Verónica Arís Zlatar
Opportunity as a blessing, 2017
Charcoal on Fabriano paper, 38x54cm

The vulnerability inherent in the experience of immigration leads us to the question of what might be motivating us to start all over again in an unknown and unpredictable scenario. Only hope can confer on us that motivation, even the means to resist a hard time about to come.

Arís’ project entitled ‘HOPE’ consists of 20 charcoal portraits that depict different insights from the experience of living abroad. The portrayed looks at the “camera” like for a passport picture. Each of them attempts to look at it neutrally, but somehow their story transcends their control.

The experience of immigration in a broad sense from within offers a point of view commonly overlooked by the heated debate. It remarks on what we should not forget: our human condition. It brings the chance to stay longer in the sensitive understanding of the experience of immigration surrounded by all those characters. We do not need to get into any specific theory, claim or judgment. We can stay there, feeling the presence of those who have been passing through this experience, in the silent awareness of our own prejudices.

Verónica Arís Zlatar
Fearless, 2017
Charcoal on Fabriano paper, 38x54cm

How did you make these portraits?

I drew them with natural Windsor and Newton charcoal on Fabriano paper.

What kind of technique you have used to portray them?

Basically, I pay attention in two things; on the one hand, I wanted to work with the light as a key element for the symbolic realm of the scene, and, on the other hand, I wanted to give an illustrative contrast with the words and the titles.

Can you give us an example?

Yes. For instance ‘Between absence and presence’ is directly talking about the light, the darkness and the brightness, i.e., how the light makes something appear or get into presence. The light reveals the hidden. The shape combines both; cannot be just brightness or just darkness. The experience of immigration when you have the chance to visit your country gives you this division between light and darkness through the ubiquity. Time and space are experienced as a determinant crossing points for defining your present. Your beloved is there, but minutes later, no longer. You can stay in contact, for sure. But you don´t have his or her presence.   

Verónica Arís Zlatar
Between absence and presence, 2017
Charcoal on Fabriano paper, 38x54cm

Can you give us another?

Yes, of course. For instance, ‘Opportunity as a blessing’ -first image- has been made with a diffuse light that can bring you clear information of her face. She has nothing to hide. Rather, she wants to be seen. She is there to do everything perfectly, as the perfect white of the paper around her.

It looks like the process of drawing also incarnates the attitude of the characters. Is it correct?

Somehow yes. This is because I am not representing the topic by only the character, but by all the elements that come to play.

Verónica Arís Zlatar
Insistence on persistence, 2017
Charcoal on Fabriano paper, 38x54cm

Which is the peculiarity of your work on immigration through this project?

The topic I addressed in ‘HOPE’ is the experience of immigration –any kind of immigration– from a personal or psychological perspective. The project does not attempt to discuss politically the good and the bad of immigration as such, but rather to show what is at play in the experience of the person that is passing through it.

Why do you think it is necessary to consider this personal point of view of immigration?

I believe that it is crucial to consider this point of view if we attempt to build a world based on Human Rights. We should not take any further political decision if we didn’t observe first what is going on in the experience as a human one. I suggest that a sensible and consistent decision may be taken only after having taken into account immigration in a very comprehensive way, covering not only the economic, political and social point of view but also the personal and psychological one.

Verónica Arís Zlatar
The unspeakable mourning, 2017
Charcoal on Fabriano paper, 38x54cm

Which are the insights that this personal point of view can bring to light?

The portrayed characters present their feelings of struggle in the experience, which are not just random emotions but rather feelings that belong to the process of adaptation. You are in a transformation progress, all your synthesis of identification, all your frame of references and meanings are at stake and about to be redefined.

Do you think that this experience brings something new after all the work it requires?

Yes. In the experience of immigration we are, so to speak, aware of everything as never before. Our attention grasps more things simultaneously in trying to get into an understanding of the new environment. Your mind is somehow working harder, in higher revolutions let’s say. Also, the situation gets even more intensified when you are new in a country of another language. And it is even worse when you struggle communicating in three new languages at the same time (like in Belgium).

Verónica Arís Zlatar
Awareness of details, 2017
Charcoal on Fabriano paper, 38x54cm

Is it just a question of mindset or has it a further implication?

I think it has a further implication, actually, philosophical. The awareness of even the tiniest detail of the new environment makes us not only display new mind skills but also to realize different aspects of our own. In the experience of living abroad, everything is unexpectedly strange for us, in the way that we are the stranger, we are “the other”. And when we are “the other” we are existentially isolated in the very meaning of our known worldly life. That leads us to a lively progress of detachment, which is crucial for adaptation, like a meditative awareness that is permanently awake as never before. We have to choose ourselves every single time we have to re-learn something, even regarding what to feel psychologically and bodily. Even the body is different. You can touch or not, you can kiss or not, you can express or not, depending on the implicit rules of courtesy that each environment has. Finally, we change that far that we become foreigners in our own origin. We are not 'snobs' as someone may consider us without knowing what this experience is. It is just the normal consequence of our survival drive, which sets us in the awareness of ourselves regarding who we would become throughout this living process in that particular scenario.

Verónica Arís Zlatar
Time for self-uncovering, 2017
Charcoal on Fabriano paper, 38x54cm

How did this idea of immigration come up?

I have been called by Tuga Tarle, who invited me to be part of a cultural activity in Zagreb. The frame of her project was the international cultural relations between Croatia and Chile, focused on the Croatian immigration in Chile throughout the XXth Century. Most precisely, what kind of cultural impact the Croatian community in Chile has done there, what kind of contribution the Croatian immigration has brought to Chile. She invited me basically because I am Chilean with Croatian roots.

How did this context match with your line of works?

It is clear that I was working on another topic. I was drawing my story in the Academic scenario of Philosophy in Europe, trying to understand why Philosophy has become impossible nowadays. So, immigration was not on target at that time. But, I connected with the topic immediately in two personal ways: first, I am immigrant -I am currently living in Belgium-, so the source of my creative line is still a self-understanding of my experience and how to get better. Second, because I wanted to get deeper into the life of my grandfather, the Croatian one. I wanted to know him better from the rules of the experience as such. I couldn´t know him personally. He passed away when my mother was very young. So, the knowledge of my roots has been always a mystery for me so that I wanted to solve it somehow. This way, at a symbolic level, the project reconnected me with my family’s tree. The very poetic part is that the fact that the grandchild came back to Croatia to present her work. So, the circle was complete. Symbolically, my grandfather returned to his origins talking about his experience as an immigrant in Chile.

‘HOPE’ has been exhibited in many places and already 4 times. Is it that correct?

Yes. The first time it was in Zagreb, the second one in London and the third and fourth one in Brussels. Probably there will be the fifth one soon, but still to confirm.

Each time that it has been exhibited it has been presented with a different name, why?

This is because each context is different. In Zagreb, it was ‘Faces of Hope: stories of immigration’. I wanted that title to be clear enough but also because it was in the frame of a cultural activity about the Croatian immigration in Chile. The public of that exhibition were immigrants like Chileans living in Zagreb, or people related to international relations between both countries. Therefore, the context would have already a personal experience of immigration, all in a particular way. So, the emphasis on the diverse kind of stories of immigration was relevant. In London, instead, I made an exhibition in a bar in the after-Brexit situation. That re-defines everything. First, English people like short messages, so just 'HOPE' is enough. Second, I wanted to get to the core point of immigration, a topic that has been voted negatively in that country. One of the central issues for Brexit was immigration, so, how to present something that they have ejected in a human way? How to reconnect with the experience that we all have (personally or through the story of our families, country, etc.)? So, just ‘HOPE’ was necessary as a title. ‘HOPE in Brussels’ instead was an invitation to my friends that finally will have the chance to see personally these drawings set up in Brussels. And ‘HOPE: illusion or truth?’ has been an invitation to the students of VUB to understand the phenomenon of hope, to inquire what kind of experience it is at all levels.

General information about the project 'Hope'

Material description of the artworks:
Windsor and Newton charcoal on Fabriano paper
Images sizes: 38x54cm / 42x54cm

Classification of the artwork
Contemporary realism, Magic realism, Portrait

Classification of the topic:
Immigration, Psychology, Human Rights, Personal Experience

Making of

You may find the 20 drawing made for the exhibition "Faces of Hope: stories of immigration" clicking on this link.


BRUSSELS: HOPE in Brussels


The exhibition in London offered as well a small catalog of the selected 8 portraits with their pertaining "possible" story to the visitors.

Radio Interview

The interview made by David Rey during the opening of ‘Faces of Hope: stories of immigration’ on Friday 19th of May has been broadcasted in Spanish on September 9th, 2017. HRT: September 9th, 2017



Popular Posts