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Courtesy of Alexandre Oliveira

December, 18th 2020

Creating art that evokes hope and joy whilst encouraging recycling is the powerful mission that drives Alexandre Oliveira, a Brazilian-born, Switzerland-based artist.

Words By Gabrielle Hollenbeck

It was 2012 when Alexandre Oliveira quit his day job. From graphic design and illustration in marketing agencies to an independent artist in Rio de Janeiro, Oliveira free himself to express his own ideas through his art. In 2014, his whole world changed when he moved to Switzerland, changing his entire visual and artistic approach with it. Before this, he would focus on the colourful and bustling heart of Rio de Janeiro’s cityscape to fuel his work. Switzerland’s striking mountains and lakes led him to start drawing inspiration from nature instead.

 Through his passion for surfing, hiking and spending time in nature, he began to notice all the garbage and plastic around him. Digging deeper into the cause of this carelessness, he ended up visiting recycling centres in Switzerland. He visited them frequently, eager to gain a better understanding of the issue, learning all he could from the people behind the operations. In Switzerland, Oliveira mentions how they recycle 98% of glass, but struggle more with plastic.

Courtesy of Alexandre Oliveira

It was here that Alexandre Oliveira decided to make this cause the focus of his art. “I studied before I started to create, and looked into myself for how I wanted to pass this message along,” says the Brazilian artist. “I started to draw with natural ink, and avoided painting with acrylics and oils. I cleaned up my atelier too, putting everything in the right recycling bins.” But he noted that, even when you use the right bins, you never really know if those things are going to be recycled or not, so he decided on a different approach. 

He began upcycling some of the items he found, whether that was from community cleanups or just collecting waste at home. From bottle caps and straws to clothing tags and masks, he now incorporates all of these into his art to give them a new life, and to raise discussion on the issue of environmental pollution. This creative concept served him well during the Covid-19 confinement in April. As the father of two children, Oliveira had begun working on writing and illustrating a children’s book. Proving to be stressful at times, he found his upcycling project to be a soothing and therapeutic outlet.

Courtesy of Alexandre Oliveira

Many times when artists tackle the issue of recycling, it is done in a very provocative way to shock people into action. Oliveira takes an alternative approach, one that brings hope and joy to those who set their eyes upon it. This is the goal of the majority of his art. “Five years ago, I would always encourage people to look for the joy in simple things, like swinging in a park or going on a bike ride,” he says. “But now I challenge myself to stay up to date with the environmental crisis, and encourage others to do the same.” His next project is to go even bigger with the concept and to create a large and powerful piece to tackle this global issue.