Incense burning, plumes of smoke unfurling, a cello picks out notes of a baroque melody. This is the distinctive studio of acclaimed Cuban jeweller Osvaldo Castilla Romero. A space where universal energies unite with the spirit of the soul to conceive an art all of its own, bringing forth forms created from the most diverse of materials. Wood, stone, metals, leathers, seeds, even acrylics can be discerned among the elements, treated equally and brought together to create a fusion of body and art. The jeweller argues that “jewellery is for wearing” and this is the basis of his work: pieces for everyday use that transcend the limits of a display cabinet.
“Osvaldo plays with turning inert matter into poetry, which is by its nature ethereal and impalpable. That is how he achieves dissimilar forms in his jewellery, managing even to bring poetry to life,” says Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, Havana’s official historian, about the work of this craftsman.
With dance-like forms, Castilla uses lines and sinuosity as the base on which to build the dynamic quality of his pieces. This in turn lets the pieces take on different guises. A tiara becomes a belt, a pendant becomes an earring, his pieces become a work in motion.
As art critic Pedro de Oraá says, “Castilla stretches the limits of the crafted object, revealing its potential as [a piece of] fine art, without lingering on conceptual concerns around the genre. He sets himself the task of magnifying this, the intrinsic nature of craftsmanship, turning his pieces into tangible expressions of the intimate relationship between [the crafted object] and sculpture.”
Occasionally Castilla makes spontaneous sorties into fine art sculpture. Designs featuring fish, symbols of the salvation of the soul, laden with poetic messages, are some of the most conceptual pieces. Then there are his mobiles, tangible expressions of the artist’s virtuosity and grace, that reveal his inclination towards kinetic art as a form that is alive and changing. His work with geometric shapes stands out, the forms combining to achieve transformation and displacement in space.
This self taught artist’s work is truly multifaceted and his vast knowledge is reflected in his work. In 2005 he was awarded a National Cultural Distinction by the Cuban Culture Ministry in recognition of his emblematic work and the dozens of national and international exhibitions he has taken part in. He has been featured on television and is an inimitable figure in the world of Cuban jewellery making, while his sculptural work has put him in important collections and other cultural spaces. Elegance, inspiration and duality are the fruits of this life lived entirely for art.