Fabricio Lopez interviewed by Cláudio Mubarac
Published in the Valongo exhibition catalogue, Estação Pinacoteca, 2009.
Tell us about your training, by which I mean training in the broadest possible sense and not just academic.
The image comes to me of when I was about 11 years old and we would go fishing for crab on the beach, using a puçá, a kind of net and cage with a certain special bait. The youngest of the group, by free and spontaneous physical convincing by the elders, in this case me and other prizewinners, had to go to the poultry farm and fetch chicken guts. Sometimes we got lucky and just had to stick our arm in a tin full of scraps, or when the tin was empty, the only way was to stick our hand inside the recently slaughtered chicken. All this rite was worth every crab caught on the beach, in the days after a storm tide, grey days that would end at a friend’s house with a full pot. For me, training in a more integral sense is linked to this context, the beach city, the intense reading of all and any kind of comic book, solitary hours of drawing, and the production of my own stories.
Since I was a child, I had a deep interest in drawing, and I learned to sustain a taste for the created image, for a certain magic in seeing something exist from a desire. In adolescence I decided, I think intuitively, that I wanted to be an artist, to work with plastic arts, even without knowing exactly what this implied. I started to paint and I went ahead, grasping every chance to show what I was doing, whether it was producing comics for friends’ fanzines, or painting murals at fashion fairs. Parallel to drawing and painting, there was sport. Things like karate and football on the beach on Friday afternoons after school. It may sound silly, but they had a great effect on the gesture, the gaze, which in a subtle way I see applied in my work today.
Before studying Fine Arts, I did two years of Social Communication, which served to broaden my repertoire of cinema and theater. It also provided me with a great experience in the production of sets for performances of the Radio and TV course, which some time later would lead to jobs, rich learning experiences in theater with the director Wolfgang Pannek, the staging of Apocalipse with Teatro da Vertigem and in television, working in the special effects department of TV Cultura.
After finishing what I imagined as a period of learning and strengthening of friendships that remain to this day, I interrupted the course and enrolled at FAAP. It was a time of transition in the institution. Before, what was a Foundation with no gates and free circulation, was slowly acquiring an austere air with granite staircases, gilded handrails and increasing tuition fees. There, I conquered what I would need to base my relationship with artistic production: the knowledge and trust (very important!) transmitted by some good teachers, and the friendships with whom shortly afterwards I would create the Espaço Coringa.
This group was strengthened by the desire to materialise a set of autonomous instances of production and diffusion in the visual arts. Our immersions in Santos, where my family had an unfinished building on a plot of land on the edge of a hill, were unforgettable. We would spend three months systematically going to this place, weeding, wiring the electrics, producing the works for the exhibitions, and drumming. We had an oasis that formed the basis of a collective experience that lasted 10 years. The group was formed by Anderson Rei, André Tranquilini, Chico Linares, Daniel Manzione, Guilherme Werner, Matheus Giavarotti, Rogério Nagaoka, Suiá Ferlauto and myself. When we held the first Espaço Coringa, we invited professor Evandro Carlos Jardim and, amazingly, he accepted! He went to Santos on a cloudy day to see the work of all the artists and speak to about 30 people under a tarp stretched over a slab. Certainly, that act of faith structured a whole thought about the future of the initiative, and made something powerful germinate in those twenty year olds that is with us to this day: tradition as a transmission of vital energy.
I am sure that this initiative and the time together with my friends formed a very strong ballast, a knowledge built from a collectivity that I see overflowing in everything I participate in, in the family and in other works.
In the same vein, where does Valongo begin for you?
Today, Valongo represents the most fertile soil in the city of Santos. It is a place with an incredible telluric force, facing the Estuary and the Serra do Mar. It was where the city began, and where it remained for more than a century before expanding to other areas and along the waterfront. The desire to settle there and make work has been in my notebooks since I rode my bike through Porto and the outskirts of the historic centre between 1999 and 2003.
I don’t have a small radio in my studio, I don’t know exactly why. I didn’t bring music there and I ended up getting used to the silence. One day without talking, listening to the breathing of the port, the time marked by the church and the blowing of the ship’s horn, a penetrating sound that starts far away and reaches deep down, producing a sensation of well-being, a kind of sound that points to a destination.
Why and how is woodcut printing for you a privileged process and place to work?
There is the physical impact of the construction of the drawing and a different time from that of painting, for example. Sometimes I think that I have made a migratory movement from painting to wood – because, for me, the place of woodcut printing is the wood – it seems redundant, but it is what excites me, as much as the color. Now, when I think about the construction of the matrix, the annotations with drawing on the wood and the cutting of the surface, I get even more excited! The matrix is a visual game. The exploration of the drawing happens in several ways, in association with multiple references. The matrix allows the drawing to live several lives on several landscapes.
Does the relationship with scale occur by necessity of the extended gesture or by substitution, where perhaps other procedures would fit? Or are both issues related?
By necessity and by substitution. The relationship with scale in woodcut printing was also intuitive, a habit I brought from my paintings. I remember that the first woodcut in whole plywood was in “Ação na Pagú” (1), in one of the cells that we transformed into a studio. I also remember that the printing was bloody. Inking with very small rolls, that broke all the time, with the typical heat. On this occasion, me, Ulysses and Capi (2) worked together.
When I go to the studio, I like to think that these woodcuts could only be made in that room, in the studio in Santos. I can test them side by side and step back, go through the images, find the pattern. I always think about Amyr Klink’s crossing. For me, a nautical performance on a global scale, where the issues were also related to a life project. Desire/technique. The scale is, also, the time of an action that unfolds on a surface. Every time I start a print, I regret it, but in a few seconds the feeling is one of urgency and the will to get somewhere; as if the paper stretched over the wood were my Atlantic ocean to be crossed, an arc of physical displacement subject to the atmosphere. When I prepare the sheet of paper, I like to think of the sail of the boat. A sail that will be printed.
How important are the cities you inhabit and their flows in establishing work?
I would like to take this opportunity to confess a wish. A desire for the civility of communion with a place. City centres should have as their exclusive vocation the coexistence between people, and here I do not exclude commercial relations, but I believe that we should recover the most basic and memorial meanings of what it is to inhabit. I clearly see a vocation for the neighborhood of Valongo: workshops of all kinds, spaces for circulation, coexistence and exchange. Basic things, like a community vegetable garden. The neighborhood doesn’t need a Péle Museum, but several exhibition spaces, studios for the creation of the most diverse sources of knowledge. I say this for very simple reasons: I can’t see a better place to work. Even though I sweat like never before to print a little piece of paper, it was where I chose to set up “a place”, an environment surrounded by stimuli, imagining it as a coral that filters, returns a flow of water and is porous. For now, one of the very positive aspects is the fact that it is the overstorey of a small building where a few families live. On the ground floor there is an incredible coffee shed erected with beach sand, stone and whale oil. It’s a real work of art!
Tell us a little about cutting as a measured gesture and/or as a measure of gesturing, as a unit of drawing.
I believe I like to operate with both: cutting design and the action of direct carving. The first carries the gesture measured from a structuring mesh, a drawing, a mark; the gesture and the carving meet already existing information. The direct carving is the primal gesture, in the sense that it is part of a design that will configure itself. And each action brings the measure of this gesture, which is corporal. The tension to construct a line on this scale demands this bodily play, in what, for me, is constituted as a corporeal fight on the ground level, where the turn takes place around the matrix and the line is constructed in various directions. One thing I always remember, when constructing a certain area on the matrix, is a question related to what I heard from Evandro Carlos Jardim about the mechanization of the gesture: it seems to me a double game, where simply being “task-worker” leads the drawing to death by asphyxiation, revealing a “static” image. It is necessary to maintain a certain attention, and preserve a frankness, a freshness when cutting; even if loaded with dissatisfaction, to remain open to renewal. That is the way in which I face each image, without being sure that it will get somewhere.
What role does color play in your printmaking?
I always think of color as a structuring element of the image, where I like to imagine a light that invades the environment of that image with such autonomy that it can disfigure it, thereby generating other values and directions.
Being a print as it is, I use some procedures that I carry from an experience with painting before the allure of wood. The use of a certain color is somewhat intuitive and related precisely to the type of light prevailing at the moment of the making, of the mixing of the paints and of the instant of the image. Sometimes a certain mixture is prepared for a certain work, but at the end of the preparation something was modified, or the color itself ends up pointing to a use in some other image.
I like to work with the simultaneous construction of some works, not many, but three or four that allow a transit of information between them, and that can operate generating counterpoints of form and light. In the middle of 2004, on the occasion of the exhibition at the São Paulo Cultural Centre, where I showed two large format prints, I had a very interesting experience with Mr. Carlos (surname), who is a chemical engineer, in the production of specific colors for the center of Santos. Over the course of a few months, I would take samples of the walls of the old houses, photos and references about the port and the historic center to his laboratory in an attempt to produce something particular, for a particular context.
Colors emerged with names alluding to certain references that he encountered when walking through the region: Port Yellow, Indian Red, Frontaria Blue and Market Green. I thought that this approximation of color and material would bring the atmosphere of that context more firmly into the construction of the image.
“The studio is an inhabitation, the nature of everything and each thing”. Your words, about which I would like to hear more.
I like to think of the studio as this place/space to be inhabited, where precisely the work arises from the relationship between the artist and each thing that surrounds him: the tools, the references, the collections of objects, the landscape. For me, inhabiting this place is the first step in the construction of the work, where even on idle afternoons, looking at the images hanging on the wall, listening to the birds, the noises of the harbor avenue, I feel that time conquered and directed towards a poetic action. A time that cannot be measured in values or productivity, because it refers to a non-linear, subjective and to some extent self-referential construction. Referring, above all, to internal conquests, of the preservation of the dream and of beauty, of the acceptance of oneself and of the other.