My last studio visit for this blog is with Zezão, one of Brazil‘s best known street artists today. Considering his initial working method, I wonder how that came about, since Zezão‘s art is rather secret, hidden and happening where it would not be seen normally. But more about that later...
When Zezão writes that he resides in Mairiporã in the North of São Paulo, I become very curious and decide to travel all the way out there to see this far away place he lives and works at. On a Friday morning I take the metro to the last stop and ask around if there is a bus going to my final destination. I find out there isn‘t and so I decide to take a taxi. When I tell the address to my lovely driver, she knows more or less where to go. We travel further and further up into the mountains on a serpentine road enclosed by rampant rainforest shrubs and trees. At one point, we need to stop to ask for the way. The man we ask is working on some handicraft in a small hut at the side of the road. He can‘t help us, but luckily my driver calls a friend that knows the area by heart, and so we finally arrive. Zezão lives and works in a big beautiful villa surrounded by uncontrolled sprouting tropical plants. In the large garden, unleashed dogs are running around. Zezão‘s wife Vanessa saves them from the streets and nurses them if they are injured. The day I visit, a 13th dog arrives as new family member.
Traces of Zezão‘s art can be found everywhere in this impressive setting. The wall of the pool holds one of his trademark winding blue artworks, and he explains that his next project is to paint the inside of the basin as well. After a tour around the house, we go inside, drink coffee and Zezão shows me photos of his works that he documents accurately. They are spread out all over and under the city of São Paulo and in other urban areas around the world, as in the Paris catacombs and even in the town of Lüneburg in the North of Germany.
Never having attended an art school, Zezão started doing graffiti in 1995, in the form of the characteristic pixação tags shaping the streets of São Paulo. He explains that he belongs to the third generation of graffiti artists in Brazil. In 1998, he saw the film “Basquiat“ by painter and director Julian Schnabel, a movie about the American graffiti and neo-expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Zezão explains that it was with this movie that he came to understand the freedom and liberty in art and that it does not need to be beautiful in a classical sense in order to communicate and be meaningful. He started experimenting with colour and form, while looking for abandoned locations to spray and paint. Zezão tells me that he has always been attracted to ruins and places that we would commonly rather describe as ugly, and that are far away from the malls and helicopters of São Paulo, in the outskirts of the city where people have little hope and expectations for the future. Finding it difficult to paint undisturbed and without getting into trouble with the police or residents, he realised that he needed to find a different place to paint: Zezão decided to go underground.
Sunday, 6. March 2011
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