Interview Cabral, 2008

Claudius Portugal

Your work crosses many paths – painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, architect and teacher, and recently it seems by the latest displays, more devoted to painting. How is the work process, the starting point of creation, and how is the identity established, of becoming a drawing, painting, etc.? What is the theme or thought or image that happens, so that it deflagrates as a milestone of its creation?

Firstly I would like to talk about the design concept, which has two basic dimensions, stroke and stroke’s driving. The design slightly changes the field in which it propagates. If we take any homogeneous background, the clean linear stroke, isotropic for opposition, it will infringe the three-dimensional spatiality to the field. The anisotropic stroke, dirty, has the property of creating roots in the plan, emphasizing its two-dimensional character. Since the 70s, I develop the idea of stroke which roughness and dirtiness suggest plasticity to the line, in order to enable it to take root in the plan. Unlike the drawing, the painting in my view has a direct confrontation with the plan in the first brushstroke. I see painting as tension in the outline and believe that the more you walk on it, the more the rectangle tenses up. The more it is done, the more tension, being that the height of this relationship results in the suppression of a background shape. In my work I always start from the drawing, which often is instated as the work. The painting, as a process sweeps the design and installs the tension.

Your paint is thick, matteric with brief strokes, rhythmic, mutant in their direction, sometimes an abstraction that speaks for us in seeing it building and deconstructing the picture. Is this tension one of the movements we have to learn about your work? Regarding the second question posed, it is already resolved in itself, as it is the continuous of a system in expansion that the latest fights are redirected and underplay the previous one. The matter is thickening itself, with successive interventions, and has no end in itself; as well as the act seeks to achieve the intensity of the vision through bodily act, intended to be single and whole. The issue of tension you note is relevant and it is this one that will weld the background to the form and vice versa, the background-form fusion is the tension. I can also say without fear of blurring it, that the picture is the painting. From the above discussed, is this the way to discuss the painting of today? One way of bringing out the discussion of visual art?

Surely it is the most relevant to consider!

It has been written that your work “blurs the visual.” In conclusion, saying that it “organizes images and proposes the game to observe them on a background of pulsating life.” How do you see this review and how is your relationship to art criticism?

It relates, I believe, with due poetic license, the idea of setting aside a picture painting. The text in question is in the catalog of an exhibition gallery of 1986, of Milan’s gallery, at that time there was already tension in the background picture, but even before the point of rupture that occurs in the series exposed in MAC in 1995. I understand that art criticism has its most legitimate performance in uncovering the creative process. Criticism as an illustration or poetic parallel provides little or nothing to the eye opener’s path.

In your painting, as there is color in it, texture, brushwork and painting occupy the entire canvas space. The color, with a diverse and dramatic range, the texture, thickness of paint, the brush through the gesture. As noted in the presentation of the display, is this the artist’s body with the painting?


At the beginning of your career something is said about “the aesthetics of finding” and that it plays with the imagery of ambiguity. What is the “aesthetics of finding”? Does it survive today in your work? And what about the “imaginary of ambiguity,” is the abstract of now a visualization of it?

The idea of finding, the aesthetics of the finding is elliptical and as such it has two foci. The first in bricolage, in the hook of an image from the grip of a certain perception. In this action the fish hooks the catcher, the perceived image is placed as bait. The second comes from the realization of the revealed form, which should contain a more plausible possibility, the opening up of new insight; future. This mechanism still exists when there is a permanence of the picture. In the case of the disappearance of this, I suggest that this is the meaning of abstraction in modern painting, although I suggest something else: the relationship, background and form is broken, and instead it settles a space tension. Where there was a picture, then there was its absence, where there was a background, then there was an outward emanation of the picture.

Another aspect of your career is the embodiment, in your research, of the search for plastic, compacting the contrasts of light and dark, with the drawing being open for a large area of background, normally neutral, in white paper, for a foreground entirely dedicated to see the loose drawing and painting with a total space occupation, in a clash of colors and gestures of the brushwork. What is the physical reality that you seek to create drawings and paintings in these ways?

Basically, 7 in 1. But it is appropriate to emphasize that the materiality of the design is opposed to the hyperbolized form of painting. The design idea is tied to a meaningful picture, read through the form. It is a sign in the desert; it declines itself of the virtuality to the matter variation, from the displacements of the brushstrokes, the traces left by successive painting reproduced by successive expansion of the figure on the background.

Your work is said, by the critics, to be going through abstraction, realism, expressionism and Fauvism. Do you agree to this gathering of “isms” as definitions or a summary of the way we see your work?

I disagree. They are grotesque approximations. Besides, one serious error of critical approach is to associate artistic forms by vague appearance rather than seeking evidence of a relationship between creative processes.

There is an immense diversity in the painting that is displayed today. Moreover, next to this, the painters end up going through a time of performances, installations, video art, etc. How do you see Brazilian art, at the moment, and more specifically, the painting? And your particular moment, now?

The painting, at the beginning, created between caves, anointed, unique, is subject to inclusion, when consolidated, in socially established practices. The rites are mostly aimed at the collective space that already contained elements of communication. I think it is a mistake to associate communication practices with aesthetic information. At the moment, Brazilian art is keeping up with the contemporary global system. The painting started to miss the necessary environment for its propagation, as it requires a reflexive relationship, a sensory availability, hardly achieved out of the differentiated niche. Installations, videos, these performances have original missions, focused on media stocks, space communications. Make painting and keeping up with the current universal network that aligns with Lascaux to Giacometti, requires effort to stay somewhat accustomed to the immediacy of nervous markets. My moment, Claudius, as you suggested, it is to concentrate on painting and neighborhoods.

How is this choice of oil, for someone who had watercolor drawing displays at the beginning? What does it bring as vigor to your painting?

The passages through transparency, which is all watercolor in itself, lead me to transpose matteric solutions to painting, that required successive plans of brush strokes. The practical difficulties of oil, its opacity, its inaction in shifts, ended up working as a challenge before the bodily gesture, which now requires a specific solution for each stroke.

This is your first solo in Bahia. How do you see this presentation in a place where you have not presented your work before, and how the works were selected, are they all new to the display of Paul Darzé Gallery?

Although it is my first display in Bahia, the relationship with Paul already has at least a decade. In this respect I feel a climate of continuity of work as well, I feel it is a good timing for this. The works of the display are almost all new, except for two paintings exhibited in 2007 at a news conference at the Latin American Memorial in São Paulo. All the works listed for the show follow this orientation: paintings done in the last five years, hidden pictures and saved pictures, thereby giving the idea of possible latitudes of my repertoire in oil. The choice had the contribution of Paulo and Thaís’s looks, curated by Vera Novis.