I was introduced to Aurelino’s work in the early 1990s, by Emanoel Araújo. I was really struck by this work, and started by buying a first batch of 25 works. I spent years looking at them, and sometimes showing them to people who I considered sensitive and able to understand the works but nothing... no-one showed any kind of reaction. I was very frustrated at this fact, even though I was sure of the pictorial and creative quality present in his work.
As everything good is acknowledged one day, I patiently waited for the opportunity to arise. The chance finally came when the Brazilian People’s Institute for the Imaginary (Instituto do Imaginário do Povo Brasileiro – IIPB) held the exhibition Stubbornness of the imagination – Ten Brazilian Artists, together with the book of the same name and also a DVD with documentaries about all the participating artists. Aurelino stood out.
At the same time as the exhibition in Brazil, Hervè Chandés, the director of the Cartier Foundation, comes over from Paris, seeking Brazilian artists to take part in a major exhibition in the Northern Hemisphere, and sees in Aurelino a talented painter; he not only chooses several of his works to participate in the exhibition, but also purchases them for the Cartier Foundation’s collection. Wowww!!! Who would have imagined, the poor man from Salvador takes a giant leap and goes straight to France. In the wake of this feat, it was only natural that Aurelino’s work would start to be admired also within Brazil. And, indeed, this was the case.
I met Rodrigo Castro, an important collector of contemporary art, who already collected Aurelino’s work and who was also willing to loan some works for the exhibition. To him, I express my sincere thanks.
Only the curator was then left. When we called Lorenzo Mammi over, he knew nothing about Aurelino’s painting. Immediately he read the wealth of signs and symbols and agreed to come aboard with us and embark on this big and, for us, pleasant trip.
May you also enjoy it.
AURELINO | paintings AT THE ESTAÇÃO ART GALLERY Opening: 25 June at 7 p.m. – Closure 31 August 2013
On one occasion, Leila Coelho Frota suggested use of the term “liminar art” to describe Brazilian popular art. With this, her intention was to represent a form of art that does not arise straight out of folklore, but rather from the urbanisation of the poorer social strata of the population. Already detached from their original environments, but also largely excluded from the new types of socialisation, the liminar artists reorganised their imagination with the new materials placed at their disposal. They therefore establish a type of dialogue with art and with the dominant means of communication, albeit from a different standpoint which, when talent helps, allows them to have an original interpretation.
I do not know if this description would be applicable to Brazilian popular art as a whole, but it would certainly apply to Aurelino dos Santos. From all standpoints, he is a true expression of modern and urban culture. In Salvador, he had been part of the artistic world ever since the 1960s, having met Mário Cravo and Lina Bo Bardi; however, he never really adapted to this environment. He did not take much advantage of the paintings that Bahian artists produced, except possibly one element or another from Rubem Valentim. However, there is no doubt that his starting point was the planarity of modern painting, rather than just the undefined space of naive art, prior to perspective. Amid this planarity, he somehow recognised the expression of a deep conflict close by that personally threatened him, while at the same time a way, albeit precarious, of putting a stop to this threat. This prevented him from descending to the decorative, like many artists, including some with greater cultural awareness, had done.
In his pictures, the city is seen from afar. It would be very difficult for us to pinpoint exactly where the painter was located, whether in front of, above or below the city. Surely, however, the city is a compact whole seen from outside. Near the upper rim, there is normally a wavy line that could be either the contour of mountains as also, in a sketch, the seafront. Below this limit, the figures huddle closer together: façades, squares, streets, gardens, cars, ships, churches, and the Lacerda lift. Sometimes there are even words or numbers, phrases or pictures cut out of newspapers. Keeping distances is by no means easy. Everything comes forward, nothing remains stationary in its place: “The walls provide a brain”, Aurelino says in his interviews, and caresses a crack or a hunch in the mortar. Things think and, if their intention was to express themselves freely, then everything would end up as chaos. To keep them under control, Aurelino uses as his models everyday objects found in the streets: planks of wood, for example, or can lids. These objects, rather than calculated subdivisions, that give his pictures their geometrical look. However, the chance element of proportions shows an urgency that geometry is not usually able to do.
Indeed, within these enforced limits, everything boils. Each element is individualised, within its own contours, by a wide variety of resources: slated colours, revolving strokes of the brush, a varied of dots, collages. The buildings make an effort to gain life: sometimes they manage it, and totem images appear; sometimes they stop halfway, and we are in doubt about whether we see windows or eyes, parapets or rows of teeth.
The quality of this painting lies in the fact that it does not hide the conflict between the rigidity of contours and the febrile animation of surfaces, geometry and animism – on the contrary, taking it to a maximum tension point. The same happens with colours: normally they are acid and striking – purple, lemon green, sky blue, ochre, pink and orange. They rarely blend with each other. However, the pressure that exists reciprocally ends up balancing them. In many cases, especially in the works of the 1990s, Aurelino brakes the effects of the colours by covering them with a thin veil of white paint, possibly mixed with grains of sand. The effect, in this case, is like that of the sound of a piano with the damper pedal lowered: all the dynamics and harmonic relationships are present, but stunned. However, deafness is the very plane of the screen that comes to mind, that becomes visible, thus making visible its capacity of contention.
Only once, among all the paintings I know, the white patina is placed in alternating areas, also forming a geometric pattern. Curiously, this could be the only Picture which, without such a resource, would provide an impression of depth – for the perspective construction (albeit inverted) of the church in the foreground and also the pyramidal setback of the buildings set behind it. Evidently, Aurelino felt that the perspective illusion was a fault, and found a highly inventive solution to solve the problem.
That the very existence of things is a threat to us is something we have known since Sartre. However, popular (liminar) artists have no theories to sustain them, so they exercise justice with their own hands. Everything should be solved immediately, by a concrete act. Through the quixotesque weapons presented by his models, Aurelino faces his windmills every day. The plane of the Picture is where things appear and pile up, but this is also where things may be retained. This may say something about geometry and planarity that has not get been said. At least, not in this way.
AURELINO | paintings
AT THE ESTAÇÃO ART GALLERY
Opening: 25 June at 7 p.m. – Closure 31 August 2013
With the Quixotesque weapons in his works, Aurelino faces his windmills every day. He never manages to defeat them, but so far he has not let them invade the world. The plan of the picture is where things appear and pile up, but is also where they can be held back. This may say something about geometry and planarity which has not yet been said – at least not in this way.
Under the curatorship of Lorenzo Mammì, the Estação Art Gallery present the individual exhibition of Aurelino dos Santos (born Salvador, Bahia, 1942) with 21 different paintings that are an expression of modern and metropolitan culture, from the Salvador artist. His landscapes surprise through the unique geometrical representation of planes, shapes and colours. Walking along the streets around Ondina, where he lives, he collects materials to conceive his work which seems to seek order amid the chaos of life in the big city. In 2012 this Bahian artist participated in the group exhibition “Histoires de Voir”, organised by the Cartier Foundation, in Paris.
With geometric contours, his paintings represent urban life in a unique manner. Based on combination of triangles, circles, rectangles, as well as the use of strong colours, like purple, lemon green, pink and orange, the works by Aurelino, like the planarity of modern painting, do not bring the notion of depth. “In this planarity he somehow saw the expression of a profound conflict that threatened him personally from close by, while at the same time a manner, albeit a precarious one, to stop the threat. This prevented him from falling back on the purely decorative, as many artists, including some better equipped in cultural terms, have done”, says the curator.
The objects that are collected in his roamings, such as blocks of wood or tin tops, are the basic element for the geometric element in his paintings. “However, the randomness of proportions denounces an urgency which geometry is normally not able to offer”, says Mammì. In his opinion, also, “the quality of this painting lies in the very fact that there is no hiding of the conflict between the strictness of contours and the febrile animation of surfaces, geometry and animism – on the contrary, in taking them to a point of maximum tension.”
In Salvador, Aurelino was part of artistic circles from the 1960s, when he met Mário Cravo and Lina Bo Bardi, but never adapted and made little use of what was produced by the Bahian artists. In Mammì’s opinion, his production has mixed references which include Baroque, Concretism and Neoconcretism, and also makes use of a range of artistic techniques, including flat colours, collages, pointillisms and strong strokes of the paintbrush. “Buildings make an effort to come to life: sometimes they manage it, and totemic images thus arise; sometimes they are left by the wayside, and we are then in doubt as to whether we see windows or eyes, balustrades or rows of teeth”, he adds.
Aurelino | Paintings
Opening: 25 June at 7 p.m. (for guests)
Runs until 31 August 2013, from Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admittance free.
Estação Art Gallery
Rua Ferreira de Araújo, 625 – Pinheiros SP
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Telephone: ++ 55 11 3032-1599