“All I know it was like this"
“The waves cover, to reveal later ... I thought that today, while watching the sea at Praia dos Lavadores in Gaia, Portugal. Porto, November 21, 2010”
Note made when I was an exchange student at the University of Porto
I like the idea that painting is about doing: about the organic process that takes place from the inside out. It is in the course of experience that we enter the immeasurable, abysmal dimension of poetic creation. This is a place where everything that constitutes us as subjects is interwoven. It is where our relationship with the world acquires new meaning. A painting is not an isolated event but part of an uninterrupted activity becoming denser over time in an accumulative process just like the action of the waves on stones.
A rock covered by the waters resurfaces unexpectedly, then submerges again. It does not stop at a definitive, assertive apprehension. I see a very beautiful analogy between this movement of nature and the process of creation. A painting is always the possibility of casting a flash of light towards that which is submerged in our consciousness. The work orbits in this field without gravity around something that never happens entirely, seeking to grope it. But it is there precisely in this mystery that perhaps its beauty lies.
Over more than ten years of uninterrupted work as a painter, I can say that the most assertive ideas that I was able to formulate were those that took place after the work was done. It was not those that I previously tried to elaborate. In this sense, I realize that the painting walks ahead of me opening the doors of a trail that slowly settles in the continuous exercise of the studio. In the moments when I get ahead, I feel the doors closing, obliterating the passage of light. This is an essential element in the dimension of visibility inherent in painting but also in the metaphorical sense of knowledge.
In this sandy field where doubts are more productive than certainties, I used as strategy to adopt starting points that are closer to me: daily actions. Feeding the practice of painting from that place is the way I found to create a work in which I could recognize myself as an author. There perhaps resides a certain tone of visual chronicle in which is perceived the elaboration of an imaginary universe constituted in the displacement through the city, in the contamination of a repertoire of images that merges with the landscape or, often, originated from childhood memories.
In this regard, I cannot fail to mention a very remarkable biographical fact, the birth of my first daughter, Dandara in 2017. The experience of fatherhood marked a new cycle in my life, being without a doubt a turning point in my work as an artist. The act of caring, lulling and playing became part of the routine in the house. All of this was digging up somewhere in my mind memories of my own childhood. Each day, Dandara taught me to look at the world from a playful perspective - making me see painting in a more fun way. I often put papers and paints on the floor and spend some time playing with her. In this intimate and unpretentious moment, I observe the unimpeded relationship that she establishes with colors and pictorial material. I am enchanted by her open, spontaneous imagination.
Living with Dandara has given me the perception of doing poetry. This added to my relationship with the production of popular art, a subject that has aroused my interest in recent years. As I get closer to artists from this “non-erudite” field, such as Véio, Chico Tabibuia, Neves Torres, Nino and many other masters of our culture, I enthusiastically perceive the manifestation of an essential sense of art, in which the process of creation emerges as a vital need, preserving its transforming potential.
This dimension of popular art extends to manifestations in other disciplines, in fields not often recognized as artistic. I am referring to the aesthetic expressions that are around us: on the street, at parties, on the facade of a popular house, such as those recorded by photographer Anna Mariani between the 1970’s and 1980’s during her expeditions through Northeast Brazil.1 These works are of unknown authorship and generally produced in regions of profound social inequality. The facades are endowed with a sophisticated plastic intelligence that is expressed by elaborate, ingenious geometric patterns, in a recurrence of figurative themes integrated in a schematic way and, not least, by the adoption of varied and surprising color combinations. These facades are examples that reveal the importance of aesthetic pleasure in everyday life and invite us to rethink the meaning of artistic practice beyond the dominant system defined as “erudite.” At the same time, they remind us that “Brazil is not just the West, it is also Africa and the East,” as Lina Bo Bardi defined well when commenting on these same facades. 2
The works of these artists and builders are very deep within me because I recognize myself as being part of their universe. It is as if they are carriers of a plastic heritage that includes me and my ancestry as a black man. What I have done since then moves me to feel this knowledge as the foundation of my aesthetic sensitivity with both intimate and collective dimensions,
The set of works brought together in this exhibition speak volumes about that moment. Unlike the series I did previously, in which the form unfolded in a process of purification based on a certain theme, this group of paintings is characterized by a greater diversity of subjects. They are represented in an iconic way, which gives them a certain archaism, a gesture of suspension of time. In addition to this plastic vocabulary, the investigation of tempera painting was added, a technique that allows me to experience color with an intense degree of purity. This relationship, in turn, reminds me of a chromatic culture that I identify in the popular sphere, as well as childhood memories, a period in which the relationship with the world, not only with color, tends to be more instinctive. It is necessary to let nature invade us and tell us something secret that is contained in its natural and silent movements. As with the flow of the tide, I return to the lesson of the sea with which I started this text. Brought by the waves on an epiphanic afternoon, a message was whispered in my ears: "The waves cover, to reveal later".
1 MARIANI, Anna. Pinturas e Platibandas: fachadas populares do Nordeste brasileiro. São Paulo: Mundo Cultural, 1987.