f.marquespenteado's room at the 30th Bienal de Sao Paulo (2012). Photo: Leo Eloy
When visiting the artist’s studio (which is in his home) I soon notice that there’s no room for regular furniture at the flat. The domesticity of his pieces have nothing to do with having a traditional home. There’s no sofa, no armchairs, no coffee-table nor tv. All the rooms at his place are working stations, having their walls filled with his own art. “I always say my bed is here just by chance. I want to have a regular home, but it has been very useful having a table with a piece of work in progress waiting for me in every room I enter”, says the artist.
f.marquespenteado at his flat/studio
This visit to his studio came in a very special moment, when the artist is experiencing a great change: “I have been thinking that having a studio/home is a disadvantage. I’m in contact with my work all the time and I think I need to give it some space - to give it time to breathe and to have the opportunity of being away from it so that I can re-encounter the piece after a while”. This is probably one of the last studio visits the old apartment with very large windows and wooden floors where f.marquespenteado has been living for the past 20 years will take. His plan is to move out of Brazil soon, getting rid of most of his things for this new stage of his life.
And it was away from Brazil in the late 90s, when living in the UK, that f.marquespentado discovered himself as an artist. Before that he was Fernando, a professional from the Applied Arts who worked with techniques of fabric beautification - usually free painting over fabric. It was in London, where he worked as a costume designer, that he decided to do a Masters in Textiles at Central Saint Martins. He started experimenting with his drawings and soon realised that his work didn’t fit anymore in the fashion industry strict rules of colour palettes and seasonal collections. That was when he dropped the school and started another Masters degree at Goldsmiths where he studied at the extinct Visual Arts / Textiles course.
f.marquespenteado is his signature, which gives us a hint of what his matters of interest are: gender is no longer attached to his name. The artist, who works with embroidery, a technique historically attributed to women, explores the notions of gender and the role of masculinity in the society.
The way men relate to each other is central to his work. His first investigations focused on the public image of homossexual relations: “I’ve seen many gay men of my generation having trouble to open themselves up to society due to professional pressure. I’ve always been very confortable to bring on this discussion because my professional path never caused any pressure for me to stay in the closet, but at the same time there’s always the issue of how to present yourself publicly, how to deal with being a gay couple, how to show that to the world with words and gestures - do these words and gestures show we are embarrassed to talk about this? Do we become inhibited when talking about this? So I started to work with homo-erotic images, making drawings over paper that later were covered with embroidery”.
Series "Black man, white man" - drawing and embroidery
The drawing is another important feature of f.marquespenteado’s work. What he calls an childish drawing trace is the basis of his embroidery narratives. This interest in telling a story through the thread came from an improbable place: a prison. His artwork with embroidering started when the artist, while studying at Goldsmiths, volunteered with inmates joining a project where they learnt the craft. “When I joined the workshops at the prison I found prisoners working to sell their work. It was something very mechanical. So I suggested they should have their work emancipated using their own personal experiences: I asked them to express aspects and stories of their own lives in the embroidery. They were soon able to notice and recognise the visuality as an important aspect of their personal trace, which was composed with their life experiences”.
The discussion on masculinity and gender has gained power with this technique and his experience working with the inmates. “I started to pay attention in the many masculinities present at the carceral system and to create work related to punishment between men. The key of my concern is actually the brutality culture between men: men are target of other men, we are all raised to repress a tender sensibility towards other men, which in my vision is the origin of a meaningless and unrestricted killing. On the other hand, at the prison, I was also interested in the position of guys who did not fear being a couple in public, men who could face a loving relation even with this strong pressure”.
“Who would say this was made by a murderer? Breaking the law or committing a crime will really prevent someone of their humanity?”
After finished, this project was exhibited at a show curated by Janis Jefferies: `Boys who Sew` at the Crafts Council Gallery, in London, and f.marquespenteado went back to Brazil, where he developed his work with embroidery relating this delicate technique with rough material such as plastic or neoprene. A work where domestic and familiar objects become the stage for personal narratives told through his unique infantile trace of drawing. f.marquespenteado’s pieces present tenderness and brutality.
The series New Realism for example, only exhibited once, show delicate souvenirs - like notebooks or colorful decorative-plates - with real and unspeakably brutal pictures of men who were decapitated in Brazilian prisons and whose bodies were returned to their families in pieces.
The works, that show explicit violence between men, are extremely hard to look at, highlighting how cynical society gets regarding a hard subject like this: “how violent can we all become when we are exposed to deeply violent situations? There is a Portuguese idiom that says `when the need knocks on your door, the virtue leaves through the window` - and this would happen to all of us. I wanted to show how cynical we are about this matter. The cynicism among civilians takes place in order to blame someone pretending this has nothing to do with us so we can lay our heads over our pillows and have a calm sleep during the night”, says f.marquespenteado. The colourful and beautiful souvenirs are so familiar to us, however they also work as a reminder of how disconnected our lives are from what the images pictured on these objects show - an unbearably hard reality.
The process of making and the time spent on them are also strong features of f.marquespenteado works. The visible stitches and threads are physical evidences of time, of the time the artist devoted to the process of creating a piece. It is also evident in his work his awareness when dealing with colours, inherited from his watercolour studies during the 1990’s. The result is a work which is complete: it balances conceptual questions of gender, masculinity, violence and sexuality, the creative process, textiles and colour.
“I really enjoy my time working with colours and embroidery, I sometimes have this wish of turning back to the applied arts, that are tender, soft and feel good. But I think it is important for an artist to understand how they want to be recognised. And I honestly don’t want to be known as someone with a tender trace that is repeated ad infinitum”.
Up to now f.marquespenteado has nothing to worry about - in his work the tenderness of his kind personality is merged with deep and uncomfortable issues that sometimes are subtly and sometimes in a rather direct and shocking way. This is an artist in constant transformation. Therefore we can understand why after almost ten years in Sao Paulo he feels the need of leaving his studio/home in search for new challenges. All we need to do now is to wait and see the reflections of all these changes to his work.