Cícero Alves dos Santos | Véio
The Estação Art Gallery and the Institution of the Imagination of the Brazilian People (IIPB) start the year of 2010 by continuing to pursue its greatest aim, that of showing the works of important Brazilian artists. This time we have the partnership of the Karandash Gallery of Maceió, State of Alagoas, commanded by Maria Amélia Vieira and Dalton Costa, enthusiasts of the works of several local artists and also responsible for their publicity throughout the country.
These are artists who, lacking erudition but with the sheer force of their works, have shown that art is art, without any distinction or prejudice. They have made inroads into the market just through rigour and the quality of their own style of artistic doing. Slowly, the difference between art and handicrafts becomes clear. The fact that these two concepts have often been grouped together, for so many years, has postponed the true recognition of these artists, coming from our very own people – the Brazilian people.
Last year we showed, for the first time in São Paulo and in an individual exhibition, the Pernambucan sculptor José Bezerra and mineira ceramicist Izabel Mendes da Cunha, as well as the deceased and internationally renowned José Antonio da Silva, a painter from the state of São Paulo. They have all received the applause from the media and also from the public in São Paulo.
The first exhibition of this year is that of Sergipan sculptor Cícero Alves, from the city of Nossa Senhora da Glória, and better known as Véio, whose work I have had the pleasure of following for several years, with growing enthusiasm. I went over to meet him personally and also make an official invitation for him to come to the event in November 2009. With me were the curator Paulo Monteiro, a plastic artist, and also the photographer and plastic artist, Germana Monte-Mór. This was a day that added a significant artistic and human experience to every one of us. A sensitive man, serious and even suspicious, Véio came to show us his art and his way of life.
Living in the arid region known as sertão, his citizen spirit boosted him to establish a “museum” with old artefacts and objects, all coming from the sertanejo way of doing things, and which, in his opinion, are declining. These include tools for the plough, ox-carts, musical instruments and barber’s instruments. After all, a variety of objects which, when brought together, reconstruct life as it was in the region. Apart from the objects, the artist has also preserved the memories of the city in historical documents obtained at the local registry office and also photographs of important people such as mayors, councillors, and other illustrious citizens.
Véio is a unique personality, and this directly and immediately reflects upon his incomparable work. We have put it together with enthusiasm and joy, hoping to transmit these and many other motions.
Véio | Sculptures
At the mouth of the woods
This procedure that Véio adopts in the “open trunk” was very common in art during the prehistoric period. In the grotto at Altamira, in Spain, we see an animal representation in which only a slight stroke of the paintbrush shows the places where the eyes of the figure would be; the rest of the animal’s body completes itself in the relief of the rocky wall of the cave. The systematic use of natural features is a permanent feature in the art of the time1.
This way of doing things leads us to consider a relationship which passes through a kind of endogamy with nature, a symbiosis between figures of the animal world and those of the mineral or vegetable world, in which the “act of doing” ends up being a lesser issue than that of the projection of the pictures. If we take, for example, a stone at random and force our imagination a bit, in the stone we can “see” a more or less defined figure, but only rarely do we not see a figure. This depends mainly on the reference of the sky and the ground: where the foot would be, and where the head, or where the neck would be, and where the hair. Once this is defined, it is difficult for us to see just the stone, or just another figure, again.
Basically, these projections of figures do not follow a fixed rule. They happen somewhat randomly and accidentally, and have a considerable element of subjectivity. The appearance of a figure on a stone or a trunk always suggests the idea of an apparition. This would come from a strange place, as we see picture of animals or of people, where on principle there would be no animals or people.
We assume that, in prehistoric art, this was impregnated with a magical and religious slant, as yet unknown. In many peoples there was confirmation of a veneration to natural accidents, hills or mountains, on which there was the projection of films and stories, without any human interference of any kind. To get an idea of the relationship between projection and mysticism nowadays, we just need to mention the case of a photograph publicised a short while ago, in which the face of Jesus Christ is seen in an aerial view of a mountain range. Probably, if the same face of Jesus had been made by someone, it would lose credibility and mysticism. Nature was not made by humans, so who made the pictures that we see in it?
All these aspects are present in Véio’s work, especially when he works with what he calls an “open trunk”2. The relationship between his work and nature is so close that the artist bought and listed a section of native forest close to his home.
The nickname of “Véio” was given to Cícero because ever since he was very young he liked listening to the conversations of old people in his city. Many of the objects that are now in the museum he has created originally belonged to these people. These are objects that have borne witness to the struggle between the rural person and nature, the solutions that he invented or brought from older cultures such as those of Native Brazilians and the Portuguese.
There we also have the reproduction, in miniature, of the city of Nossa Senhora da Glória, where Véio was born, as it was in the past when the city still had its original name of Boca da Mata. Véio knows everything about this small city, from the transformations the city has been through to details of the lives of many people who lived there. In another room of the museum there is a wooden skull full of termites on the bare earth. Above it, a collection of idols of several origins with hanging rosaries, and other objects used in magic creeds.
Véio’s “Museu do Sertão” is a poetic storage area, a collection of senses for the work, where toys, instruments, animal skins and tools coexist with ox skulls, antique furniture and plaster images of saints. This is somewhere where it is possible to find the modes and the reasons that led him to become an artist. Véio himself says that he became an artist to tell the story of his people.
In a small piece, a man is faced with three pigs. Apparently there is nothing new in this, as the relationship between humans and pigs has lasted a long time. However, something seems out of place. The three pigs stare at the human who remains static. Maybe the animals want to eat, but the human has nothing in his/her hands. The scene is simple and strange at the same time. An unprecedented happening seems about to be consolidated. Maybe a robbery against the human being – or the death of a pig?
In another small sculpture, a woman carries upon her head the head of a pig, which takes the shape of the head of the woman’s body. Véio explains that this was an ancient habit: the women would go to the market to buy the pig’s head and would bring it home by balancing it on their own heads. “Now they are ashamed to do this....”
Beings with long tongues, people atop frogs, women and men on zoomorphic cars and strange animals. For each piece, Véio has a story to tell. Even so, it is difficult for us to know the precise origin of these pictures. This could be the most important characteristic of Véio’s work. Whatever generates his sculptures hardly appears.
Varied colours appear. For example, in the series depicting clowns, a profession which the artist confesses that he would like to have pursued, colours occupy a central position in the establishment of each piece. They act as if they were a kind of make-up, and at the same time as painting. This method is also used in other pieces. What was originally the painting of a clown could end up in a figurehead and what was a natural mould, like that of a termite hill, shall appear in small sculptures of the size of a clock.
Many of the shapes of the trees are sometimes used in sculptures of different sizes, such as those which the artist made in matchsticks, or in those in which he makes use of the whole trunk of a tree. This all makes the viewing of his work all the more surprising, as the elements that he uses change position all the time.
Open or closed trunks do not divide Véio’s work in two parts. The whole collection of his sculptures leads us to contact with the legends, costumes, and also the magical aspects of the historical relationship between a people and nature. Maybe this occurs because Véio’s universe is incomplete and, just like history and the natural world, this is always changing. At all times there is the appearance of new themes and new forms; abstract, figurative, large, medium, small or minute.
In the yard of the house where he lives, a host of pieces on the floor are consumed by termites, and everything that comes out of nature returns to it. “Here, pieces die and pieces are born”, says the artist. In Véio’s works we see images that may also disappear.
Is Véio more connected to Boca da Mata or Nossa Senhora da Glória? The two names of his birth town could be the key for understanding his work: the magical aspect of the name Boca da Mata and the mythical historical aspect of the name Nossa Senhora da Glória.
Véio is one of those artists who deserve a prominent place in Brazilian culture, not only through the wish to tell the story of the sertanejo in his own quaint way, and not only for the thoughts that this would instil about our relationship with nature, but much more than this: through the rare expressive force that affects his work.
¹ l’Art de La Prehistoire, Louis René Nougier, Le livre de poche, Paris,1993.
² Apart from Véio, this work method was adopted by other artists such as José Bezerra in Pernambuco and Fernando da Ilha do Ferro in Alagoas, among others.
This exhibition, organised by the Institute for the Imagination of the Brazilian People and hosted by the Gallery Art Gallery, represents and adds value to the culture and the traditions of the semi-arid sertão, from the unique viewpoint of Cícero Alves dos Santos, (Nossa Senhora da Glória – SE, 1948). Véio, as he is better known, shall come to São Paulo for a guided visit with the public when the event opens on 11 March. With plastic artist Paulo Monteiro as curator, this exhibition shows some 100 work exhibits which are r-creations, in an oniric and critical way, of the daily lives of the sertanejos.
When the Sergipan sculptor looks at an “open” trunk of wood, he already recognises the image that is insinuated there – the image gets moulded into the natural shape of the trunk – a rare perception which is given only to the most important root artists, including also José Bezerra and Fernando da Ilha do Ferro.
However, Véio also works with “closed” trunks which are entirely carved to gain representation. The stories of the sertanejo people, with their mysticisms, legends and fights related to nature, are the theme addressed by his sculptures, which can be checked in this, the artist’s first ever individual exhibition in the capital of São Paulo.
According to the curator, open or closed trunks do not divide Véio’s work, and the whole set of his sculptures leads us to have contact with the legends, the customs and the magical aspects of the historical relationship between the people and nature. “Maybe this happens because Véio’s universe is incomplete and, just like history and the natural world, it is always being transformed – at all times there is the advent of new themes and new forms; abstract, figurative, medium, small or minute”, Mr Monteiro explains.
Like many people in the same region, the sculptor was given his name because of Father Cícero. His nickname arose because he would like to listen to the conversations of older people. A self-learner, Véio admired popular culture since he was a child, when he started to execute his first pieces in beeswax. The intense relationship with his environment has made the artist create, right beside his studio in the interior of the Brazilian State of Sergipe, a “Museum of the Sertão”. Many of the objects collected in the museum prove the battle of the rural man against nature. These include leather hats, domestic utensils, rustic machines, clothing and accessories which are part of the daily life of the sertanejo.
According to Paulo Monteiro, the “Museum of the Sertão” is like a poetic storage area, a collection of different sense for the work, where toys, instruments, animal skins and tools coexist with ox skulls, antique furniture and plaster saints. “This is where we can finally find the moods and motives that made him become an artist. Véio himself likes to say that he became an artist to tell the story of his people”, the curator completes.
Exhibition: Véio - Sculptures
11 March, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., a guided visit with the artist; at 8 p.m., official opening of the exhibition
13 April: at 8 p.m., a chat with Paulo Monteiro and Thiago Mesquita
Exhibition runs until 15 May 2010, from Monday to Friday between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Saturdays between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admittance free.
Estação Art Gallery
Rua Ferreira de Araújo, 625 - Pinheiros
Telephone: ++ 55 11 3813-7253
Pool de Comunicação – Marcy Junqueira
Telephone: ++ 55 11 3032-1599
Contacts: Marcy Junqueira and Martim Pelisson