usually of the artist them self. I guess he is gifted in the way that he can utilize multiple sections of his brain unlike most others who are specialized in only a few things. Joshua is extremely well-rounded, very cool and ridiculously talented!
In regards to one of the largest and most prestigious art shows in the world Joshua explains, “I’m very excited to be apart of Art Basel this year. I was fortunate to perform all the way through Art Basel last year at various venues, however this year my team and I are working to plan something on a larger scale. My close friend and manager, Sean Turnbull, has been incredibly instrumental in assisting me during these chaotic times of growth and transition.”
That many Live Art shows is unheard of, I asked Joshua if he invented the live art thing? He said, “No, but I remember when I was starting out, several club owners laughed me out of their office because the idea sounded ridiculous to them back then.
11 years ago I was invited to paint live during my cousin’s band’s live performance at the New Wave Cafe. It was Harold Lima’s spontaneous decision and I am glad because that night I discovered live art was what I was supposed to do. 300+ shows a decade later it’s still one of my favorite experiences. It hard to get a chance to paint to that loud of music without the neighbors calling the cops on you. Added is the energy of the audience.
Public art has been around forever, 3rd Eye Open has been offering Live Graffiti for as long as I can remember. Creating art during underground parties in major cities I have heard took place in the past as well. Today, speed painting is also very popular, I believe started by Deny Dent and popularized by David Garibaldi through the TV show Americas Got Talent. It’s all very great forms of expression to me.
Can you explain to me a little bit about the way you yourself create live art?
The type of live art I do is not a choreographed show. It is not simply studio time in a public place rather the public place and the atmosphere itself becomes an integral factor in the outcome of the art. It is about disengaging the conscious driven mind through spontaneity in order to engage the Super consciousness for more creativity. I never see a complete image before I begin, I receive each stroke in small flashes and I blindly add them until it forms a whole painting by the end of the night.
Joshua’s take on live art is incredibly interesting. He studies various philosophies including that of Charles Hannel’s of the universe and Charles’s says “To the degree that you release your conscious mind and engage your subconscious mind is to the degree in which you will obtain perfection. Your subconscious is the place where you can reach unlimited potential.” Pretty deep stuff, but totally true when you paint from the inside out as opposed from the outside in.
Being as I have never seen anything like Joshua’s art before, I had to ask him where his mind is at when he is creating these gorgeous pieces sporadically and off the top of his head. He cleverly explains, “When I paint the analytical part of my brain is in the back seat and the subconscious mind is in the front seat gassing the pedal. It’s a very non-restrictive ride for me and I don’t think I would take the ride otherwise. People ask me what are you thinking of when you paint? “The main work is to feel and not to think.”
That success will certainly continue brilliantly with celebrity’s like Joe Rogan, Cubin Link, Ryan Gomes and Paul SR owning Joshua’s work. ” One day I visualized Joe owning a piece and I wrote it down on paper, several months later it happened. I have always admired his views and his confidence to share them with the world. I also remember former Boston Celtic’s basketball player Ryan Gomes was at a live art show in Boston that Lisa Bellow was hosting as a video release party for at the Hard Rock and Ryan purchased my live piece that night.” Exciting times for the young artist.
As an avid spiritualist constantly striving to move my mind in different and altered directions, I had to ask Joshua if living in the monastery helped him with your artistic creativity? And If so, in what way?
He slowly and gently explained, “Living in the monastery opened my eyes to the fact that there is something definitely more out there. The philosophy was to take away other’s pain by willingly taking on forms of deprivation yourself. In the process I was slowing killing myself. I was bedridden for over a year and even though I was the happiest that I have ever been I eventually had to leave to regain my health.”
Do we have a purpose here? “I don’t have that figured out. My art is a part of processing what that is exactly.”
You’re in the process of opening up the new Oliveira Gallery, can you tell us about that.
In partnership with Sushi Song we are opening a gallery on A1A in the Galt Mile based on Urban Surrealism. Art will always be something that needs to be experienced in person. It is that almost imperceptible exchange that takes place between the viewer and the art that causes a person to realize there is chemistry here and they take it home.”
I asked Joshua what is the motive behind his unique and creative works?
“Sometimes the art is just the aftermath of failed negotiations with inner demons. Sometimes its trying to erect a playground in a landscape of dogma and law. Other times its just flirting with absurdity and persuading it to alter reality. Ultimately it is an artistic portrayal of the human condition in its search for the truth it never stops searching for.”
What inspires you?
“Great art inspires me, offering me a chance at a new perspective for expanding my own work. Nature does the same, lavish, almost wasteful in creativity, geometric and untamed at the same time.” “Our Maker is clearly showing off,” he jokes.
His advice to aspiring artists is, “You can either wait for a gallery or art critique to dictate your worth or you can believe it yourself and take it to the world. Don’t worry about selling out, worry about selling yourself and your family short. If you want to make a lot of money find a way to serve a lot of people. And you can do that while staying true to the art that is you.”
I asked what keeps him going? He calmly explained, “We all have something in our lives when we just feel connected, where we lose track of time and tribulation. Painting does that for me.”
I had to also asked him where he got the idea to paint without preparation?
He humbly says, “Bob Ross would just freestyle paint and create happy trees and mountains on public television and it was effortless for him. That’s also how children paint and great masters like Beethoven had the ability to tap into a higher source and bring these beautiful arts back into the world.”
It is a hard question to answer but I asked Joshua who his current fan base is and how large he is in the art world? He again humbly stated, “It’s hard to quantify. I like my work certain way and I was trying to force feed it to folks who didn’t get it. Now I’m getting to understand who my audience is, that their not much different than me and I am trying to serve them the most.”
I asked him what awards he has received and he said, “I see art more as a creative experience than a competitive one. I enjoy occasional competition like the NYC Art Battle, because it inspired me to paint better and it stroked my ego for a second however I do not enter many. To make an analogy with nature, it’s useless for the rose to compete with the sunflower, together they help make the garden dynamically beautiful.”
Joshua is constantly and proactively helping and donating to charities. He recently did a live art original for a lady who lost her loved one in a car accident. He states, “I have done live art for several major charities over the years. Smile Train is my favorite, for only $250 a kid’s cleft lip can be fixed. When I sell an original I try to do that, if gives the painting a deeper reason for being. No kid should have to go through life with a deformed face.” The kindness and generosity of Joshua is a true testament to his ideals, morals and values as well as his love for others in need.
I asked him although he is still very young, has he accomplished his goals yet and if not what else is still on that list?
He states, I basically ignored the small milestones because they felt like failures when compared to what was yet to be achieved . Now it’s about enjoying the small things, having fun and pressing on. Accolades are nice but it’s what you put out in the end that comforts you when life comes to a close. I’d like to start creative centers for the cultivation of art and music for our youth as our politicians think it’s ok to cut them from public schools and we think it’s ok to allow them to.
You see Joshua came from very little and he just had a deep burning desire to be a painter. Out of all the ways to make money at art, everyone told him that you can’t do it painting, but Josh sure did prove them wrong. Joshua remembers the days of “It’s either sell art or go hungry” and leaving what he loves for a 9-5 would be the highest form of selling out.”
I noticed you adopted a Pine Cone and Eye as your logo, what does it mean exactly?
“It has nothing to do with the Illuminati, it does not stand for the All Seeing Eye or the Eye of Horus. It represents the Pineal Gland which is located in the diametral center of our brains and it is the spiritual antenna that connects us to higher planes. It shaped like a Pine Cone and has rods and cones just like our eyes, it is the essentially the third eye.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, says that the soul enters the fetus 49 days after conception. Interestingly, this is exactly when internal sex organs are fully developed and the pineal gland is formed and said to be the portal by which the soul enters and departs from the body. There is so much to say about this topic and I would encourage everyone to research it, for me I believe it is where I paint from.
For a young man, Joshua sure is quite a well-rounded, humble, intelligent, gifted and interesting artist who has his eye on the ball and it sounds like he will never go down without swinging for the fences. Best of luck to you in the future sir! As an avid fan myself, I pray that you hit grand slams until the final inning is over a long time from now!
You can witness the art in person at the Oliveira Gallery
3414 N Ocean Blvd. A B,
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33308
To purchase Joshua’s original paintings, prints visit his website at: