©2016 por Ana e Isabel Roth

Otávio believed that a person’s activity was some sort of brand or indicator - as if a person’s activity would make them carry a label. He thought that his own artistic activity with art paper would brand him with the “paper craftsman with some shades of artisan” label – one that he was fond of. In his view, this would be much more accurate than any brand resulting from the “intellectual” label, so often hanging from the necks of artists.

He also believed that handmade paper should be the result of a balanced commitment between the craftsman and the artist, in order to respond to several converging criteria that lead to the highest reliability of one’s own artistic expression, regardless of any label. When there is no such balance, the resulting polarization emerges as an expression of internal conflicts that are caused by a series of feelings of perplexity in face of the ever-challenging choices successively made by the artist – choices that are always painful, as each one of them demands at least partial renunciations. 

Otávio felt this problem repeatedly, as his sensitivity as an artist frequently led him to consider multiple and varied alternative ways to express his artistic vision. Among those multiple ways, many had a high potential for dispersion and could have brought about a detachment from the art paper. He always returned to paper – to the material that sheltered his highest and most persistent vocation. In order to widen and enrich his pallet, he clung to paper as both a bearing foundation and as a start point for his tireless artistic creativity.

When he received a Fulbright  scholarship to study oil painting in California, he was introduced to merchants who, having realized and assessed his potential, insisted that he followed through with this new artistic pathway. All seemed to favor the temptation to stray from paper. However, it seems that Otávio did not see in oil painting all the potentialities that he believed to be embedded in paper and that made him choose it as his stand stone. Paper was the raw material from which he could extract numerous interpretative variations in collective participations, in constructive artistic collaborations, in an innovative genre with strong co-creativity. He discovered - and convincingly praised - the material attributes of paper that rendered it able to involve and congregate people, motivate them in convergence and reactivate some of the idle or forgotten remains of artistic and artisanal creativity. Hidden in the deepest wells of memory, obscured in that distant corner where some of the most authentic childhood creativities take refuge, those remains make up the world that Joan Miró was able to resuscitate in adults.

Not content with the potential of the traditional oil techniques, Otávio tried to pursue new pathways with collages of a bric-à-brac made up of a great array of assorted objects. This, however, left him equally dissatisfied, to a point when he finally chose to serve his original vocation. And so we find him once again, following through with his ceaseless chase and persistent research for new artistic expressions, blazing trails in the manual preparation of art paper.      

While opening up new pathways, he managed to find the time for a very intense and fertile guiding activity. Vibrant and passionate, and an expert in handmade paper, with all its possibilities and potentialities, Otávio achieved great success in the most difficult task faced by innovative artists. He was able to convert the forms, volumes and transparencies he envisioned into attractive, elaborate realities. His colorful visions were materialized in the most convincing and intriguing manner, following the tracks he had opened himself into the vast range of categories of art paper.

It is difficult to write about Otávio Roth when the temporal dimension that separates us from his sudden absence is still short. The time passed is not sufficient for us to objectively appreciate the depths he could reach with his silent and captivating enthusiasm, nor can we capture the essence of his humanism.  For he was a complete humanist, in full awareness of both his Human Rights and the flip side of that coin: the part so often forgotten that concerns the human duties, which he addressed splendidly with his abnegation and utmost artistic dedication.

Nevertheless, in the current context, outlined above, for the development of art paper, the growing force and influence of our great artist Otávio Roth becomes evident. After two years since his he has left us, we realize clearly and undeniably the value and the transcendence of his artistic achievements. We perceive the widespread influence of his example, of his school in permanent search of new pathways and artistic expressions though an activity that, so harmonious and serene, is captivating. We feel the great void that now occupies the spaces he once filled with his richness of thought and his convincing pioneer artistic visions – from the inner circle of the dearest family members and friends to the great sphere of his intercontinental relations. 

A foresight of the future of paper – and its evolution towards the service of electronic communication – seems to have induced the awakening of a great interest in the old processes employed in ancient paper manufacturing. The artists play a major role in this renaissance of the multiple techniques applied to the production of handmade paper and in the retrieval of its aesthetic value. Amidst this rebirth of the aesthetic and cultural value of handmade paper in Brazil, the pioneer character of Otávio Roth presents itself.

Leopold Rodés, O Papel (The paper), September/1995.