Fabio Magalhaes / Between life and death

Brazilian artist Fábio Magalhães talking contemporary issues of humanity and his hyperrealist oil paintings in conversation with Maria Abramenko.

How would you describe your work?

My work relates to contemporary issues of humanity. In this sense, I propose to present, in images, what makes us human or distances us from this condition. Initially I try to present an idea from a certain interpretation, because the images are not exactly what they are presented, they are visual metaphors. My creative process starts from a triad ( Simulation of the Act/Fiction – Photography – Painting). I start with the simulacrum of an act or scene in the studio, where I resort to fiction, then I use photographic processes to capture some images, which finally ends up in the universe of Painting where the work takes place. I create a scene with a certain human character, in a second triad (the Body – the Self – the Being) is established in the search for the image / body, and sometimes I use my own body and / or a repertoire of psychic conditions as raw material. However, the Self (identity) is present in an image, but it is traversed by something until it reaches the Being. My Image / Body becomes in the painting a kind of avatar for the Other, even though it starts from conditions of a universe In particular, I always run into the common sense of Human Nature.

What is the reason you have chosen to represent these particular themes in your works?

Each completed work is the result of a series of steps and reflections that I choose to condense in an image painted in oil on canvas. When I use my body, for example, in some scenes, this choice is made by technical strategies, it is not an autobiographical reference. I think of a body-image, a kind of avatar, where the observer can cross these images and reflect on the existential relationships: man-animal, life-death, civilization-barbarism, order-chaos, among others. My work starts from an idealised image, thought to exist in painting, that’s why I don’t use pre-existing images, I create images so that they become paintings. These scenes are constructed with real elements like blood, for example, as I need to observe the “redness” of red to act as a painter. The pulse of that colour drives my actions as an artist when I apply the paint to the canvas. For me, painting is a place for daydreaming in images, more than a support.

Do you paint from your imagination? What is the technique you use with your models/objects?
Image, imaginary and imagination are part of my painting process because imagination is the result of visual data of reality and interpretations and memories that are part of my life.  When I use my imagination to create what we could call metaphors of a body-image, I believe it deals with strategies that I use to bring the private universe and common sense closer to human nature. As I present these images in the painting format, I intend to draw attention to the actions, often incomprehensible, that man has been facing in various parts of the world, whether they are close, distant or in a virtual state.

I use the realistic painting technique in order to create a visual disturbance in reality. Facts that never existed, but that can be seen as real or possible associative interpretations in each one. The resulting color, technique and images reach the Other, and resurface other images stored in the memory of those who gaze them.

What do you think is happening after we die?

This is a complex question, as we are not sure what happens after death, as we are alive. I believe that life is formed by concentrations of energies and that after death these energies dissipate in the universe. However, these same energies are present among us, whether in daily coexistence, whether in our dreams or even in memory. When I choose to photograph and paint raw meat, for example, I feel that I am before a paradox between life and death. At that moment I think it is about the individual, the human, because after all we are made up of flesh. In the fles is a sense of being in the world, where “the drive lives”.

What is the next project you are working on?

At the moment, I am working on the series that I call The Soldier’s War For No Reason, in which I use a childhood memory to discuss the political and social imbalances that happen on Earth. We perceive that some social advances have suffered a setback in many actions. From the impulses caused by the actions of political power, I propose, in this series, to discuss the psychic conditions to which we are subjected at various times in our existence. Thus, this work establishes a game between the meanings of power, established by hierarchies and the Being. From a search for the personal imagination, I choose an element that crosses innocence and introjects the desire for destruction, an army of toy soldiers immersed in a war zone where the trenches are formed by meat and offal. When I decide to stage this element in a realistic painting, something unthinkable comes close to reality. Then an artillery of soldiers emerges towards questions about what we are and what we can become. It is necessary to be aware of the deviations in history, which is currently so troubled by the distance from human. This series arose from the reading of the book “Writings on War and Death”, letters from Sigmund Freud to Albert Einstein, which left me very intrigued. Then, from this reading, I made connections with a research that I was developing on the symbolic load of objects from childhood memories. I think that the real is not created, it exists, I paint to materialise ideas. With that, I believe that my artistic production can contribute to reflections on the realities that exist in each of us and those that can be activated by the encounter with the work.

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