When you first look at Richelly Oliveira’s work, you’ll probably wonder whether the portraits are drawings or photos. The artist’s hand is as precise as a photographic machine. But it’s not all about the technical skills, there’s more: what Oliveira presents is not only the physical features of his subjects but also their emotional life, their feelings. It is a double process, where both the subject and the artist reflect upon their past experiences, love and human life.
Ritchelly Oliveira has started to find his place in the artistic scene. His works have been exhibited in Brazil and in the United States, and has been featured in several international magazines. We asked him a few questions to get to know what stands behind his artistic work and his thoughts on technique and art.
How old were you when you first realised that you wanted to draw and work as an artist?
Drawing was always present within me, I have drawn since my childhood. But when I entered university to study Visual Arts in 2012 the desire became greater, and from that, other contacts with art began. It is an intense and constant process, which I have built on until now.
The idea of contemporary art is usually related to abstraction, performance or ready-made. Why did you choose to express yourself through a figurative language?
Every form of art is very valid and sincere, so I am a great admirer of its creative power. The figurative process entered my work in a very organic way. As I went through adolescence I built up my personal experiences; I felt the need to put out what I could no longer only express with words and found that the picture was another way to represent the social sphere. The human figure was the most expressive form, so I built on that, I began to deepen my techniques and studies on it.
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Why portraits in particular?
We are surrounded by people all the time, from our birth to our death. The portrait for me functions as a fingerprint in our mind, and through it, we discover and construct new signs, which are linked to our experiences of love, family and even small daily experiences. During the last few years, I have had experiences that have marked me in a very significant way, and being able to illustrate these through portraits has somehow made me calmer with myself and with those people who are no longer present. The portrait has become a way of making both presence and absence. It is also a way for the spectators to be able to identify themselves.
How do you prepare yourself before starting a new portrait? What is your process behind creating the image?
My narrative process, first of all, begins with a speech that I construct with myself: What do I want to talk about? How to speak? I begin then to think about how this can be constructed with the subject in mind. Sometimes I bring in a personal speech from my past experiences, which somehow I still have to elaborate, or issues that are intertwined with relationships and love. One of the places that art occupies in my life is that of reflection on absences and presences, as I said before.
What do you need to know about the model you are drawing? How do you get to know them?
In 2015 I started a series called Lacunas (Gaps), through which I invited people to talk about their past relationships or what they understood of love. There was a need for me to deepen the relationships between the people around me and myself because when we talk about love, we are talking about a feeling that is universal. 
Listening is a virtue that enriches us a lot, and consequently, this adds a potential to my work in a very personal way. So when I choose a model to portray, the only thing I need to know is whether they identify themselves with what I do, whether there can be a dialogue on the subject I want to express. Most people are inserted into my daily life, whether be it at home, leisure, academically and even through online references, such as the social media networks, Instagram and Facebook.
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 7.jpg
What elements of the human being are you trying to express through your portraits?
I try to express feelings, experiences, fears, desires, an emptiness that is not complete. And when I say that, I also speak of myself, I try to speak about the relationships that have somehow marked me.
Have you ever made a self-portrait?
Yes, a few years ago I had the desire, and I made a self-portrait. However, today this desire is no longer present. Today I express myself through this dialogue with the other, which brings an identification with human issues related to love, suffering, loss, the elaboration of lived experiences.
Some of your portraits are intentionally unfinished. Why?
Like every human being who builds himself up every day, we carry through our lives questions for which, for the most part, we cannot answer, and desires we cannot fulfil. There are gaps that we try to fill in, but they also allow for new creations and meanings. The unfinished has in this its potential.
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Which do you prefer, colours or black and white?
I've worked a lot with colours. However, I see the possibility that black and white brings: it allows the viewer to read into the work their own colours, which are not reduced, as they would be if I already included a single colour. Black and white opens up new possibilities, as well as the unfinished drawing.
Formal elements and technical skills play a key role in your artistic style. Are you seeking perfection?
No, that I'm always asked. Currently, my work fits into realism. But that was never my purpose; somehow realism came very organically into my work; I would say unpretentiously. Of course, since the practice evolves and improves, I get closer to perfectionism, reality. But I try not to be held hostage by this because at the end of each project my biggest concern is whether it conveys what I want to say.
What is art for you?
Throughout my academic period, this was a very present question, and it is hardly possible to have a ready answer. For me, art is everything we do and what moves us – something that us, as artists, build daily in our process. Everything that touches me, everything that makes me think, is intertwined and goes into my production.
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Ritchelly Oliveira Metalmagazine 16.jpg