“The other, the same”

Rodolfo Opazo

Rodolfo Opazo (1935-2019) is a Chilean artist ascribed to the current of surrealism. In his works, he explores the human psyche through the use of a language that was initially abstract but gradually became figurative, with a highly mystical and symbolic component.

References to contemporary literature are also a constant in his work. In this case, through the title of his work, “The Other, the Same”, Opazo alludes directly to the writer Jorge Luis Borges. This is the same title that Borges uses for a collection of texts and poems published in 1964, the same year that Opazo produced his painting.

The relationship between the literary work and the artwork [1]

With Jorge Luis Borges predominantly a writer of prose fiction and with only a few poems written up to that moment, in this book he compiles some of his best previous poems, to which he adds a large number written for the occasion.

In his thesis on this collection of poems based on different themes (and even languages), Borges reflects on the non-existence of an absolute truth and states how it is impossible for any totalising discourse, whether scientific, philosophical, religious, etc., to encompass reality as a whole. However, in spite of this belief or certainty on the part of the writer, in his lines we also see how he states that humans need these absolute truths, and consequently create them. These are narratives without which we would most likely not have survived either as individuals or as a species.

This exploration of the inner workings of human beings and their encounter with mysticism (Borges claimed that “the root of language is irrational and of a magical nature […]. Poetry wants to return to that ancient magic” [2005, 164-65]) are the point at which the work of Rodolfo Opazo and Jorge Luis Borges converge. We can clearly identify and see the influence of Borges’s work on Rodolfo Opazo thanks to the direct reference that the visual artist makes to the poetry collection, but as we have pointed out, they have a lot more in common. Once we know the references and background to Borges’s work, we can broaden our perception and interpretation of the eponymous painting.

Social analysis with surreal components

His introspective and reflexive attitude formally translates into complex and changing paintings, in which several dimensions and scenes appear to coexist simultaneously, which together with the mystical thematic and the interior of the human being make it fit within Surrealism.

From the 1980s, he started to create work that reflects the condition of contemporary man, continuously faced with his pain and loneliness, with colour becoming more intense and forms that start to decay once again into the landscape.

The creator of a body of work rich in styles and themes, and at the forefront of his country’s pictorial avant-garde since the 1950s, he is also one of the most internationally recognised contemporary Chilean artists.


[1] SÁNCHEZ NOGUERA, Jorge Mario. “El escritor múltiple: una revisión de El otro, el mismo de Jorge Luis Borges”. Cuadernos de Literatura [online]. Vol. N 29, 2011, pp: 46-58 [date of access: 02/05/2023]. ISSN: 0122-8102. Available at: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=439843027004