Katia Canton.O colecionador de histórias. Publicado no livro do artista, edição Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Imprensa Oficial do Estado. versão para o inglês: The collector of stories – 2008 -
Our existence: what would be its purpose? Caetano Veloso
He had been born like this. In the extending of one of his hands, a compass, prepared to point to many norths, many journeys. In the extension of his other hand, a large web, a delicate fabric ready to present objects and stories of many places, combining them, composing them, designing a singular and powerful texture.
If this were the beginning of a biography, it would be that of artist Luiz Hermano. A collector of stories and things, Hermano was born in Preaoca, on the Ceará Plateau, and began his career as a traveling artist when still a child, giving art classes to the local population by candlelight. He possessed toys made from animal bones. He set up circuses and theaters beneath a cashew tree. He bathed in the pond of his uncle Façanha. He collected comic books, installments of encyclopedias, almanacs and stamps; and, with the knowledge he had acquired, swinging calmly in his hammock, each night he transmitted a program, live, on his own imaginary TV channel, to all of Preaoca.
Having been born in an out-of-the-way place and having lived in a situation of precariousness imparted to the artist the talent of alchemy. It was in this way that Luiz Hermano became irremediably a transformer of things.
Turner: We are the first tourists since the war.
Kit: We are travelers, not tourists.
Turner: What’s the difference?
Port: A tourist thinks about going home the moment he arrives.
Kit: Whereas a traveler might not go back at all.
At the age of 13, Luiz Hermano began a process of continuous travels. First, he moved with his family to Cascavel, and later to Fortaleza, where he studied construction techniques, and then philosophy. He dropped out of school to travel again. All alone, this time, he went up the Rio São Francisco, and arrived at Brasília, then went by train to São Paulo. He traveled all over Brazil and then to Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.
It was necessary for him to travel in order to get to know routes, to move along them, in order to draw the lines. And he thus began to draw the world – not exactly the outer world, the world of day-to-day life, the one reported on in the media, but a world that blends pinches of reality with a thick broth of visions, where cajazeiro trees and houses made of rammed-earth are mixed with slate-gray skies and buildings, and everything is mixed with the texture of the wind in one’s face, the smell of unprocessed brown sugar, and of serigüela and saputi fruits.
His artistic practice converges on a private universe of drawings and prints, surfaces filled with magical shapes, flying ships, balloons, Noah’s Arks filled with animals, and people, castles nestled in hidden mountain valleys, and tiny, shiny quixotic windmills.
Luiz Hermano’s drawings are constructed like a woven fabric. The things take form, take on body, are gradually materialized like the people described in legends and fables. The forms weave themselves together, they grow on the paper just like the process that gives rise to the narratives of the various versions of world history, or the details of those stories our grandparents tell us.
The lines made on paper begin with informal gestures, with a line that perambulates, taking form gradually, organically. They materialize mythologies invented by the mind of the traveler, adapted from stories told by relatives and by encyclopedia entries. They become narratives of intercrossings. Improper yet nevertheless powerful combinations, between Noah’s Ark and the Preaoca Plateau.
When he first started, without full access to professional paints, he painted with coffee, using it like watercolor in various tones and transparencies. He then began to add colors, learning to juxtapose tones.
Then the webs appeared. Hollow lines, forms like beehives or cellular fabrics. Weaves that seem to speak of the birth of all things – because these webs began to accompany the artist throughout his far-flung experience, like nets always go along with fishermen, in his search to apprehend the essence of everything.
During his career, Hermano’s drawings were transposed into metal engravings, a technique he learned in Rio de Janeiro. The next step was to transform the metal into a support for the construction of his sculptures.
The metal takes on body and forms webs made of empty spaces.
The sculptures and the objects that gradually moved into three-dimensional space were also constructed, over time, through the action of weaving. The artworks constitute woven fabrics because they are extensions of the body – a vibrating body, that jumps, pulsates, undulates and is reorganized in these curious and uneasy movements. This is the body of the artist-traveler, the collector of stories.
Luiz Hermano’s artworks evince the quality of his hands. Hands that construct the world in minute detail, which twist wires, stick pieces together, fit together a number of distinct parts to comprise a whole. Hard-working hands, which discovered the charm of remaking the function of small things, prefabricated objects, toys, parts of furniture and of household utensils.
Everything is interesting to this artist’s alert eyes.
In a first phase, the metallic sculptures use alloys of bronze, aluminum, stainless steel and copper as raw materials that are serialized, organized, twisted and assembled. The results are metallic though nevertheless organic tapestries, that sprout from the ceiling, from the floor, from the sides of the room, climb the walls and swallow the physical spaces, configuring surprising formal dialogues.
From the outset, these sculptures are hybrid bodies. Empty cubes are connected by wires and hinges, to the point where these initially pure geometric forms become organic, these once-static objects begin to suggest – sometimes even to embody – movement.
His sculptures are flexible, hollow, and airy. They swing like the hammocks in Preaoca. Configuring irregular networks of volumes, the forms fit together with one another, engage one another, they give rise to currents that hang to one side and the other, composing grids full of fluctuating voids.
Manipulating geometry until it becomes flexible and tactile; Luiz Hermano’s constructions explore sculptural form serialized to the point of dissolving their angular aspects and becoming a kind of story.
In the early 2000s, Luiz Hermano’s started including toys in his sculptural constructions. Lacking the irony present in pop art – which uses series of iconic forms from consumer culture and is replete with commentaries on the limits of the sovereignty of the language of art – Hermano’s works are affective compositions. For the artist, the toys, bought in commonplace stores, retain their playful aspect and are charged with real or invented memories, echoing hopes, and colorful like the dreams of children.
The wires and the pieces of wood or metal are fit together skillfully, by means of the tricks taught in traditional popular culture, in the art of makeshift construction, or “jury rigging,” by which something is built in a state of chronic precariousness.
Luiz Hermano’s artworks are imbued with humor because the artist perceives the poetics of all aspects of day-to-day life. In a universe of apparent lack or simplicity, he opens gaps for seeking reinvention. In his overlapping drawings, in his towers made with architect’s scales, in the webs of numbered plaques, in the languages made of letters, Luiz Hermano treads a singular hero’s path.
He penetrates labyrinths, moves around curves, runs up against multifaceted mirrors, gets lost constantly and then regains his way, seeking in this movement a renewed meaning for existence. This is why all of his work is so carefully done, so laboriously executed, so detailed and, at the same time, simple and free from illusion.
The tension between the hand-built, nearly precarious webs and the industrial objects he uses to compose a whole is mirrored in his artistic background and training, made up of so many layers ranging from the seeds planted in Preaoca to the branches and roots that spread to far-flung places.
One word fallen
from the mountains of instants
does away with all the seas
and unites the most distant lands.
Luiz Hermano’s artworks are texts, cartographies created by the multiple trips he takes every year, particularly around his birthday. These trips are his existential food, the raw material for his work, and his way of connecting with the other. It is good to remember that this other is not limited to the presence of some other person, but involves every form of alterity, everything that is different and is worthy of being experienced, seen, smelled, touched and heard.
Luiz Hermano researches the other to the point of transforming his trips into embodiments, experiences that become stuck within his body and later expurgated only when organized in three-dimensional artistic writings – his sculptures. Everything is sewn together like a word that fits into a phrase, to produce a meaning.
The places our artist-traveler has traveled through include: India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Bali, Australia, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, South Korea, Indonesia, New Zealand, Canada, French Polynesia and Guatemala.
The trips are ways to lay claim to territories, providing the artist with an increasingly dense repertoire of experiences of the world. Landscapes, temples, stories of people and of things seen along the way, everything is accumulated in the density of a new artwork.
Cidade das mulheres [City of Women] (p. XX) is a hollow sculpture, entirely woven from wires that support a universe of plastic toys, plaques, rulers, buttons, little bottles, adornments. It represents the artist’s personal reading of Banteay Srei Temple, the citadel/city of women, in Cambodia, in the dwelling of the gods, in Angkor. The work’s porosity, its diversity and capacity to contain so many universes of different colors and textures undoubtedly lies within the feminine realm.
Alongside it is another hollow work. This one has a human form and is totally silvered. In the artist’s perspective, O astronauta [The Astronaut], with its strong and shiny outline, constitutes the masculine version of Cidade das mulheres. A very particular interplay of mythological elements is created here, which blends times and symbols, placing the archaic together with what is conventionally considered a futuristic image.
One of the walls features the artwork Pracinha [Little Public Square] (p. XX). In this miniaturized space, the artist re-creates the experience in Antígua, in Guatemala, in its colorful public square, full of stories, passersby, happenings. In it, a web supports patches of grass, dolls, plastic animals, painted plates. The artwork in front of it, Calçadas [Sidewalks], has a similar spirit. White plastic spatulas of the type used to smooth fresh wall plaster form the skeleton of this sculptural object that contains little toys, a small globe and many other small colorful forms.
When seen from up close, each object is a world in itself.
Because, bringing together such diverse worlds, Luiz Hermano delineates a poetic repertoire of commonplace objects. The artists organizes his subjectivity, geometrizes his toys and objects on the wires of a generous web, full of faith in the memory of life.