Text from Geraldo Edson de Andrade
Writer and Professor of Art History / State University of Rio de Janeiro
Honorary President of Brazilian Assocation of Art Critics / AICA
Talent in progress. After living for ten years in Lisbon, Portugal, the Brazilian painter Saulo Silveira has found his artistic maturity. What does this mean? Simply that the artist, who left Rio de Janeiro a decade ago, after a great deal of work, especially in the field of advertising, has finally discovered his personality as an artist, at last joining the group of great artists who have emigrated in search of further knowledge. From outside his country, he has been able to look at it from a distance and integrate it into his paintings. A positive vision, of course.
Saulo Silveira is from Minas Gerais. His roots therefore lie in one of Brazil’s more traditionalist states as far as culture is concerned. And at the same time, Minas Gerais is a prodigal land. Besides being one of the biggest states in Brazil, it has a fascinating history of celebrating our humanity, wealth and freedom. It’s also the birthplace of renowned personalities who have had a great influence on our literature, music and art.
The particular landscape of Minas Gerais, with its mountains and 16th century baroque architecture, had already inspired an exceptional painter, one of our greatest lyrical painters, Alberto da Veiga Guignard, but it remains present in the works of many of its natives.
Saulo Silveira’s paintings do not seem at first sight as if they are from Minas Gerais. There are no apparent links with any regionalism. The artist has from the beginning chosen a more open language, even when, in his drawings, he was passing harmoniously between the traditional and the contemporary form.
When I say contemporary, I am referring to the flexibility of the line in the best tradition of drawing. During the time he lived in Rio de Janeiro, mainly working as a draughtsman in the field of advertising , Saulo Silveira searched for veracity as a feature of his work, relying on an exact notion of graphic creation and a disorderly line, especially when it came to the form.
The ability to draw is fundamental for any artist, as Mário de Andrade, a great Brazilian intellectual, explained in his essay published in “Aspectos das Artes Plásticas no Brasil”. He said that without the ability to draw no plastic artist could reach the core of his work, in the sense that it is the basis, the essence from which the whole painting springs up in all its plenitude. In this aspect, Saulo Silveira’s work is based on the theory of Mário de Andrade. In his abstract works, his brushstrokes are no more random than they were when he was a draughtsman in advertising.
The graphic gesture of drawing would therefore be a step forward by the artist from Minas Gerais in his adhesion to the abstract language. It is worth remembering that the abstract movement, popularized by Kandinsky’s theories at the beginning of the 20th century, was widely embraced by Brazilian artists. In fact, in the forties, prominent figures in the art world organised the 1st exhibition of Abstract Art, giving the movement its initial impetus. From then on, other painters, coming from figurativism, gave art another direction that would years later pave the way for the concretism of Max Bill, with a great influence not only on the plastic arts but also on poetry.
Saulo Silveira began his abstract painting in the Eighties in Rio de Janeiro, attracting the attention of critics by showing his work in various art exhibitions. Ever since the beginning, his work has eschewed the real world in favour of forms and lines completed by the motion of the gesture, and large brushstrokes with a texture so intense that it almost covers the canvas. It is on the intense colours, mainly reds and blues, that the artist’s power relies, and where he shows, more than anywhere else, his Minas Gerais origins and his baroque way of representing things outside his native state.
With his voluntary departure for Europe, more precisely for Lisbon, Saulo Silveira ends, and at the same time starts, a new era in his painting. He could have been an advertising draughtsman, but he chose to dedicate himself with even more enthusiasm to his painting. The result has been more than positive, not only for himself, but also for his painting which, sketched (in a positive way) in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, developed and expanded brilliantly in Portugal.
His way of painting was the same, including the hot colours that highlight his work, but at the same time his painting seemed reinvigorated, with a greater intensity of the motioned strokes and of the strong textures of the author. Yet Saulo, as an artist who always searches for more, went on and concretized the fusion between abstraction and figuration, as we were able to see for the first time in the exhibition in Lisbon at the end of the nineties, and in another one in Madeira at the beginning of this millennium.
Saulo Silveira can be said to have found a perfect harmony in his plastic compositions: on one hand there is the figure, perfectly drawn by a natural draughtsman, on the other hand the abstraction that envelops this figure and includes it in the whole picture as if it was part of it. If at the beginning of this new period he tried to focus on some well-known personalities, like the poet Fernando Pessoa or the navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral, today the strength of his painting lies in representations of nature, the strength of the country and the urban mythology of the countries in which he often travels and where he finds his creative material. In the words of Delacroix, ” artistic creation is, in certain aspects, somewhat like the mystical contemplation that can also proceed from the confused prayer to more precise advice”.
As a painter, Saulo Silveira is at his best. Without losing sight of his origin in Brazil and Minas Gerais, he has become more universal, as if to demonstrate that art teaches nothing but the meaning of life.