Ghoulishly Beautiful Portraits by Roberto Diaz

The gory and rather sensationalist mixed-media creations of Roberto Diaz are wonderfully disturbing. Diaz combines traditional drawing with digital painting to execute darkly surreal portraits of dignified figures from past epochs, deformed by monstrous changes, additions, and appalling transformations. He uses a somber palette with warm, burnished tones which is evocative of the Old Masters, offset by the more lurid reds of the blood and grisly flesh. There is a constant tension and balance between the repulsive and the pleasing in all Diaz’s works.

A multiplicity of eyes, breaches in flesh, gaping maws, woeful signs of decay and ruin warp these subjects painted with a beautifully classical quality, who are often surrounded by a sort of halo or bubble of air. They are blessed – or kept alive – by graceful swirls of thin red tubes like veins or IV lines. The skeletal noses, stitches, and exposed subcutaneous flesh are reminiscent of rotting cadavers, while other distortions look as if their bodies had been cloven and fused back imperfectly. The tearfulness of some of these beings leads one to feel that they suffer terribly, with the ceremonial, grave sadness of those looking out at us from history. They possess the mournfulness and piety of old paintings, while at the same time they are corrupted by this macabre modern aesthetic which seeks to amalgamate and subvert all.

There is an alluring, palpable luster and glisten to the gore and viscera in Diaz’s paintings, the substance of the imperfect bodies. Unsubtle in horror, intensely impactful, the verisimilitude and level of technical achievement, the masterly chiaroscuro, draw in and seduce the eye. The juxtaposition between aesthetic pleasingness and sinister conception exploits our instinctual revulsion against perceived flaws and deformities in the human visage. This accomplishes a profanation of the allegedly divine, marries the lovely with the hideous, and evokes in us a delicious combination of disturbance and aesthetic gratification.

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We enjoy the immense freedom of dreams, in which nobody believes, except as a joke, to share on coming down to breakfast.
Children are not expected to think, but are allowed to suffer, and rehearse the future… In at the windows floats the scent of hot, wet nettles and the long summer. The yellow dressing-table drawers are smelling of emptiness. We have not arranged our things, who will not be staying long in this house.

O childhood of moonlight [and] solid statues! How solid, I broke off an arm to prove, and the smell of the wound was the smell of gunpowder and frost. Often the footsteps were not mine that fell along the gravel paths…other voices would carry my song out of my control… All were turning gravely in the dance, only I was the prisoner of stone.
When I no longer expected, then I was rewarded by knowing: so it is. We do not meet but in distances, and dreams are the distance brought close. The glossy mornings are trampling horses. The rescue-rope turns to hair. Prayer is, indeed, stronger, but what is strong?
O childhood, O illusions, time does not break your chain of coloured handkerchiefs, nor fail to produce the ruffled dove….

–Patrick White, Voss