Brazilian street artist Manoel Quiterio: What I do for a living is dreaming

He has been to 19 countries so far, creating something in all of them. Now he is finishing residency in Denmark, then going to Lithuania and Budapest, where we met and I was amazed by his work. Brazilian street artist Manoel Quiterio painted two pianos, one boat and a lot of buildings.

Where do you live nowadays?

I´m currently in Denmark, as the resident artist at Aros Museum. I´m originally from Recife, in Brazil. I´m usually somewhere else in the world, at this point in my life, but I consider it my base. As an artist, I feel it´s healthy to take one outside the comfort zone and learn from the experiences that come from this contrast.

How do you see Europe as a Brazilian?

It´s a rich place, built on resources that not all of Europeans are aware. Looks like what trends here becomes a tendency to the rest of the world. I´m not sure, but it feels that the opposite is much truer.

How your career in street art started?

Around seven years ago, I was already a known artist at my place. Then it became obvious to me that the studio kind of artist leaves something to be desired. I missed talking to the world and creating something more than works that please galleries. The streets have a clear message and public works enable the artist to reach and be reached by ‘common’ people, who don’t often feel comfortable in the rigid structure of the institutions.

So do you do this for a living?

I use to say that I paint in my free time. What I do for a living is dreaming.

Have you studied at art school?

I graduated in communication but left my job to have time to create something else than making children obese by selling trans fat cookies.

I’ve been to 19 countries so far, creating something in all of them.

How long does it take you to paint an image on the wall of the house?

It depends. Every work has its own time. I can either make a building at 2 days or take six months to complete an oil painting. Usually, the outside works tend to come faster, because you have the logistics and everything.

What is the most special object you painted?

In 2017 I painted a whole favela in Brazil. Does it count like an object? Also, two pianos, one boat, trees ordered to cut by some government guy who doesn’t really walk on the streets.

What about the materials, colours, what do you use?

I use paint, spray, oil, sometimes sculptures… Everything that can become something else. The colours range from the basic black/white/red (the first colours we see when we’re children). I see it as a way to ‘hit’ people faster. The subconscious reads it before we can make any thought about, so you reach people where they can only feel, rather than understanding. Thinking sometimes take you far from the interesting realities.

Sometimes traveling is an exercise of being the smallest of the minorities: one person.

Do you make pictures also on paper or canvas?

Yes, I started painting on old pieces of demolished houses and churches, like windows, doors and furniture pieces, alongside with the normal paper and canvas production. Stil today, I really enjoy working in the studio, with no outside pressure, like a proper painter.

Did you start with this illegally?

I sometimes do illegal works. It´s not my favourite sensation, though. But, yes, I do it a lot. When in Turkey I did something like 12 pieces at the night portraying policeman and all the unfair/abusive relationship they have with the citizens. So it had to be done in a way nobody would get me doing it. Sometimes in Brazil, I had problems with the authorities too. Nothing serious, but they still don’t understand that you´re making the city a more beautiful place, some see it as vandalism. You can´t blame them, it´s hard to appreciate things when you´re carrying a gun. It´s a system problem.

How hard is to get the job like painting a house with your ideas?

It used to be harder in the beginning. Now things are getting better. I try to do only what is really worth, so I can have time to live. People that admire my works have been super helpful and gentle, always giving full freedom to create whatever I believe it’s the necessary message.

What was the biggest project for you?

I have a social project in Brazil (and I’m replicating it in other countries). That is my biggest goal now. Empowering people to spread what they think with their own places.

A walk on part of the crowd or a lead role in the cage?

Do you feel that with your work, as everybody sees that on the way to work, do you make people smile, or are you more likely to face street arts haters?

I believe art should heal. Most of the people are supportive and appreciating. It seems to me that it goes also about the posture of the artist. If you want just to shout and express your anger, you´re sure to feel that back from your audience. Painting is not my therapy and the public don´t need something to remind of the problems of life. It doesn’t mean that what I create is to alienate people but to push them to think in positive ways, rather than depressing people to make me sound cooler.

Have you ever tried to cause any reaction by passersby with your work?

Some days ago in Brazil, a homeless man stopped by while I was painting with some friends. He said that he recognizes my works from some other buildings I have done it in poor areas of the city. That is for me a true inspiration. When you reach someone and you really make a difference, no matter how small or big.

Where do you get inspiration and ideas about what you create?

I paint what I see. Also, I come from a family of the priest and Brazilian shaman from Candoblé religion. So, I tend to portray the unconscious patterns and religious inclinations of people. What we believe says a lot about what we dream of.

Traveling is about what you don´t carry to feel good.

Do you think street art belongs to the galleries?

It´s complicated… galleries can sell whatever they want and that´s the beauty and the danger too. When you start chasing that kind of approval is very easy to forget why you create. As an artist, I can say it´s positive that the market is paying attention to it, but I´m double minded about trends because they come and go. What is true stays and I see that´s the point we should aim for.

I saw pictures of your work from different cities on your Instagram, do you travel a lot?

I’ve been to 19 countries so far, creating something in all of them. It makes you feel tired sometimes but I see a lot of beautiful things, so it´s a good reason to be tired in the body. A walk-on part of the crowd or a lead role in the cage?

Which countries have you visited?

France, UK, Palestine, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, Hungary, Argentina. So many!!

In which cities can we see your work for example?

Recife, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Palestine, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, …

We met in Budapest at the couchsurfer meeting in Szimpla. Do you travel lowcost (like couchsurfing, hitchhiking,)? 

I try to save in basic things. Also, everywhere is nice people to support and help you feel at home. Traveling is about what you don´t carry to feel good.

Which country do you think could be called artistic?

Brazil is a super creative place. Israel and Denmark are also good examples.

What are your plans for the future?

Finishing this residency in Denmark, going to Lithuania and Budapest. Coming back to Brazil to make the next steps of the social experiment.

When could you say something else about your journeys what it would be? 

Sometimes traveling is an exercise of being the smallest of the minorities: one person. It´s good to get hold of the ego.

 

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