Le printemps (Spring)
Last year I saw an exhibition at the Museum of Civilization about Nova Scotia artist Maude Lewis. I remember spending several hours admiring her sense of colour, the simplicity of her work and the positive message that it communicated. This painting is based on one that I did on paper at the time, inspired by her work. This same imagery was used recently in a collaboration mural with artists Marie-France Nitski and Liz Minnes celebrating the Ottawa Tulip Festival located at the corner of Rideau and MacKenzie streets.
As a child I spent countless hours drawing female figures. I took real
pleasure drawing eyes, eyelashes, eyebrows lips and hair. I would have
been happy drawing for fashion magazines had that been my destiny. The
day before I started this painting, I spent some time appreciating the
figurative precision of the Portuguese painter Paula Rego in a book I'd
borrowed from the library.
After I left this book, I looked through another containing paintings of the Italian Modigliani, whose works I deeply admire. These two influences combined with my love for the paintings of Brazilian mulatto ladies were the forces behind this creation. To me painting is not a matter of proving to yourself what you can do, but rather doing what can be done. I have to allow certain accidents to occur, which allows me to create something new. The girl in the painting could be either Brazilian or Italian; the composition does not show any cultural elements except for the vaguely abstract background that at times makes me think of a Bossa Nova record cover by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto.
In 1992, I worked on a series of these Brazilian saints using fingerpaints
on paper for an outdoor exhibition that was canceled due to rain. One of
them was Oxum, the goddess of the fresh waters. She bore an unconscious
resemblance to one of Michaelangelo's statues; the way she had her arm
lifted behind her head. This painting of her is based on the first one,
except its style is closer to the popular representation of Iemanja. Oxum
is known to be extremely vain; she holds a gold, jewel encrusted metal
fan with a mirror. Her colours are yellow, white and gold.
In the Northeast of Brazil, lives a wood cut artist called Amaro Francisco.
He is known for his simple compositions depicting popular scenes. He uses
bright solid blocks of colours and black, printed on a pure white background.
Each image is restricted to its maximum simplicity, resulting in the final
work that looks like a puzzle of areas pulled together. This way of working
allows the artist to develop an idea without having to know what he is
going to do next, like building a wall with colourful rocks of different
sizes and shapes. When I started doing watercolours, I wanted to simplify
things. I was impatient waiting for a wash to dry so that it could be worked
over again. I wanted to continue without interruption or a defined direction.
This block print solution would let me accomplish this. This painting is
a transposition of this style to acrylic on canvas.
One day my friend Ted showed me an old photograph of his family. On the back of it was written George Watson and Family. It's one of those pictures of the past where everyone is posed for a single shot. The father standing up, the mother sitting with her children, one of them a baby. I loved the long baptism clothes, so long they would touch the ground. I decided I wanted to do a painting of it but still did not know how to approach it.
One day I sat down with my watercolours with the photo near me and started drawing all the members of the family. I started in the centre of the paper with the father, followed by the mother, followed by the baby and his siblings. I don't really remember when or why I decided to place them in a boat in the water. Maybe because it has that same timeless feeling that I found in the photograph. It contains and keeps them together in the centre of the scene without telling us if they are coming or going, arriving or departing, suspended in time. The full moon behind them reflects precisely four rays of light to the foreground of the picture as if to represent symbolically their lifelines and destinies. The mother and the baby are placed in one single line.
Força e Equilibrio (Strength and Balance)
Even though the circus was an obvious source of inspiration for this painting, its meaning is more symbolic than based on reality.
The title was the result of my reflections after its conclusion. Strength, for the main performer seems to be made of alabaster, and serves as a stand for the top one. Balance, because they integrate by being made of different natures and standing in opposite directions.
The Red of the Rose
The Red of the Rose is neither a painting about dancing, nor about Spain.
It's more a symbol that I borrowed from that culture to express this uplifting
feeling of passion and enthusiasm.
It could have been expressed in a variety of painting forms, but given my nature, it's done in a figurative style. The magic of this painting lies in the way the dancers cross the horizontal space in a carefully calculated manner. It's a work originally done in watercolour and born from a colour concept. Red or green turning black, then turning into colour again. It's a static homage to transition and its beauty.
Walking on a Thin Line
On the farm where I live amongst diverse creatures, one of them stands out for being the object of my affection. Last summer I came across a picture of Katie (the cat) walking along the fence on a beautiful blue day. I loved the picture for its representational and symbolic values. The way she occupied the centre of the space in a gigantic manner giving proof of a wonderful sense of balance, set me forth to paint it.
Na linha do trem (On the Train Tracks)
For last year's Pontiac Artists' Studio Tour, my artist's statement read, "Painting is like walking blindfolded over an uncertain line, trying altogether to see the colour, to keep balance and to find light". This statement deeply reflects the creative process behind this painting which was built step by step in a succession of individual strokes. Each of these strokes filled a bidimensional space and gave psychological meaning to the image as it progressed. It was a process full of surprises.
At one point, what was supposed to be a ladder (lying between the boy and the lady) became the tracks of a train. Later in the process, the bird coming out of a chimney (on the right side of the painting) provides the solution for the top part of the picture. He is multiplied and now flies out of the cage into new different horizons.
Studio with Piano and Mandolin
In 1994 I had an exhibition at the Jacar Gallery with a series of works on paper depicting scenes involved with water entitled "Aquatica". They were drawings using a limited palette of blue and yellow tones outlined in black. These were developed in a time when I felt a strong urge to draw rather than to paint.
The inspiration for this piece can be traced back to a trip I made to Montreal, during the Jazz Festival. The whole city was taken over by musical instruments. I came home impregnated by the beauty of their lines and forms. I started a series of paintings to send to Germany, where this "Aquatica" style is appreciated, and did several using these musical motifs. Germany is a land of great classical composers, and this gave me inspiration for my paintings' composition.
"Studio with Piano and Mandolin" was done four years after "Aquatica", using the inspiration for the German paintings. It captures the same characteristics as the Aquatica series, except it has a much more colourful palette, and was painted using acrylic on canvas instead of watercolour and crayon conté on paper.
This image involved using two different models for the same composition. I had been attending a life drawing workshop, and had many sketched images that I liked. The idea came to me as a need to incorporate these life drawing efforts into a final painting.
It's interesting to observe how painting in its process of realization can turn things around, giving them unexpected significance. What started as a direct transposition of two different drawings into the same space, became more like two sides of the same person. Beyond its apparent superficiality, painting is really dealing with more profound feelings, like our need for a balanced world even if the roots for this balance lies in conflict.
Nuit Blanche (White Night)
This painting is a remake of one done on paper in 1993 for an exhibition entitled "Winter Dreams" and was greatly inspired by a visit to France. I came back from France completely taken by its beauty and elegance.
This particular piece is a combination of these ideals with my longing for the Brazilian ocean and its horizon.
The reason I first started doing painted frames was purely economic. With the passing years I realized that they had greater aesthetic qualities, and they have become a kind of trademark for me.
The frames are made with the paintings on site, taking from them elements and colours that allows me to integrate painting and frame. This process is the consequence of attempts to find harmony, rather than arbitrary choices. In fact, the opportunity to visit a painting again, after it is finished, in order to complete the frame, is a process that gives me great satisfaction. To paint the frames, I must live with the painting a while and get to know it, even analyze it, although sometimes it is the painting that makes the decision.
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